Sarah Michelson

Sarah Michelson

Fellow: Awarded 2009

Field of Study: Choreography

Competition: US & Canada

British-born choreographer Sarah Michelson is known for her innovative works that synthesize movement, venue, sound, and even the natural environment. She is always seeking to better understand the changing aesthetics of dance, and how the history and cultural influences in dancers’ training affect the body in motion.

Ms. Michelson had studied dancing since childhood, and continued her lessons during her years at London University’s Goldsmith College, where she earned a B.A. (first class) in literature in 1985. Following a year at the Laban Center, she was a freelance choreographer and dancer. She moved to San Francisco in 1987, studying with Joe Goode and Margie Jenkins, among others, while completing an M.F.A. in fiction at Mills College (1992).

She quickly built up an impressive repertoire, starting with Cindy Camille Sheila and Shirley (1992), her first evening-length piece, and Where is God Now? (1992), Glory Glory Glory (1993), and Spit and the Believers (1998), her first work created with long-time collaborator, composer, and performer Mike Iveson.

Group Experience (2001), which won a New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) award for choreography and music, led to The Experts, a piece commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov for his company. The following year she won her second Bessie, for Shadowmann Parts One and Two; her third Bessie came in 2007, for DOGS, which had been commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

In her modular works, such as Dover Beach, which she is developing during her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she literally recasts and restages the piece as she travels from place to place, retaining the strongest elements of the previous performances but allowing the character of the new dancers and new locales to shape the piece as well. Each “module” remains complete in itself, but only one element in the work as a whole. Dover Beach will begin its development in Cardiff, Wales, before moving on to Arizona State University, and, finally, The Kitchen in New York City. For this piece she is collaborating with the composer Peter Drungle, and visual designers Parker Lutz and Charlotte Cullinan.

Ms. Michelson has been a resident artist at the Walker Arts Center, On the Boards, Montclair State University, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the DanceXchange, among other venues. Her work has been supported by numerous grants and awards, including the Der Foerder Prize, Arts International’s DNA Project Grant, the Altria Group, New England Foundation for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, Creative Capital, and the Alpert Award in Dance.

Currently a choreographer for and associate curator of The Kitchen, Ms. Michelson is also a yoga teacher at The Shala, Goh Yoga, Crunch, and was previously an artist-in-residence and associate artistic director at Movement Research and editor-in-chief of its Performance Journal. She is also a member of P.S. 122 and Dance Theater Workshop.