Puppet artist and director Basil Twist, a Fall Fellow at the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA), together with NYU alumnae dancer/choreographer Michelle Dorrance (B.A, ’01, Gallatin) and set designer Mimi Lien (M.F.A., ’03, Tisch), were among 24 artists and scholars to be named 2015 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellows.

Basil Twist
Puppet artist and director Basil Twist, above, a Fall Fellow at the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts, together with NYU alumnae dancer/choreographer Michelle Dorrence (B.A, ’01, Gallatin) and set designer Mimi Lien (M.F.A., ’03, Tisch), were among 24 artists and scholars to be named 2015 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellows.

Puppet artist and director Basil Twist, a Fall Fellow at the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA), together with NYU alumnae dancer/choreographer Michelle Dorrence (B.A, ’01, Gallatin) and set designer Mimi Lien (M.F.A., ’03, Tisch), were among 24 artists and scholars to be named 2015 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellows. The fellowship is awarded annually to individuals who demonstrate exceptional creativity, promise, and pursuit of creative works. Fellows receive a total of $625,000 over a period of five years, designed to provide seed money for unrestricted intellectual, social, and artistic endeavors.

“These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”

Named one of eight CBA Fellows for Fall 2015, Basil Twist has garnered an international reputation as an audacious designer, director, and performer by creating iconic, visionary puppetry worlds with a wide range of style and scope, appearing in intimate nightclubs to large orchestra halls. He is the sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France, one of the world’s premiere puppetry training programs. His most recent production of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Orchestra of St. Lukes was featured at Lincoln Center’s 2015 White Light festival. He is the director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at the HERE Arts Center. At CBA, Twist seeks to further his exploration of the “choreography of inanimate materials and what makes something a ballet even if it is devoid of human dancers.” For more information, visit here.

Michelle Dorrance, who received her B.A. in 2001 from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, is a tap dancer and choreographer who uses her deep understanding of the technique and history of tap dancing to deconstruct and reimagine its artistic possibilities. Her credits include SOUNDspace (2011), The Blues Project (2013), and ETM: The Initial Approach (2014). A member of the faculty of the Broadway Dance Center since 2002, Dorrance has performed with preeminent tap companies and has taught and choreographed for institutions and groups across the United States and abroad. She toured with the Off-Broadway production of STOMP (2007–2011) before founding Dorrance Dance/New York. The troupe has performed Dorrance’s choreographic works at such venues as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Joyce Theater, and Danspace Project.

Mimi Lien, who received her M.F.A. from the NYU Tisch program in Design for Stage and Film in 2003, is a set designer for theater, opera, and dance whose bold, immersive designs shape and extend a dramatic text’s narrative and emotional dynamics. In sets for both large-scale immersive works and for more traditional proscenium stages, Lien envelops the audience in a specific mood or atmosphere. Her design credits include Born Bad (2011), An Octoroon (2014), and Eurydice (2008) and her designs of sets have been seen nationally and internationally at such venues as Soho Repertory Theatre, the Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Joyce Theater, Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, the Goodman Theatre, and Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia), among many others. She is an artistic associate with Pig Iron Theatre Company and The Civilians and co-founder of the performance space JACK.

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Gallatin alumna Michelle Dorrance ('01) is a recipient of 2015 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant." Image courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Mimi Lien