Upstart Program

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

Originally curated by Shannon Hummel (BAX Artist in Residence 2005-07) as a festival of artists new to New York City, it has since been expanded into a 6-month long residency program under the leadership of its current curators/mentors—and former BAX Artists In Residence—Jillian Peña (2011-13) and Fernando Maneca (2004-06). 

This residency program 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, facilitate networking opportunities, and learn administrative skills that pave the way for fruitful artistic careers.

After 10 years, it’s time to slow down and take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going. We believe that those who have experienced Upstart have crucial information about what worked about the program, and what potential there is to grow. In 19/20, facilitated by Jillian Peña and Bex Kwan, the focus will be on listening and learning from the experience of those who have participated in Upstart in the past, and use that information to shape a redesign of the program in 2020-21. We hope that by convening the artists this program has served in the past, we not only gather insight on Upstart’s alignment with BAX’s mission and values, but also lean into an opportunity to build relationships within a group of artists that BAX has touched. 

We look forward to providing further updates about the 2020/21 season! 

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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.

Visit the Residencies History page to see the previous participants.