2024 Barbara Ensley Award Recipients
Andrea Soto (she/her), raised in Juarez, Chihuahua, is a first-generation Mexican American movement-based artist. She holds a BFA in Dance with a Minor in Digital Arts from California Institute of the Arts (2022). Her craft lives in performance and data-gathering as shared collective research. She believes in the body as the temple of pleasure and truth system, turning inwards and surrendering into a space that welcomes the sacred.
Andrea builds poetic ecosystems that are rooted in the mystical dismantling of hierarchical-systems across performance and media. Presented at Human Resources LA and Highways Performance Space, her creations embrace boundless interconnectedness; with a deep reverence for her roots, they become a celebration and investigation of ancestral knowledge and heritage.
As a freelance performer, she has worked closely with renowned artists such as Julie Tolentino, Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Holley Farmer, Rosie Herrera, Sam Wentz, Dimitri Chamblas, JOJO ABOT, EYIBRA, Gerard & Kelly, Alexsa Durrans, and Annalee Traylor; and has been part of works at Culture Hub’s Re-Fest, MOCA, REDCAT, L.A. Dance Project, Night Gallery, UNTITLED Art Fair Miami, and Centre National de la Danse in Paris.
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I feel deeply honored and grateful to be selected as one of the recipients of the Barbara Ensley Award this year on behalf of the Merce Cunningham Trust. What an exciting opportunity to continue this journey and grow alongside the New York community.
My name is Lena Solomon (she/her) and I grew up in Florissant, Missouri. I started dancing in my youth and began training at 15 at the Center of Creative Arts, COCA. At COCA, I trained in ballet, Horton, jazz, tap, and hip-hop. I was introduced to choreographers and styles of dance that I had never heard of before, which has had a tremendous impact on my dancing today. There, I had the opportunity to perform in professional works such as “Torch” and “Upside Down” by Ronald K. Brown and “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin. I also trained at home, specifically in the living room and backyard. I didn't always have the finances to go and take classes or see live performances, but I did have a home and YouTube, which I am incredibly grateful for. I believe I owe a lot of my understanding of movement to hours dancing outside amongst the trees and watching any and everything on YouTube. I love dancing in nature because the trees and grass don't hold stagnant energy. It is as if there is a constant exchange of energy, therefore it feels new every day. No one is there to witness me, which means I cannot do anything wrong or right: I just get to dance and be free. I think my years of dancing in my home have allowed me to practice the art of being free, which has shaped me into who I’ve become. Currently, I attend the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in which I plan to receive my Bachelor of Fine Arts in May of 2024.
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I am incredibly excited and grateful to be a recipient of the Barbara Ensley Award. Thank you to the entire team of people who made this award and opportunity possible. This award will help me pursue my dreams of becoming a professional artist. Thank you!