Music Composition

Omomuki Music Composition Program works with musicians to create, record, and perform original works of music, and to choreographers and dance companies to commission original music and its live performance.

2021 Recipients

Josh Evans

Josh Evans is an American trumpeter and recipient of the 2020-2021 Omomuki Jazz Composition Grant. The grant provides funding for Josh to compose and record the complete Mansa Mali, an evening-length suite for quintet, which he began composing in 2016 for MoMA and completed through the Omomuki grant. It is inspired both by the Mali Empire, which sent a flotilla of 400 ships across the Atlantic some 180 years before Columbus, and by the Dogon people, who described complex astronomical phenomena. He learned of these cultures from his mentor, the renowned saxophonist Jackie McLean. “The music I composed for Mansa Mali does not simply imitate West African rhythms and melodies, but rather presents my jazz interpretation of the stories and history of the fascinating Mali Empire,” Evans says. Mansa Mali will debut in a live performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center on February 24-25, 2022.

Josh is currently a member of Bobby Watson’s New Horizon, Christian McBride’s New Jawn, the David Murray Octet, the Victor Lewis Quintet, and the Louis Hayes sexet. He has five recordings as a leader and over 70 as a sideman. Four albums with his work as a sideman have been nominated for Grammys. He has toured and recorded with musicians such as Christian McBride, Billy Harper, Charles Tolliver, Roy Hargrove, Grachan Moncur III, Rufus Reid, and Oliver Lake.

Gibney Dance + Sonya Tayeh +The Bengsons

Sonya is one of two recipients of our 2021 New Music for Dance grants to commission original music and its live performance. The commission goes to the singer-songwriter duo The Bengsons, who will perform live November 2-7, 2021 at the The Joyce Theater with Gibney Company. Sonya has received two Emmy nominations for Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” a Tony award for her work in Moulin Rouge! on Broadway, a Drama Desk Award and two Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Choreography, and an Obie Award. Abigail and Shaun Bengson are a married composing and performing duo who have performed around the world. Three of their singles have been featured on “So You Think You Can Dance” (FOX). Their theater work includes music for Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, New York Theatre Workshop, US Tour, Ars Nova, ATL’s Humana Festival, Edinburgh Theatre Festival, New York Live Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, and Classic Stage Company. They have received the Jonathan Larson and Richard Rogers Awards and nominations for the Drama Desk, Drama League, and Lucille Lortel Awards. Gibney Dance Company, founded in 1991, is a professional contemporary dance company led by artistic director Gina Gibney. Gibney Company members are full-time Artistic Associates who contribute not only as impeccable performing artists but also as activists and cultural entrepreneurs. Credit Photo: Erin Baiano.

Ni’Ja Whitson

Ni’Ja Whitson is a Los Angeles-based choreographer, interdisciplinary artist and writer. They are one of two recipients of Omomuki’s New Music for Dance grants, which will fund the commissioning and live performance of original music for an upcoming work to premier at New York Live Arts. Ni’Ja has been a student and practitioner of indigenous African ritual and resistance forms for two decades, creating work that reflects the sacred in street, conceptual, and interdisciplinary performance. They are the recipient of the Creative Capital and Bessie awards and a United States Artists 2021 Fellow. Ni’Ja is also an Assistant Professor at University of California Riverside.

Parsons Dance + Chanel DaSilva + Cristina Spinei

Parsons Dance is a contemporary American dance company, internationally renowned for its energized, athletic ensemble work. Founded in 1985 by Artistic Director David Parsons and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley, the company has toured to more than 445 cities, 30 countries, and 5 continents. Composer and performer Cristina Spinei has written for numerous orchestras and chamber ensembles, but she is most known for her work with ballet, having been commissioned by Nashville Ballet, the New York Choreographic Institute, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Omomuki’s grant supports the live premier of “On the Other Side” with new music by Cristina and choreography by Chanel DaSilva. The work will be premiered at the 2021 Fire Island Dance Festival and performed November 30th – December 4th at The Joyce Theater in New York City.

