In 2020, up to six dancemakers will each receive a cash grant of $15,000 along with a year of mentorship to aid in the research, exploration and development of a new work. The Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist program is the most significant, sustained source of support for individual dancemakers working in Chicago, which has an open call process. The program fosters excellence and innovation while also building relationships among dancemakers, presenters, audiences and supporters. 

Applicants to the Lab Artists program must have a developed and distinctive trajectory in their work and be well positioned to participate in a year of creative research and dialogue with their Chicago Dancemakers Forum peers. The Lab Artists program supports individual dancemakers no matter the context in which they create work (solo practice, partnerships, companies, collectives and collaborations). A competitive application demonstrates a body of quality work, clear artistic vision, compelling area of inquiry, firmly grounded work ethic, and readiness to create work of greater depth and scale.

Past Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artists are diverse in age, gender, race and dance discipline, working in tap, Bharatanatyam, footwork, dance for the camera, voguing, contemporary, modern dance, and more. Many of these artists have built national audiences and international recognition since receiving support from Chicago Dancemakers Forum and, collectively, emanate the distinct character and power of new dance made in Chicago.

Nejla Yatkin_by Lois Greenfield 2.jpg

Nejla Yatkin (Lab Artist 2019) by Lois Greenfield


The preliminary application is open now with a deadline of Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 11:59PM Central. There are no fees to apply. Artists selected to proceed as finalists will be invited to submit expanded proposals for consideration for a second round in spring 2020; finalists will meet individually with Chicago Dancemakers Forum staff to receive critical feedback and one-to-one support in developing their full proposals. While rigorous and competitive, the Lab Artists selection process is also designed to be educational and energizing for all who participate. Even those who are not selected as Lab Artists describe the application process as a constructive, informative experience and opportunity for professional development. 

  • November 22, 2019 thru January 12, 2020: Info Sessions offered throughout the city

  • February 4, 2020: Deadline for preliminary applications

  • March 2020: Chicago Dancemakers Forum invites select candidates to submit finalist proposals

  • March–April 2020: Finalists meet with Chicago Dancemakers Forum staff

  • April 2020: Deadline for applications by invited finalists

  • April/May 2020: Chicago Dancemakers Forum announces the 2020 Lab Artists

  • July 2019: Chicago Dancemakers Forum Awards Celebration and 2020 Lab Artists Retreat


As we head into the application process, sessions are offered throughout the city in order to introduce, inform and assist potential applicants. These sessions are FREE and open to all active dancemakers in the greater Chicagoland area.



Chicago Dancemakers Forum invites dancemakers/choreographers living in Chicago and vicinity who identify with the following statements to apply:

  • I am currently and actively engaged in dancemaking in the greater Chicagoland area.

  • I have a developed and distinctive trajectory in my work and consider myself to be mid-career.

  • I am ready to take my work to the next level.

  • I am well positioned to participate in a year of creative research and deep inquiry.

  • I have the capactity and the time to benefit from, and contribute to, an environment of artistic interchange from July 2020 to July 2021.

  • I can effectively make use of my time for independent research and to work with consortium members and my fellow Lab Artists.


A competitive application demonstrates...

  • A body of quality and distinctive work for a mid-career artist

  • Clear artistic vision

  • Compelling area of inquiry

  • Firmly grounded work ethic

  • Readiness and capacity to create work of greater depth and scale during the Lab Year


  • Lab Artists' primary residences must be located in the greater Chicago metropolitan area during the duration of the Lab Year (July 2020 - July 2021). Applicants with dual-residencywill not be considered.

  • Students enrolled in degree programs at the time of application are not eligible for the Lab Artists program.

  • Artists previously funded through the Lab Artist Program are not eligible to apply.

  • Chicago Dancemakers Forum takes all possible measures to insure that the panel selection process is free of conflict of interest and favoritism. In keeping with that goal, anyone who has been employed as staff, as a consultant, or as a part of the leadership body for Chicago Dancemakers Forum may not apply to any of its granting programs until a full year has passed since the end of their employment before the application deadline. Excepted from this rule are interns who have earned less than $5k in a given year, or who have worked for school credit. Chicago Dancemakers Forum staff do not serve as voting members on the selection panel for its granting programs.


Chicago Dancemakers Forum emphasizes the artistic development of selected Lab Artists through broad support during in-depth research and development periods which culminate with the presentation of a new work. These three distinct phases of dedicated research, development, and production are core elements of the program. Throughout the year-long granting period, Lab Artists come together with one another and consortium members for periodic, structured roundtable discussions. Availability for and participation in these gatherings is a crucial component of the program. The roundtable discussions offer Lab Artists the opportunity to stimulate new approaches to their own and each other’s choreography, and to develop new relationships with colleagues and peers, laying the groundwork for expanded networks and future artistic explorations.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum has defined three distinct phases to give the program a working structure. Each phase is roughly set on the calendar, but each Lab Artist will have a unique approach to developing their own detailed timeframe for the project phases.

Research: July 2020 through November 2020

This phase is intended to provide the Lab Artists with extended time and support for investigating new conceptual territory. Bi-monthly roundtable discussions begin on a regular schedule in the Research phase, and continue throughout the granting period. Lab Artists submit mid-term reports at the end of this phase.


Development: December 2020 through March 2021

During the Development Phase, Lab Artists apply the insight gained through their research and ongoing discussions to the creation of their new work. Work-in-progress showings and other activities, as desired by the Lab Artists, begin during this phase. 

Production: April 2021 through August 2021

The Production phase pertains specifically to the time immediately preceding, including, and following each Lab Artist’s scheduled performance dates. CDF structures its support in ways which are relevant to each artist’s unique process. Artists agree to participate in an interview at the end of their Lab Artist year to help Chicago Dancemakers Forum assess the quality of its offerings.


A panel consisting of local and national dance leaders, alongside former Lab Artist awardees, selects choreographers through a two-round process. The Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artists program is designed for a dynamic group of artists representing the breadth of Chicago’s diversity of geography, artistic experiences and practices, dance aesthetics/genres, races, ethnicities, and expressions of gender.



PRELIMINARY APPLICATION DEADLINE: February 4, 2020 at 11:59PM Central. You WILL be able to save and return to a partially completed application, but to guard against potential technical glitches we recommend that you compose and save your application materials offline and copy them once into the online form to submit when they are complete. Visit to access and submit the online Lab Artist application.

​If you have questions about the Lab Artists program, please contact Shawn Lent, Programs and Communications Director, via email at​