Upstart Program

Since 2009, the Upstart Program (formally the Upstart Festival) has ushered in fresh talent with an intriguing program of performances, pre-performance shares, and roundtable discussions/workshops.

This festival is designed to give creators of dance, theater and performance works, who have no more than three years of experience showing their work in New York City, an opportunity to show work and to facilitate networking opportunities that pave the way for fruitful artistic careers.

Originally the brainchild of Shannon Hummel (BAX Artist in Residence 2005-07), the program is currently curated by former BAX Artists In Residence Jillian Peña (2011-13) and Fernando Maneca (2004-06).

2019 – Curated by Jillian Peña & Fernando Maneca

Leonie Bell is a German-American theater-maker based in Berlin/New York. She creates fake family parties, mass lullabies, pseudo-historical excursions, and other theatrical tantrums that endow the audience with more creative powers and foster a momentary feeling of belonging amongst strangers. Leonie’s artistic practice involves an irreverent reverence for the irrational and a relentless desire for community. In NYC, she has performed at BAM, the Met Breuer, Cloud City, Under St. Marks Theater, Dixon Place, The Brick, Center for Performance Research, and other venues. She is a participant of the Mabou Mines Resident-Artist-Program 2019, BAX Upstart Program 2018-2019, and The Midwives Term 2018-2019. (BA from Bard College; MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College.) For more info on upcoming antics, run slow-motion to
Malcolm-x Betts is a Bronx based curator, visual, and dance artist who believes that art is a transformative vehicle that brings people and communities together. The frame of his artistic work is around using embodiment for finding liberation, Black imagination, and directly engaging with challenges placed on the physical body. This project (or work) was made possible, in part, through The Movement Research Artist-in-Residence Program, funded, in part, by the Jerome Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Davis/Dauray Family Fund, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Juli Brandano is dancer, choreographer, and performer based in Brooklyn, NY. She has performed in museums and theaters in the U.S. and abroad, in work by Cally Spooner, Alexandra Pirici, Amelia Heintzelman, and Jodi Melnick. Her work has been presented through Movement Research's Open Performance program, at Triskelion Arts, and at the School of Contemporary Dance and Thought. She is thrilled to be a 2018/2019 BAX Upstart program participant.
Janeill Cooper is a native of Queens, NY where she began her dance training locally at the Edge School of the Arts. She continued to receive training from Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, The Ailey School, and Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts. In 2017, Janeill earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with Honors from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia under the direction of Donna Faye Burchfield. Over the course of her training, Janeill performed works by William Forsythe, Rennie Harris, Earl Mosley, Sidra Bell, Gary Jeter, Dinita and Kyle Clark, and Jillian Peña to name a few. Janeill spent a season dancing with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, A Dance Company, and is currently dancing with Christal Brown’s INSPIRIT. As a dance maker, Janeill has presented works at the Sans Limites Dans Festival in Manhattan and at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn. In Fall 2018, Janeill will be presenting work as a BRIClab resident hosted by BRIC in Downtown Brooklyn.
Nile Harris is a Brooklyn based actor and performance maker. Nile’s performances are a reaction to the absurdity of the black experience in Amerikkka—being the living product of a country that brought us here, but did not want us here. His work has been presented at Dixon Place, Secret Project Robot, Miami Art Walk, and The Watermill Center, where his commissioned installation, curated by Robert Wilson, was featured in publications such as New York Magazine, W Magazine, Art News, and Slate. He currently performs for 600 HIGHWAYMEN in the international tour of ‘The Fever’ and has performed Off-Broadway in ‘Occupied Territories’ and on television in ‘The Path’ (Hulu) and ‘Masterclass’ (HBO).
Catie Leasca is a dance artist currently based in Brooklyn, NY. With roots in Massachusetts, she has traveled and danced abroad in Israel, France, Belgium, and Germany. Catie received a space grant through Chez Bushwick/UArts creative exchange in 2017 and has presented her work at Center for Performance Research, Triskelion Arts, STUDIO4, Threes Brewing, and Salt Dance Fest. She has worked professionally with Netta Yerushalmy, Jessie Young, ingercooper|dancers, Mary Grace McNally and Artists, Sophie Tibiletti, She Mee Zoo, and Bryn Cohn + Artists. Catie graduated with her B.F.A. in Dance from the University of the Arts in May, 2017.
Jaime Sunwoo is a Korean American multidisciplinary artist from Brooklyn, New York. She combines video, audio, sculpture, and storytelling to create sensory performances in galleries, theaters, and public spaces. Her works are part playful, part tragic, and often examine food as a way to discuss identity, history, and death. She studied art at Yale University, is an alum of the Laundromat Project for socially engaged art. Her site-specific projects include The Creature at DUMBO Arts Festival, and interactive bar installation Earshot. She has collaborated with Whoop Dee Doo, and appeared on PBS's Art21. Her public works were presented by STooPS Art Crawl and Art in Odd Places. Her ongoing performance and community workshop series, Specially Processed American Me was shown at the FailSafe Festival, OYE! Avant Garde Festival at JACK, Asian American Arts Alliance, Gallery Madison Park, and Open Source Gallery. Her upcoming lectures will be at New York University and the Charles B Wang Center at Stony Brook University. She is currently developing performances through Leviathan Lab and the BAX Upstart Program.
Vita Taurke is a choreographer who makes dances, performs, and lives in New York City. She is invested in the physical exploration of glamour, power, and presence. Beginning a process in stillness, Taurke shapes worlds of tension and drama. Ranging from evening-length work in chapels to short vignettes in nightclubs, her work has been presented by venues such as the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, the ACDA Northeast Gala Concert, Secret Project Robot, and BAX Upstart. Taurke has performed in works by artists such as Leah Cox, Netta Yerushalmy, Trisha Brown, and Oliver Steele. Her collaborators past and present include Elise Langstaff, Clara Allison, Shua Bauer, and Margot Ells. Taurke received her BA in Dance from Bard College in May 2018.
E. Wray is a queer performer from East Tennessee who works with text, movement, puppets, song, and folk magic. They make art about sex, blood, grief, horror, whiteness, and their body. In New York, they’ve performed at the Alchemical Theater Laboratory, the Living Gallery, the Signature Theater, Theater for the New City, Columbia University, the Tank, The Sheridan, The Bushwick Starr, Dixon Place, BAX, La MaMa ETC, Jersey City Theater Center, and in their living room. They’ve also worked sporadically with the Bread and Puppet Theater (Glover, VT). They are currently developing a multi-medium storytelling project ('EXCAVATION') about their grandmother and the colonization of the Appalachian Mountains.


