Philosopher Avital Ronell, choreographer Melissa Barak, visual artist Nicholas Mauss, and historian Marsha Siefert are among the newest fellows at the Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA) at New York University, the first international institute devoted to the creation and study of ballet.

Melissa Barak, inaugural Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow for Women Choreographers at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU

Choreographer Melissa Barak, historian Marsha Siefert, philosopher Avital Ronell, and visual artist Nicholas Mauss are among the newest fellows at the Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA) at New York University, the first international institute devoted to the creation and study of ballet.

Barak was named the inaugural Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow for Women Choreographers, a new fellowship that was established at CBA through a grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation earlier in the year. Siefert will serve as the first Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet, a fellowship to be awarded annually and jointly by CBA and the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at NYU. Ronell and Mauss are among seven resident fellows who will be coming to CBA in Spring 2016, a group that also includes art historian Juliet Bellow, historian Julia Foulkes, poet Emily Hoffman, New York Times critic Gia Kourlas, classicist Deborah Steiner, and choreographer Preeti Vasudevan.

Established in 2014 by former ballet dancer and prominent historian Jennifer Homans with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CBA is an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences. It exists to inspire new ideas and new ballets, to expand our understanding of ballet, and to bring new vitality to its history, practice, and performance in the 21st Century. In its first year, CBA has hosted and sponsored numerous presentations and events related to ballet practice and scholarship, in addition to supporting a wide variety of academic and artistic projects through its ongoing resident fellowship programs.

Today the application opens for Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 fellowships. For more information and to apply visit:

Melissa Barak, Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow for Women Choreographers

Melissa Barak is originally from Los Angeles, California. She trained at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and the School of American Ballet in New York before joining the New York City Ballet in 1998 where she became the youngest choreographer in its history to have an original work commissioned.  She has created new works for Sacramento Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, and her own company, Barak Ballet. As a Toulmin Fellow, Barak will work on creating an original story ballet freely adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale, Nightingale, incorporating the original score with modern balletic choreography.

Marsha Siefert, Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet

Marsha Siefert is an associate professor of history at Central European University in Budapest, and the editor of five books including Mass Culture and Perestroika in the Soviet Union and Extending the Borders of Russian History. Her co-publishing project with Soviet scholars during the last years of the Cold War inspired her current work on cultural diplomacy and Soviet cinematic co-productions, including in-depth research on the feature-filmed lives of Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Kálmán. As a Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet, a collaboration between the Center for Ballet and the Arts and the Jordan Center for Advanced Study of Russia at NYU, Siefert will examine how Soviet filmmakers aimed to screen their most famous cultural export for an international cinema audience through a Soviet lens by looking at Russian ballet on films co-produced with the West.

Spring 2016 CBA Resident Fellows

Juliet Bellow is an associate professor in the Department of Art at American University. Her books include Modernism on Stage: The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-Garde. She also served as a Consulting Scholar for the 2013 exhibition “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced With Music” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. At CBA her project "Rodin’s Dancers: Moving Toward the Limits of Sculpture,” will center on the role that dance and dancers played in the development of a modernist sculptural aesthetic.

Julia Foulkes, a professor of history at The New School, investigates interdisciplinary questions about the arts, urban studies, and history in her research and teaching. Her first book Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey (2002), explores how gender, sexuality, race, and politics shaped the development of modern dance in the 1930s and ‘40s; her second book, To the City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal (2011), charts the spread of urbanization captured in photographs of the 1930s. Her CBA project will examine the mid-20th century fight between City Center and Lincoln Center as to who was the best home for the New York City Ballet, raising fundamental questions: Who was dance for? And what role did it have in the city?

Emily Hoffman is a writer and director whose poems and performance writing have appeared in The New Republic, The Threepenny Review, Prodigal Literary Magazine, BOMB, Music & Literature, and Movement Research Performance Journal. She has been an artist-in-residence at CounterPulse in San Francisco, where a new piece by her company, Affinity Project, will be presented in November 2015. At CBA, Hoffman will work on Essays on Dance, a new collection of poems that seeks to adapt certain abstract ballets for the page, focusing on Balanchine's great non-narrative works and exploring a variety of strategies for expressing them through text effects akin to those of the ballets.

Gia Kourlas writes about dance and performance for a variety of publications, including the New York Times, Time Out New York, Vogue and Dance Magazine. She has served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the MAP Fund and the New York Dance and Performance Awards. Kourlas’s CBA Fellowship will be dedicated to researching a book on blacks and ballet by delving into its history and its dancers, while exploring how classical ballet can be reinvented and invigorated through diversity.

Nicholas Mauss is a visual artist who works at the interstices of various media in relation to
drawing. His porous approach to drawing as an expanded form fuses to other possible formats, including sculpture, publications, curated exhibitions, writing, ballet, and poetry. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Artists Space, New York; Kunsthalle Basel; Nouveau Musee National de Monaco, and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. At CBA, Mauss will research and develop a ballet to be realized within multiple frames of reference. Emerging from an interest in avant-garde scenographic painting and the ephemeral, transient, and contingent nature of ballet as a living as well as historical form, the work will be performed as an exhibition thrown into contact with the live ballet—developing a new form of both exhibition and dance.

Avital Ronell, university professor of humanities and in the departments of Germanic Languages and Literature and Comparative Literature at NYU, is an American philosopher who contributes to the fields of continental philosophy, literary studies, psychoanalysis, feminist philosophy, political philosophy, and ethics. Her CBA project will investigate manifestations of bodily motion in philosophy. Exploring the manifold postures and figures of thinking on the move—be it the dance, the stroll, the jump, the leap, instants of staggering and slipping, floating and cruising—her work will seek to expose philosophy's severance from performance as a myth, a story that philosophers tell themselves to get away from the fictional and performative angles of the origin of thinking.

Deborah Steiner is the Jay Professor of Greek in the Department of Classics at Columbia University, where she has taught since 1994. She is the author of books and articles on archaic and early classical Greek literary, visual, and epigraphic culture and the intersections
between different media. Steiner currently works on the topic of chorality – with particular attention to choral dancing – in a variety of early sources. At CBA, she intends to explore the series of archetypal choruses on whom early choral performers modeled themselves as they sang and danced before an assembled audience in ritual contexts; among these paradigmatic ensembles are stars, dolphins, halcyons, equids, and, more surprisingly, Gorgons, tripod cauldrons and columns. The second part of her work aims to trace how choral morphology, kinetics, and acoustics interacted with other archaic and early classical social practices, institutions and technologies.

Preeti Vasudevan is an exponent of Bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance) creating new provocative contemporary works from the Indian tradition, and is the first Indian choreographer to be invited as an Artist in Residence at New York Live Arts to research and develop a new commissioned work for 2017. As an educator, Vasudevan’s educational website, Dancing for the Gods, has been developed to build a cultural bridge through creative Indian dance and used in NYC Public Schools. At CBA, Vasudevan will work with a ballet dancer to develop a series of movement studies (etudes) deconstructing and re-combining specific elements of both ballet and Bharatanatyam forms. A solo performance will showcase sections of the work and the project will be documented in detail using Laban Motif Notation, providing a resource for choreographers and dance scholars interested in the ways in which a new dance idiom can emerge from an open encounter between ballet and a non-Western classical form.

The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University is an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences.  It exists to inspire new ideas and new ballets, expanding he way we think about ballet and bringing vitality to its history, practice and performance in the 21st century.  For more information on upcoming events, visit the Center for Ballet and the Arts.



Preeti Vasdevan, CBA Spring Fellow

Avital Ronell

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