Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Dance 2022

Leslie Cuyjet

A portrait of Leslie Cuyjet wearing a grey tank top and facing the camera. The left side of her face is covered by shadow and the background of the image is black.
Photo by Maria Baranova.
  • Performer, Choreographer
  • Born 1981
  • Lives in Brooklyn, NY
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  • Additional Information
  • lesliecuyjet.com

Biography

Leslie Cuyjet is a performer, choreographer, and writer whose work interrogates the Black body’s experience of post-modern and experimental forms. Her research-intense, interdisciplinary process draws on the rigor and principles of dance and performance while also critically examining the histories of these disciplines.

Cuyjet developed Blur for The Shed, New York, NY (2021) as part of the commissioning program Open Call 2021. Wearing a costume layered with magnified images of the artist’s skin and performing in a phonetic landscape punctuated by her voice, Cuyjet’s choreography teases the borderlines between visibility and invisibility, calling into question the roles of performer, audience, and object.

Cuyjet’s works have been presented at The Kitchen at Queenslab, Ridgewood, NY (2021); Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, NY (2020); and MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (2019). She is also known for her work as a performer with Will Rawls, Cynthia Oliver, Jane Comfort, Narcissister, Kim Brandt, a canary torsi/Yanira Castro, and Niall Jones, among other artists.

She has received the Hodder Fellowship from the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University (2021-2022); the MacDowell Fellowship (2020, 2021); as well as a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2019). She has been supported by residencies at Movement Research, New York, NY (2021-2022, 2017); New Dance Alliance, New York, NY (2020); Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, NY (2019); Yaddo Residency, Saratoga Springs, NY (2019); and Marble House Project, Dorset, VT (2019).

Cuyjet is co-editor of the Movement Research digital publication Critical Correspondence and a co-founder of the Authentic Movement collective Duvet. She holds a B.F.A. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Artist Statement

I am exploring personal and dance histories through choreographic events that integrate text, video, and live performance. My dances speak to these histories, these lineages that cannot escape what outside forces project on my body and my skin. Simultaneously, I am unpacking eighteen years of being a performer in other artists’ works; parsing together someone else’s vision with a body that has its own technical dexterity, post-modern nuance, and compositional instinct; a body that is also curvy, unpredictable, aging, and black. I am chronicling the awesome and awkward experience of slipping through the cracks, through a liminal landscape that is unyielding, isolating, endless, fruitful, generative of its own language and understanding of the world. Pulling driving principles from my dance and performance experience, I am fine-tuning a form that is interdisciplinary and ongoing. Research—that includes a letter-writing project with my father, old home videos from the 1990s, and my movement practices based in Authentic Movement—drives the shape of my artistic practice.

- December 2021

A performance still of Leslie Cuyjet laying sidewas on the ground, holding a hand to her face and closing her eyes. Her other hand rests on her hip. She wears a full length leotard printed with blurred brown and black lines.
Performance still from Blur, at The Shed, New York, 2021. Costume design by Miodrag Guberinic. Photo by Ahad Subzwari.
Performance excerpt from Blur, at The Shed, New York, 2021. Sound design by Brandon Wolcott; costume design by Miodrag Guberinic. Videography by Naomi Saito.
A performance still of Leslie Cuyjet in the middle of a darkened space, holding her arms in the air and looking up. Her body is angeled away from the camera and she wears a black t-shirt and green pants. A minimal amount of warm light illuminates her while a chair, microphone stand, and shelving unit are covered in shadows beside her. A dim projection of a hand covers the back wall.
Performance still from With Marion, as part of This Is A Dance: Dance and Process 2021, at The Kitchen at Queenslab, Ridgewood, NY, 2021. Photo by Paula Court.
For All Your Life Studies, at SculptureCenter, Long Island City, 2021. Videography by Leslie Cuyjet.
A performer stands alone in a space lit with lime green light. They wear a red jacket and grey pants and are barefoot. Their head is angeled downwards and away from the viewer. Their legs are crossed and their left arm is raised and bent.
Performance still from Talented, at Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, 2020. Lighting design by Amanda K. Ringger. Photo by Maria Baranova.
A performer sits with their knees bent besides a television sit. The performer angles their head down, hiding their face from viewers. They are raising their left hand as if about to wave. On the television behind them, a man looks out imploringly besides a religious cross.
Performance still from Talented, at Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, 2020. Lighting design by Amanda K. Ringger. Photo by Maria Baranova.
In a carpeted space, one performer lays on the ground with their feet up, supporting the body of another performer who leans on them. Behind them, another performer sits on the ground with their body angled toward them. The performers wear vibrant, loose-fitting pants and are lit by a warm spotlight. An audience sits on the ground in the blurred background and watches.
Performance still from Roam, at MoMA PS1, Long Island City, 2019. Performers: Madison Krekel and Juri Onuki. Photo by Ellie Burck.