Cynthia Oliver


Professor and Graduate Director

Cynthia OliverCynthia Oliver joined the Dance at Illinois faculty in August 2000. She is a former dancer with numerous companies, including the David Gordon Pick Up Co., the Bebe Miller Company, Ron K. Brown/Evidence, and Tere O'Connor Dance (with whom between 2013 and 2015 she performed in Sister, a duet for herself and David Thomson, and a full-company evening-length work, BLEED). A woman of Caribbean descent, Cynthia creates work that is a mélange of dance theatre and the spoken word, incorporating textures of Caribbean performance with African and American sensibilities. Early in her career, she won a New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Award and was named Outstanding Young Choreographer by the German magazine Ballet Tanz (2002). Since then, she has gained greater national and international attention and is currently touring her evening-length work BOOM! with (U of I alumna) Leslie Cuyjet and has begun work on a new project examining nuances and complexities of contemporary black masculinities. Cynthia has received numerous awards from national arts foundations to support her work, including a grant from Creative Capital (2002), Illinois Arts Council Choreography Fellowships (2004, 2014), support from the Rockefeller Foundation's MAP Fund (2007), an award from the New England Foundation's National Dance Project (2009), awards from the National Performance Network's Creation Fund (2009, 2012), a prestigious nomination for the Alpert Award in the Arts for dance (2009), and a 2015 nomination for the Doris Duke Impact Award. In 2011, she was selected for a University Scholar award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her research and performance work. She holds a PhD in performance studies, and her scholarly work focuses on performance in the Anglophone Caribbean, particularly in the US Virgin Islands. She has published works in anthologies, exhibition booklets, the Movement Research Journal, and Women and Performance. Her single-authored book, Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2009. She teaches technique, composition, performance, post-colonial and feminist theory, and courses emphasizing the African-American and African-Caribbean influences in American performance.

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