Cynthia Oliver

CAS Professor of Dance

Oliver C
Courtesy Cynthia Oliver

Cynthia Oliver is a choreographer, performer, and performance studies scholar. She has toured the globe as a featured dancer with David Gordon Pick Up Company and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, and has appeared in works with Bebe Miller Company and Tere O’Connor Dance. As an actor, she has performed in works by Laurie Carlos, Greg Tate, Ione, Ntozake Shange, and Deke Weaver. Professor Oliver's choreographic research explores black subjectivity and the intersectionality of women’s worlds with cultural, social, and political developments in the Caribbean, in particular, and the Black Atlantic, in general. She integrates the roles of the scholar and artist to complicate ideas around contemporary culture through the lenses of Africanist performance via dance and theatrical vocabularies, delivering layered, complex performance experiences as vehicles to examine popular culture and its relevance to historical and contemporary trajectories in black life. She is a widely published author with articles in a variety of journals and edited volumes as well as her single authored book, Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean (2009).

Professor Oliver is a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award-winning choreographer, a 2022 Doris Duke Artist and Guggenheim Fellow, a 2021 United States Artist Fellow, 2016 Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Mellon Fellow, elected to a Center for Advanced Study Professorship in 2020, CAS Associate in 2017, and 2007 University Scholar. She has been awarded and/or commissioned by the Franklin Furnace, Jerome Foundation, Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund for Minority Artists, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Live Arts, National Performance Network, Creative Capital, Rockefeller/Doris Duke MAP Fund, New England Foundation for the Arts (NDP), Pew Charitable Trust, and Illinois Arts Council. Her dance theater work has been seen internationally in the Caribbean and West Africa, and in Europe via arts channels Canal Arte and 3Sat. Her work has appeared across the US in festivals and spaces such as Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in Brooklyn and The Public, The Kitchen, Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, and Aaron Davis Hall in New York City, NY; New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in New Orleans, LA; Links Hall and The Hot House in Chicago and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, IL; Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas in Seattle, WA; Dance Place in Washington, D.C.; Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, PA; and Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, ME, among many others. She is a full professor in the Dance Department, an affiliate in African American Studies and Gender & Women’s Studies, and has recently completed a five-year term as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation in the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields.

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