2020 Recipient

Ayodele Casel
Ayodele Casel was described by Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world.” She is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and of The William Esper Studio. Casel has has been creating and presenting her own works since 1999 and has performed at New York City Center, The White House, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and Madison Square Garden. She is the recipient of the 2017 Hoofer Award and of the 2018-2019 Artist in Residence at Harvard University; was named one of The New York Times’ Biggest Breakout Starts of 2019; and is a 2019-2020 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The Omomuki grant funded the creation of her original work “Oscar Joy,” which premiered at the 2020 (virtual) Fire Island Dance Festival.

2019 Recipient

Michelle Dorrance, Dorrance Dance

Michelle Dorrance is a New York City-based tap dancer and choreographer, and founder of Dorrance Dance. The Omomuki grant funds Michelle’s original work Destination Moon, which premiered at the 2019 Fire Island Dance Festival with Dorrance Dance and former New York City Ballet principal dancer Robbie Fairchild. She is a 2018 Doris Duke Artist, 2018 Capezio Award winner, 2017 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, 2016-17 New York City Center Choreography Fellow, 2016 United States Artists Award recipient, 2015 MacArthur Fellow, 2014 Alpert Award winner, 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, 2012 Princess Grace Award winner, 2012 Field Dance Fund recipient, and 2011/2015 Bessie Award winner.

2018 Recipient

Jeffrey Cirio, Cirio Collective

Cirio Collective, founded by American Ballet Theatre principal and choreographer Jeffrey Cirio and Boston Ballet Principal Lia Cirio, was created in the summer of 2015 to explore and develop new choreography. The Omomuki grant funds in part Jeffrey Cirio’s original work Tornerai?, the world premier of which was performed at the 2018 Fire Island Dance Festival. Cirio Collective has performed at Vineyard Arts Project, Cape Dance Festival, Hudson Valley Dance Festival, Dance at Socrates, and the Joyce Theater. Jeffrey has received the Jadin Wong Award of the Asian American Arts Alliance and Joffrey Academy’s 6th Annual Winning Works Choreographic Competition. He has been commissioned to choreograph works for Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and the Joyce Theater.

2017 Recipient

Alexandre Hammoudi & Manuel Vignoulle, Makers Dance Company

Makers Dance Company was founded in 2017 by American Ballet Theater (ABT) soloist Alexandre Hammoudi. It is currently comprised of members of ABT Corps de Ballet dancers from China, France, Japan, and Korea. Makers Dance Company is combining the beauty and bravado of ballet with modern ideas and movement. Its repertoire is inspired by historical tales, fictional stories, and non-fictional events. The Omomuki Foundation commissioned Makers Dance Company’s inaugural work Tatakai, which was choreographed by Manuel Vignoulle and premiered at the 2017 Fire Island Dance Festival in New York.

2016 Recipient

Fang-Yi Sheu & Artists

A native of Taiwan, Ms. Sheu is a former Principal Dancer for Martha Graham Dance Company. The Omomuki grant funded Ms. Sheu’s July 2016 Creation Week in Taipei, which brought together twelve dancers from Taiwan, China, Korean, and Mongolia and resulted in performances in November 2016 at Beijing’s National Performing Arts Center. She has been praised by the New York Times as the finest present-day embodiment of Martha Graham’s technique and tradition. She has received numerous awards including the 2005 President’s Order of Brilliant Star (Taiwan), the 2007 National Award for the Arts (Taiwan), and Ballettanz Magazine’s 2008 Outstanding Female Dancer. She was the first Asian artist-in-residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. She is the founder of Fang-Yi Sheu & Artists.

2015 Recipient

Nao Nishihara

Mr. Nishihara is a sound designer, sculptor, and performer whose artwork and sound performances have been presented in Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Mr. Nishihara finished his undergraduate studies as a sound engineer. When he entered the M.F.A. program at Tokyo University of the Arts, he met Phil Niblock, a minimalist composer and multimedia musician, and the director of the avant-garde foundation Experimental Intermedia based in New York City. Since then, Mr. Nishihara has been integrating sound and sculptural objects. The Omomuki grant, administered through the Asian Cultural Council, will enable Mr. Nishihara to work with the 82-year-old Niblock to further explore sound and interdisciplinary media.