Dancers and choreographers Cynthia Oliver and Dormeshia were recently named recipients of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) – 2021 Doris Duke Artists. Each will receive an award of $275,000 intended as an investment in their artistic potential and celebration of their ongoing contributions to the fields of contemporary dance, jazz and theater. They are receiving the award for their enduring contributions to the field of contemporary dance.

“The Doris Duke Artist Award is significant to me because it will change my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined,” said Dormeshia. “It will give me the opportunity to live a happier and more purposeful life. It will allow me to plan and obtain a secure future, and it will give me more freedom and flexibility to continue to give back to the world of art, especially tap dance.”

“To be a part of this particular class at this moment in time and part of the larger community of Doris Duke Artists over the years is such an honor and so validating,” said Oliver. “You do your work and hope it resonates. This award tells me to trust my instincts. It tells me that while I may have thought I was toiling quietly, and sometimes even anonymously, that folks have noticed, that my peers value my voice and that it matters.” 

The Doris Duke Artist Awards represent the largest national award to individuals in the performing arts. Each artist receives a prize of $250,000 in completely unrestricted funding and an additional $25,000 dedicated to encouraging savings for retirement. Rather than being tied to specific projects, these awards are available for recipients to use in whatever way best supports their ability to take creative risks, explore new ideas, and pay for important professional and personal needs.

The other recipients the year are pianists and composers Kris Davis and Danilo Pérez; saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter; and theater directors Lileana Blain-Cruz and Teo Castellanos.

Overall, the Doris Duke Artist Awards program has awarded more than $35.4 million in funding to 129 artists since the program began in 2012. Previous Doris Duke Artists have used the funding for a wide expanse of needs––ranging from creative research, exploration and study, mortgages for personal and professional spaces, travel and/or restoration time, childcare, healthcare costs and creation of a financial safety net, among many other personal and professional uses.

To read more about the Doris Duke Artist Awards and the 2021 Doris Duke Artists, visit

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