Previous Barbara Ensley Award Recipients







Arielle François is a multidisciplinary performance artist originally from Poinciana, Florida. François trained in dance at the Osceola County School for the Arts (2011-2018) under the direction of Nealya Brunson and the New World School of the Arts (2022) where she graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Dance Performance. François began her creative career at a young age modeling for her sister’s brand 000SPORTSWEAR in her family's living room. It is here that she began to foster a relationship with industry work that has helped her create new opportunities in editorial fashion and film. She then began nurturing her love for theatre, training with Marcus Crawford Guy at stART Osceola (2015-2018.)

François works to challenge any idea that resist Black women from embracing their inherit abundance. While honoring joy and adventure she believes in radical black power and works to create an uplifting dialogue around Haitian culture that reminds us that spirit is an active participant in every interaction.

As an independent model and performer François has created with Coca-Cola, Carlotta Guerrero, Monica Lopez De Victoria and Prada. She has performed in films by Helen Piña and NOWNESS as well as music videos for John Legend and Saweetie. As a concert dancer she has performed works by Ron Brown, Liony Garcia, and Peter London. In 2018 she was awarded Florida Dance Education NHSDA Artist Merit, Leadership and Academic Achievement Award for her solo SLEEP. She has created work for Beautiful Chorus, Miami Design District and Valentino. As well as performing original works like Lave Tet created with Sarah Nicol François at Mana Contemporary’s Loading Festival (2019.) Most Recently François performed her newest work found:ALLMYTHINGS!! Sponsored by Miami Dance Makers and The National Young Arts Foundation at the Perez Art Museum this past November (2022). François current practice celebrates her indigenous intelligence by experimenting with herbal sciences and Haitian Folklore. She hopes to challenge sanitized performances of ritual in the diasporic creative space and reinforce the power and resilience of Haiti.



Nyah is extremely excited and honored to be a recipient of the Barbara Ensley Award. She plans to utilize this opportunity to further their journey as a dancer and artist and integrate into the New York City dance community


Nyah Malone (they/she), a native of Akron, Ohio, began dancing when they were 3 years old, studying primarily classical ballet. They studied at Nan Klinger’s Excellence Dance under the tutelage of Mia Klinger. In 2015, they relocated to Natick, Massachusetts to attend Walnut Hill School for the Arts, which was then under the direction of Michael Owen, graduating with honors in 2019. They are set to graduate from the LINES BFA program at Dominican University of California in 2023. There, they studied Horton, Límon, X-work, improvisation, and contemporary ballet. At LINES, they were able to deconstruct the framework of classical ballet technique and shift to an approach that valued exploration and choice-making, a process that was fundamental to their growth as an artist. In addition to a BFA, they are also graduating with a BA in English with a creative writing concentration.

Throughout their dance career, Nyah has performed in premiere works by Gregory Dawson, Dexandro Montalvo, Liv Schaffer, Jay Carlon, and Elijah Labay. Nyah also enjoys choreographing and compositional work, creating their piece entitled who and how much? as a part of their senior thesis, which is set to premiere in 2023.

Nyah is interested in how social justice work and dance converge, and how artists can be on the forefront of diversity and inclusivity initiatives. In high school, they served for two years as an officer on the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, and in college headed PRIDE Club, Dominican University’s LGBTQIA organization.

They were honored to perform as a guest artist in amalgam! by FACT/SF in Yerba Buena Gardens ChoreoFest and slow dark dances by tinypistol, a durational installation that sought to decolonize the invisible whiteness of museum spaces.








Morgan Amirah Burns is a Brooklyn based multidisciplinary artist. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Morgan studied classical ballet and modern techniques at Dekalb School of the Arts, City Gate Dance Theatre and the Atlanta Ballet. At just 20 years old, she received her BFA in dance from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts where she studied ballet, Cunningham, contemporary, composition, and improvisational techniques.

At NYU, she had the pleasure to work with and perform works by Wayne McGregor, Ron K. Brown, and Lar Lubovitch to name a few. During her time in undergrad, Morgan studied abroad at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Salzburg, Austria and during school breaks trained at Toscana Dance Hub (now W.A.D.E.) in Florence, Italy, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and GAGA Lab NYC - all of which helped shape her as an artist today. 

As covid-19 brought upon harsh realities, Morgan dedicated her time in quarantine to founding the Collegiate Association for Artists of Color (C.A.A.C.) a grassroots organization started by and for young American artists of color pursuing a higher education in the Arts. Through C.A.A.C., Morgan and a plethora of artists from different artistic backgrounds frequently collaborated and organized online events and spaces to facilitate healing, conversation, community, and creativity for artists of color.

Most recently, Morgan was honored to be awarded a Moving Woman Residency from Brooklyn-based dance company GALLIM. She was given support to explore and create movement in a beautiful studio space for a week investigating facets of her in progress film, “In Her Shoes.” And through the Consulate General of Canada in NYC, she was able to create and collaborate with Canadian based artist, Brandon Wint virtually to create “Spring Promises Futures” (2021) - a dance poetry film exploring themes of identity and location. 

Morgan is beyond excited to be one of the inaugural recipients of the Barbara Ensley Award on behalf of the Merce Cunningham Trust. She is incredibly grateful for this honor as it will allow her to move forward in her training and career as a young dancer, creator, and artist living in New York City. 



Alex Larson is originally from Portland, Oregon where he began dancing at the age of ten under the direction of Carene Boersma. Alex has now obtained three years of pre-professional training from The Hartt School and is set to graduate with a BFA in Dance Performance in 2022. Alex has performed in premiere works such as Live and Thrive by Sir Richard Alston, The Peculiar Terror of Wonder by Stephen Pier, and True Meridian by Gabrielle Lamb. He has also performed in restaged pieces such as The Winged by José Limón, 3 Epitaphs by Paul Taylor as well as a Cunningham MinEvent staged by Andrea Weber. Alex has a great love for both performing and teaching dance. Last summer he taught at a local studio in Oregon what he calls his “Contemporary and Modern Fusion'' class to students ages 10 to 18. Alex is very passionate about improvisation, collaboration, and mindfulness through dancing.

Alex feels incredibly fortunate to be a recipient of the Barbara Ensley Award! He recognizes it as a great opportunity transitioning into the industry, and plans to utilize it to grow and develop as an artist.