Grant Recipients Merce Cunningham Award Dance 2023

devynn emory

devynn emory is in the center of the image with their hands clasped against their chest. They are wearing a thick fleece jacket with mottled browns, tans, and black lines. Behind them is a metal table on wheels with a bowl of flowers on the bottom shelf. In the background there are white sculptures and two figures covered in orange cloth.
Photo by Reilly Horan.
  • 2023 Merce Cunningham Award
  • Dance
  • Dancer/Choreographer, Healer/Massage Therapist, Registered Nurse/Educator
  • Born 1980, Wilmington, DE
  • Lives in Brooklyn, NY
  • Additional Information

Artist Statement

my performance work is built on formal dance training embedding mathematical and mapped scores to navigate a deep-sown dyslexia due to disconnection and assimilation. as i practice re-finding earth and steadiness while shedding inherited colonized systems, i move to find what remains… pattern, texture, repetition, and story. i create environments to support bodies bleeding human truths, opening peepholes and revelations for a collective of performers and audiences in engaged togetherness, wading through common and segregate griefs and joys.

- December 2022


devynn emory is a choreographer/dance artist, dual-licensed bodyworker, and a holder of collaborative spaces gesturing to collective ritual. emory is also a medium, educator, and registered nurse practicing in the fields of acute/critical care, hospice, COVID-19, gender-affirming surgery, and integrative health in Lenapehoking (New York, NY). emory's performance company devynnemory/beastproductions finds the intersection of these fields, walking the edges of thresholds and drawing from their multiple in-between states of being. they hold space for liminal bodies bridging multiple planes of transition while finding reciprocity as a constant decolonial practice. 

emory’s deadbird + can anybody help me hold this body (2021) and Grandmother Cindy + Cindy Sessions: LOVE, LOSS, LAND (2022) are part of a trilogy of works that center medical mannequins holding the wisdom of end-of-life experiences. these performances and films weave stories from patients and elders, inviting audiences into grief and somatic practice in collaboration with land. part 1, premiered by Danspace Project, New York, NY in 2021, was comprised of a film, deadbird, and can anybody help me hold this body, a public grief altar in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, tended by emory and Joseph M. Pierce (Cherokee Nation). the work subsequently toured to Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia, PA; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR; and SUNY Upstate Medical University and Colgate University, Syracuse, NY. part 2, Grandmother Cindy, a live performance and film, premiered at Artists Space in collaboration with Frieze New York, New York, NY; Cindy Sessons: LOVE, LOSS, LAND, a trio of films, premiered at Gibney, New York, NY. Part 3, boiling-rain, is forthcoming.

emory has been a United States Artists Fellow (2023), an Art Matters Artist2Artist Fellow (2022), and an Artist Research Fellow (2021-2022) and Kin & Care Research Group Fellow (2019-2020) at Danspace Project. deadbird + can anybody help me hold this body were supported by a Eureka Commission from Onassis USA and Danspace Project.  

since 2002, emory has run a private practice named sage that encompasses a variety of practices and teachings. born on Lenape Land, emory is of mixed settler/European ancestry on their matrilineal side and is a Lenape/Blackfoot descendent on their patrilineal side.

devynn emory and Joseph Pierce sit on black folding chairs on the shores of a lake, their hands on their laps looking at the camera. A red cloth is draped across both of their laps. Both wear black face masks and black clothing with long necklaces. A red cloth lies on the ground in front of them with three wooden circles on top of it.
Performance still from can anybody help me hold this body, at Prospect Park, Brooklyn/Lenapehoking, commissioned by Danspace Project, New York, 2021. Performers: devynn emory and Joseph Pierce. Photo by Ian Douglas.
devynn emory and Joseph Pierce stand behind a metal table draped in a red tablecloth. They are dressed in blue scrubs and are wearing black latex gloves. A yellow-clad medical mannequin lies on the table, a bowl of dried flowers next to its head. Elisa Harkins is projected onto a wall to their left.
Performance still from Grandmother Cindy at Artists Space, New York, 2022. Performers: devynn emory, Cindy, Joseph M. Pierce, and Elisa Harkins. Photo by Reilly Horan.
devynn emory and Joseph Pierce are silhouetted in the foreground of the image, carrying a medical mannequin wearing a hospital gown between them. In the background are two sculptures of figures with outstretched arms draped in yellow cloth.
Performance still from Grandmother Cindy at Artists Space, New York, 2022. Performers: devynn emory, Cindy, and Joseph M. Pierce. Photo by Paula Court.
devynn emory and a medical mannequin lie on a wooden floor, their feet touching and their bodies forming a V shape. emory wears overalls and a baseball cap. The mannequin is not wearing clothes.
Performance still from deadbird, Subcircle Residency, Biddefort, ME, 2020. Performers: devynn emory and manny the mannequin. Photo by Jorge Cousineau.

Trailer for deadbird, 2021, commissioned by Danspace Project and Onassis USA. Performers: devynn emory and manny the manikin. Cinematography by Jorge Cousineau.