$40,000 award to finance new work by Next Ice Age

March 28, 1998|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,SUN STAFF

Nathan Birch, artistic director of the Next Ice Age skating company, has received $40,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation under a new grants program for dance sponsored by the American Dance Festival.

The Baltimore choreographer is one of six American choreographers to receive an award to support the creation of new work. The other recipients are Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham, who each received grants of $100,000; Elizabeth Streb, $40,000; and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and David Grenke, $15,000 each.

A former skater with the John Curry Company, Birch founded his professional ensemble skating company in 1988 with the help of co-director Tim Murphy. Last spring, the Baltimore-based company performed at the Kennedy Center Opera House. This July, Next Ice Age will become the first skating company to participate in the prestigious American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.

Birch, 34, says he was completely star-struck by meeting dance legends Cunningham and Taylor at Thursday's awards ceremony in New York.

"It's enormous validation," he says. "This is the company's 10th year, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. Successes like this cast a light over any of the failures, or at least make them easier to deal with."

Birch is finishing a 30-minute work commissioned by Dance St. Louis, an organization that brings dance companies into St. Louis. Six skaters will perform the piece, created to Elgar's "Enigma Variations," at an April benefit there.

Birch will use his Doris Duke grant to create new work for the Next Ice Age's appearance at the American Dance Festival.

Founded in 1934, the festival offers a six-week summer season with nightly performances by modern dance companies from around the world, classes for as many 450 student dancers and professional workshops.

zTC The awards were established by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, that awards roughly $55 million a year to a variety of causes including the performing arts.

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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