Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Dance 2010

Pam Tanowitz

A portrait of Pam Tanowitz sitting on a black bench in front of a light blue background. She wears blue jeans and a black t-shirt and has her hair pulled into a low ponytail. Her elbows rest on her thighs and she looks beyond the camera towards the upper right.
  • 2010 Grants to Artists
  • Dance
  • Choreographer
  • Born Bronx, NY, 1969
  • Lives in New York, NY
  • Additional Information

When I got the news that I received this honor I was shaking, I was shocked. This incredibly special grant was the first grant I received in the seventeen years that I have been making dances in New York City. Being a recipient of the prestigious Grants to Artist award… marked a huge step in my career in terms of notoriety and visibility… In addition, I was able to actually pay myself a salary for making dances for the first time. Basically this grant saved my ass.

- Pam Tanowitz, January 2011

Artist Statement

My dances are deeply personal explorations on movement, grounded in tradition, that comment on history—revering and revising its legacy. I play with classical vocabulary, not as parody, but out of respect for the dances from which I have learned so much. I take ballet steps and alter them into modern forms—traditional movement is twisted and thrown off-center, challenging the expectations of the viewer. I want the audience to observe the seams of my work, momentarily taking the "magic" out of theater and revealing the mechanical gears of performance. This is done without sacrificing elegance and is an attempt to reveal the fragility behind our basic human need to strive for purity.

Narrative is inescapable. No dance is a pure abstraction. We unconsciously assign motivation to the movers on a stage. In my work, I want to poke through that seemingly pleasurable surface by placing fluidity and mechanics in opposition.

I view my work as a progression of pieces, in which one dance poses a question that is answered in the next. Form versus content, nihilism versus history, story versus abstraction are given equal play, yet I also treasure the visceral experience of full-bodied, technical dancing. It's a fine line, but in showing the dance I want to show how the dance is made.

- December 2009


Choreographer Pam Tanowitz has been making dances since 1992. Her work often draws on eccentric and awkward movements to which she lends a formal beauty by bringing classical ballet into a postmodern context. In 2000 Tanowitz founded Pam Tanowitz Dance, and has received commissions and residencies from The Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, The Kitchen, Danspace Project, The Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process program, and Baryshnikov Arts Center. The company has performed at The Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival and the Chicago Dancing Festival. She has set work on dancers at The Juilliard School, New York Theater Ballet, and Saint Louis Ballet.

With the support of her 2010 Grants to Artists award, Tanowitz had a return engagement of her work Be in the Gray With Me at Dance Theater Workshop (2010) and she premiered The Wanderer Fantasy (2010) at Danspace Project. Tanowitz's subsequent works include Spectators (2013) and Passagen (2014). In 2015, Tanowitz premiered Broken Story (wherein there is no ecstasy), a collaboration with David Lang that was commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim.

Following her FCA support, Tanowitz received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2011), a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University (2013-2014), and a Doris Duke Artist Award (2020). Prior to her 2010 Grants to Artists, Tanowitz received two grants from the Harkness Foundation for Dance (2004, 2005), a New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award (2009), and a Dance Force Grant (2009).

Tanowitz received a B.F.A. in Dance from the Ohio State University in 1991 and an M.F.A. in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College in 1998, where she was mentored by former Merce Cunningham principal dancer Viola Farber-Slayton.

Performer in a metallic turquoise leotard and transparent tights stands on one leg and points their raised foot just above the black floor, staring downwards and outstretching their arms with their elbows bent slightly.
Performance still from The Spectators, 2013. Photo by Ian Douglas.
Five performers wearing monochromatic leotards and tights in varying hues of red, purple, and blue link hands and strike various poses onstage beside a quartet orchestra.
Performance still from The Spectators, 2013. Photo by Ian Douglas.
On a dimly lit stage with a brick wall backdrop, two performers dressed in dark gray tights and tops leap mid-air and outstretch their arms in unison.
Performance still from Passagen, 2014. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
On a dimly lit stage with a brick wall backdrop, one person dressed in gray leaps pointing one foot forward and curving their right arm towards another identically dressed performer who is tilting their head and shoulders towards the other dancer and bending their knees slightly. To their right a performer plays the violin.
Performance still from Passagen, 2014. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Three performers dressed in short black dresses and tan tights bend their knees and lean backwards with one elbow bent and one arm outstretched while in the distance other dancers strike poses in front of a wall partly decorated with gold tinsel.
Performance still from FCA-supported The Wanderer Fantasy, 2009.
A performer lies sideways on a wooden floor, resting their head and arm on a performer's lap who, seated, gazes down at them. Against the back, green-patterned and gold-tinseled wall, a performer plays the piano.
Performance still from FCA-supported The Wanderer Fantasy, 2009.
On a dimly lit stage with a honey-colored wooden floor and curtain backdrop of gold tinsel, performers dressed in black move around the stage in a circular form raising and looking up at one arm.
Performance still from FCA-supported The Wanderer Fantasy, 2009.