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Chicago-connected artists win 2016 Princess Grace Awards

Hubbard Street dancer and choreographer Penny Saunders (left) and dancer Jeffery Duffy are among the recipients of this year's Princess Grace Awards. (Photos: Todd Rosenberg)

Two dancers and two choreographers – either based in Chicago or creating work here – have been named recipients of the prestigious Princess Grace Awards for 2016.

Jeffery Duffy of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Paige Fraser of Visceral Dance Chicago have won Dance Fellowships. Penny Saunders, a dancer and choreographer with Hubbard Street, will use her Choreography Fellowship to create a work with the Seattle-based contemporary dance company Whim W’Him. And Los Angeles-based Danielle Agami will use her Choreography Fellowship to create a new work for Visceral next Fall.

Nellie Kluz of the University of Illinois, Chicago, received a Film Graduate Scholarship.

Bestowed by the Princess Grace Foundation–USA, the awards are designed to continue the legacy of Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco who, in her lifetime, helped emerging artists pursue their artistic goals. The Foundation is awarding more than $1 million to artists in dance, film and theater.

Paige Fraser, a dancer with Visceral Dance Chicago, is among this year’s Princess Grace Award recipients. (Photo: Cheryl Mann)
Paige Fraser, a dancer with Visceral Dance Chicago, is among this year’s Princess Grace Award recipients. (Photo: Cheryl Mann)

Here is a closer look at the Chicago-connected winners in the dance and choreography category:

Jeffery Duffy, a native of Adamsville, Georgia, began dancing at age three and attended the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia; Talent Unlimited High School; and the Juilliard School in New York City. He has performed with the Juilliard Dance Ensemble at Lincoln Center and the Chicago Dancing Festival, and as a guest artist with Dance Theatre of Harlem. At the McCallum Theatre Institute’s 2013 Choreography Festival, Duffy and Alexander Jones received the Division I Second Place Prize for their original work, “Open it to Speak.” Duffy is also the recipient of an Alan D. Marks Entrepreneurship Grant, and winner of the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Arts Entrepreneurship Prize. He joined Hubbard Street’s main company in August 2015.

Paige Fraser, from the Bronx, New York, trained at Ballet Atlantic Academy, Professional Performing Arts High School, and Dominican University of California/Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet. She attended ABT, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Jacobs Pillow and Juilliard Summer Intensives on scholarships. In 2012 she graduated Cum Laude from the Alvin Ailey/Fordham BFA program in Dance. A guest artist for Deeply Rooted ECS and Ruth Page Civic Ballet, in 2014 and 2015 she performed in Randy Duncan’s highly acclaimed finale for Dance For Life Chicago. She also appeared in Beyonce’s “Bow Down” 2013 tour opener, and has been featured in Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher, Essence, Lucky, and Revolution Dancewear. A member of Ailey II for the 2011-2013 seasons under the artistic direction of Sylvia Waters and Troy Powell, she is a founding member of Visceral Dance Chicago and is now in her third season with the company. Ms. Fraser is the featured dancer in the 2016 Intel campaign/commercial “Experience Amazing.”

Penny Saunders graduated from the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida in 1995. She then began her professional career with the American Repertory Ballet under the direction of Septime Webre, danced with Ballet Arizona and MOMIX, and was a founding member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (then Cedar Lake Ensemble). In 2004, Saunders joined Hubbard Street, where she began to pursue her choreographic interests, creating for Hubbard Street 2 in 2011 through its International Commissioning Project, and premiering her first work for Hubbard Street’s main company in 2013. She has since choreographed for the Nexus Project, Owen/Cox Dance Group, SFDanceworks, Whim W’Him, Grand Rapids Ballet, and Neos Dance Theatre as a choreographer in residence at the University of Akron. In 2015 Saunders returned to Hubbard Street’s main company and began a three-year choreographic residency with Grand Rapids Ballet.

Danielle Agami was born in Israel and danced for the Batsheva Dance Company from 2002-2010. In 2011, she relocated to New York City where she functioned as Senior Manager of Gaga USA and created original work at Rutgers University (NJ), Boston Conservatory (MA), Springboard Montreal, and Cornish College for the Arts (WA). In 2012, she moved to Seattle where she founded Ate9 dANCEcOMPANY & created her first full evening work, “Sally meets Stu.” In 2013 Ate9 made L.A. it’s home and Danielle created site specific work for the company, as well as expanding its educational outreach program. She has created work for The Batsheva Ensemble, Northwest Dance Project, Barak Ballet and Invisible Cities by The Industry Opera.

For additional information and a complete list of the award winners visit: http://www.pgfusa.org/news/view/2016-Princess-Grace-Award-Winners-Announced/.