2018 – Curated by Jillian Peña & Fernando Maneca

Bex Kwan and Sophia Mak
Claro de los Reyes & the Atlantic Pacific Theatre
J. Bouey
Miriam Gabriel & Carlo Antonio Villanueva
Patricia Rose Suarez
Collin T Ranf
Dani Criss
Freddy Edelhart
Rebecca Hidalgo
The Hummm

2018 – Curated by Jillian Peña & Fernando Maneca

Anastasia Eckerson
Ash R.T. Yergens
Bianca Roman
Brianna Taylor
The Brown Dance Project
Chris DeVita
Church of the Millennials
Elena Rose Light
Felicia Henry / Behind the Walls, Between the Lines
Georgia Gavran - Jonathan Doherty
Nia and Ness

2016 - Curated by Jillian Peña & Marya Warshaw

Alexandra Pinel
Alicia Raquel
Johnnie Cruise Mercer / The REDProject
Marissa Brown / Lone King
Mor Mendel
Ryan Streit
Sameena Mitta / MeenMoves
Sara Gurevich
Tanya Marquardt

2015 - Curated by Jillian Peña & Marya Warshaw

Ali Perkins
Eli Tamondong
Emily Reilly / Stephanie Hayes
Gilbert Reyes
Jeremy Pheiffer
Kelsey Ludwig
Kim Katzberg
Lisa Fagan
Lizzie Feidelson
Lydia Mokdessi & Benjamin Wagner
Melanie Greene
Nico Brown
Renee Gerardo
Samuel Householder
Sarah Foster (C & S)

2014 - Curated by Jillian Peña & Marya Warshaw

Claire Moodey
Jesse White
Justin Cabrillos
Kyle Marshall
Lauren Bakst
Lena Lauer
Molly Poerstel
Nicole Roerick
Nikima Jagudajev
Ryan David O'Byrne
Sam Alper
Same As Sister

2013 - Curated by Shannon Hummel & Marya Warshaw

Amanda Hinchey
Barbie Diewald / TrioDance Collective
Bryn Cohn and Artists
Christiana Axelsen
Darla Stanley
Double Edge
Erin Cairns Cella
Kirsten Schnittker
Macklin Kowal
Robert Foerster / Kyle Georgina Marsh

2012 - Curated by Shannon Hummel & Marya Warshaw

BAXco Youth Dance Company
Brittany Schmid
Einy Åm / EyeKnee Coordination
Hannah Emerson
Kirstin Kapustik & Dancers
Megan Harrold / Inimois Dance
Tara Aisha Willis
Nadia Tykulsker / Spark(edIt) Arts
niv Acosta
Robin Neveu Brown

2011 - Curated by Shannon Hummel & Marya Warshaw

(Jo) Sau Yin Leung
Courtney Cooke
devynn emory/beast productions
Heidi Carlsen
Katherine Partington
Lindsay Drury
Malcolm Jason Low
Moriah Evans & Sarah Beth Percival
Simone Sobers & Val-Inc.

2010 - Curated by Shannon Hummel & Marya Warshaw

Ani Javian
Belinda He
C J Holm
Donna Costello
Jacob Slominsky
Kamaria Dailey
Katie Dean
Rebecca Stronger
Sarah Zitnay

2009 - Curated by Shannon Hummel & Monica Bill Barnes

Aaron Cedolia
Amanda Drozer
Amy Softic
Candice Schnurr
David Martinez
Jennifer Schmermund
Julie Fotheringham & Jarryd Lowder
Lisa Crawford
Matthew Westerby
Maxine Lyle
Rachel Wynne
Stacey Grossfield
Xan Burley