Kathy Westwater, “an unconventional choreographer experiencing a surge of recognition” (The New Yorker) and recipient of the Solange MacArthur Award for New Choreography, has choreographically pursued experimental dance forms since 1996. Described as “at the limits of the human” (The Brooklyn Rail), her work responds to contemporary experience and the societal landscape in which it manifests by reimagining the body’s movement potential.
Westwater’s Bessie-nominated Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part, co-presented at New York Live Arts by NYLA and Lumberyard, and commissioned by Lumberyard, explored pain and the body, including the pain of others. Her other major works have explored the built environments of monuments (Anywhere); landfills and parks (PARK); phenomena of war and pain (Macho); the intersection of human and animal culture (twisted, tack, broken); psycho-physical states of fear (Dark Matter); and interactive virtual environments (The Fortune Cookie Dance).
Developed in New York City, her dances have been seen at the Chocolate Factory Theater, Gibney Center, Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor, New York Live Arts, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, Temple University, Danspace Project, 92nd Street Y Harkness Center, Movement Research at Judson Church, Dance Theater Workhshop, Joyce SoHo, Franklin Furnace, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Dixon Place, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Performance Space 122, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Pratt Institute, Reed College, and many parks and public spaces, among others. Her work The Fortune Cookie Dance is cited in The Drama Review and the Guerrilla Guide to Performance Art as an early example of online interactive dance and archived in the Walker Art Center’s Mediatheque Archive.
She has received commissions from the Chocolate Factory, Gibney, Lumberyard, Temple University, Dance Theater Workshop, and Danspace Project; and awards from National Endowment for the Arts, CUNY Dance Initiative, Dance NYC, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New Music USA, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Puffin Foundation, Franklin Furnace Fund, Meet the Composer, and New York Foundation for the Arts.
Westwater was artist in residence in 2023 at the Chocolate Factory; in 2022 at the Arts Center on Governors Island; in 2021 at both Snug Harbor and Yaddo; in 2019 at Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography; and in 2018, one of three inaugural artists in residence at Petronio Residency Center.
She has been the recipient of numerous other residencies, among them, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, Temple University, Djerassi, Movement Research, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, iLAND, Dance Theater Workshop, The Field, Rockbridge Artist Exchange, Millay Colony for the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Pratt Institute. Early support for her work included space grants from 92nd Street Y and Brooklyn Arts Exchange, a fellowship from Summer Stages Dance Festival, and being named in multiple years a Mellon Anchor Artist by the Joyce Theater Foundation.
Inspired by early studies with Simone Forti, Dana Reitz, and Sara Rudner, Westwater has since been described by Rudner as a “seminal artist.” In addition her own work, Westwater has danced in reconstructions of Forti’s groundbreaking works Slant Board and Huddle at Lincoln Center and Steve Paxton’s influential Satisfyin‘ Lover and State at the Museum of Modern Art. She originated roles in Historias and Familias, both by choreographer Merián Soto & visual artist Pepón Osorio, and performed them from 1991-1999 nationally and internationally, including at Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center, and Dance Theater Workshop, among many other places. Historias has been recognized as an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts. Westwater has also performed in works by Sally Silvers and K.J. Holmes, among others.
Westwater is on the faculty of Movement Research, and serves on its Artist Advisory Council. From 2000-2019, she taught choreography, composition, improvisation, and dance history at Sarah Lawrence College. Through workshops, talks, and writings she has explored the intersections of art and society at UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, and University of California Los Angeles, among many other colleges and universities. She has presented scholarly research at Dance Studies Association conferences in the U.S., Norway, and Malta.
Westwater received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence where she was awarded the Bessie Schönberg Scholarship, and a BA from William and Mary where she studied political economy and dance. Dedicated to advancing the working conditions of artists, as a founding member of Dancers Forum she co-authored The Compact.
A black and white image of the artist seated in front of a white brick wall. We see her from the torso up, wearing a dark sweater, gazing back at the viewer.
photo Jae Lee