2020-2021 Performance AIRspace Residents

The Performance AIRspace Residency annually supports four New York City-based performing artists. Residents receive a commission for the creation of a new work to premiere as part of Abrons presenting season, 200 hours of studio time, administrative support, as well as a technical and production residency.

To learn more about the Performance AIRspace Residency and application deadlines, please visit the Apply to AIRspace page.

2020-2021 Performance AIRspace Residents

Rena Anakwe is an interdisciplinary artist and performer working primarily with sound, visuals, and scent. Exploring intersections between traditional healing practices, spirituality and performance, she creates works focused on sensory-based, experiential interactions using creative technology. She was a 2019 ISSUE Project Room Artist-in-Residence, a 2019 Abrons Arts Center (AAC) Sound Series commissioned artist, a 2018 Signal Culture Artist-in-Residence and has collaborated, produced and shown audio/visual/scent work at venues including: Lincoln Center (NYC), BAMcafé (NYC), MoMA PS1 (NYC), CultureHub (NYC), Pioneer Works (NYC), and Montez Press Radio (NYC). Rena is based in Brooklyn, New York by way of Nigeria and Canada.

Her project, The Cosmology of Water, is an immersive, cleansing ritual that incorporates movement, projections, sound, and scent. It utilizes a hybrid of analog and digital creative technologies to create a multi-sensory environment in order to bring awareness to the mind and body while exploring the materiality of water within Igbo Cosmology in a diasporic healing arts practice.

mayfield brooks improvises while black, and is currently based in brooklyn, new york working as a movement-based performance artist, vocalist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. they studied contemporary dance at the school for new dance (sndo) in amsterdam, moving on center in oakland, ca, and holds a mfa in interdisciplinary performance from uc davis and a masters in performance studies from northwestern university. mayfield was a 2017 artist in residence at movement research new york, a 2019 dance and process (dap) artist at the kitchen nyc, and is currently an artist in residence at the center for performance research (cpr).

Their project, Viewing Hours with Letters to Marsha (a diptych), is a two-part performance project that challenges the currency and flippancy that makes black death and black grief profitable. This project combines movement, voice, and installation, and is inspired by mayfield’s practice of writing daily letters to queer ancestor and legendary Black trans activist Marsha ‘Pay it no Mind’ Johnson. The work asks, “Can I get a witness?” as a call to action, calling human and nonhuman ancestors to the table. The weight of history, the weight of Marsha’s body that was found in the Hudson River and her enchantment with flowers inform the project.

Tess Dworman is a Brooklyn-based choreographer and performer originally from Oak Park, IL. Her most recent works have been presented by PS122 and The Chocolate Factory Theater. She has been an artist in residence at Links Hall, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance Center, PS122, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She currently performs and tours in the work of Juliana F. May. Tess is also a mindfulness meditation teacher and anti-racist organizer. Her multitudes come together and flourish in her choreographic practice. More info at tessdworman.com.

Her project Carl Soprano explores a combination of impersonation, storytelling, improvisational practice, as well as recognizable genres of dance, Carl Soprano uncovers structure and meaning within nonsensical relationships. Prompted by questions about embodiment and expression of gender in improvisational performance, Dworman looks at the nuances of her proclivities for masculinity by “becoming” famous white male artists. What is the process of tempering the feelings and appearances of certainty with uncertainty? How does one show up in their desires and abilities to act like other people?

Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith have been making dances in New York since 2006. Works include: Body Comes Apart (New York Live Arts 2019 Documented by The New York Public Library for Performing Arts Jerome Robbins Dance Division). Basketball (PS122 and Baryshnikov Arts Center for COIL 2017), Rude World (PS122 and The Chocolate Factory Theater for COIL 2015), Tulip (Roulette, 2013; Judson Now at Danspace Project, 2012), Beautiful Bone (The Chocolate Factory Theater, 2012). Residencies and Awards: 2019 Baryshnikov Arts Center BACSpace Grant, 2018 Family Residency at Mt. Tremper Arts, 2018 Bessie Schonberg Fellows at The Yard, 2018 DiP Residency Artists at Gibney, featured as one of Alastair Macaulay’s “Best Dance of 2017” in The New York Times for Basketball, 2016 LMCC Process Space Residency, 2015 Rosas Summer Studios Residency, PS122 2014-2015 RAMP Artist, 2014 Baryshnikov Arts Center BACSpace Grant, 2013 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award Nominee for Emerging Choreographer, 2013 NYFA Fellow Finalist Award. Molly and Eleanor were guest artists at Connecticut College in 2015, Sarah Lawrence College in 2018, and The New School in 2019. They curated a shared evening of dance at Roulette in 2019.

Their project STAMINA (2020) is a public demonstration of efforts to find inner strength. It raises questions of ego, desire, locating self in fantasy, and locating fantasy in oneself. It grapples with the choice to stay. It implicates the artists’ bodies, the audience, imaginations, inner dialogues, and pop culture to dig deep and come out the other side with more honesty. Lieber and Smith create episodes of levity, darkness, and discomfort, in hopes that the audience might also experience something real. Using their deep practices of improvisation, this piece, like their body of work, analyzes trauma, directly facing the complicated process of healing together.


Abrons Arts Center’s Performance AIRspace Residency is made possible with funds from The Jerome Foundation and NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs.