A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will fund a multiyear creative research project at UWM to support the creation and presentation of a new dance theater work from choreographer, writer, director and filmmaker David Roussève.
With the $50,000 grant, the Department of Dance in the Peck School of the Arts will work with community partner Diverse and Resilient and UWM’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center to launch “Care: Illuminating Milwaukee’s Queer and Trans Vogue Dance Community.”
Roussève will serve as the artistic lead of the project, which culminates in a new dance work made with and for the Milwaukee BIPOC LGBTQ+ community about the ways in which communities under assault care for themselves. The project will interact with the aging HIV community, among others, and especially with Milwaukee vogue dancers, groups that long ago redefined the nature of community, support and “family.”
Roussève is a distinguished professor of choreography at UCLA and founder of the dance/theater company REALITY.
“David Roussève’s work as a choreographer, director, and master storyteller promises to build a dynamic relationship among the Dance Department, the Peck School of the Arts and our community partner,” said Daniel Burkholder, chair of the Department of Dance at UWM. “David will work closely with the Diverse and Resilient community and Milwaukee’s vogue and ballroom community to understand their stories and to illuminate their voices through dance.”
During the initial phase of the project, Roussève will gather stories and lead movement/theater workshops with dance and non-dance program participants. The next phase of the project will involve choreographic research with Milwaukee-based vogue dancers, storytelling and dance literacy engagements with the public, and a residency with UWM dance majors.
The project emerges in a political climate that struggles to accept gender diversity and queer identity in the Midwest.
“Forty years ago, Wisconsin established its leadership in LGBTQ activism as the first state to pass a gay rights bill, ushering in LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws,” said Associate Professor Maria Gillespie, who will serve as the project director. “Our NEA grant and collaboration with David moves Wisconsin and UWM closer to our shared goal of advancing LGBTQ rights. It will support David as he builds bridges to develop a dance work that uses storytelling to center queer and trans resilience and joy.”
In total, the NEA will award 958 Grants for Arts Projects awards, totaling over $27.1 million as part of its first round of fiscal year 2024 grants. Of those, 81 projects are in the dance category, totaling nearly $2.3 million.