Ann Carlson

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Ann Carlson
Born (1954-10-21) October 21, 1954 (age 62)
Park Ridge, Illinois
Nationality American
Occupation Dancer

Ann Carlson (born October 21, 1954 ) is an American dancer, choreographer and performance artist whose work explores contemporary social issues. She has performed throughout the United States and internationally and has won a number of awards.

Beginnings in Dance[edit]

Calson was born in Park Ridge, Illinois.[1] She graduated magna cum laude with a BFA in modern dance from the University of Utah in 1976. In 1983 she became one of the first students of the University of Arizona to earn a graduate degree in dance.[2] Even though Carlson received extensive dance training as a child, she defined dance as "any conscious movement in time and space".[1] Carlson came to this conclusion when she was 12 years old after attending a lecture and demonstration by Murray Louis at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.[1] Because of her broad view of dance, Carlson often tackles important issues in her work and works within a number of disciplines to respond to ideas, concepts and themes.[1] As a result Carlson takes her work far beyond the confines of traditional "dance" into a realm that could be called performance art.[citation needed]


Carlson spent the late 1970s to the early 1990s of her dance career performing. During this time Carlson performed with Territory Dance Theater in Tucson, Arizona and when she moved to New York in 1984, with Susan Rethorst and Meredith Monk.[1] She was an original member of the PS 122 Field Trip Tours, a group of solo performance artists and choreographers that toured their works throughout the United States in the late 1980s. Ms. Carlson presented her first evening length work, "Real People" in 1986 at Performance Space 122. This performance began an on-going group of works, Carlson referred to as the real people series, works made with and performed by people gathered together by common professions, activities or shared relationships. This work (now referred to as "delegrated performance" ) became the foundation of much of Carlson's later work. The work, "Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore", or the lawyer piece was performed by four (actual) New York attorneys. Carlson second evening length work, "Animals" took place at Dance Theater Workshop in 1988 and toured throughout the U.S. into the mid-1990s. Carlson choreographed the opera, Kabballah to music composed by Stewart Wallace and Hydrogen Jukebox by Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass.[1] As a choreographer, Carlson’s work has been performed throughout the United States; some notable places her choreography has been featured have been Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.[1] Internationally her work has been performed in West Germany, Prague and Mexico City. From 1990 until 2010 Carlson collaborated with video maker Mary Ellen Strom on a number of performances and performance videos. These videos are held in collections in museums and private collections. Carlson’s choreography has earned her a New York Dance and Performance Award in 1988, American Dance Festival Award in 1988, a prestigious three year choreographic award from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1989–1991, the CalArts Alpert Award in Dance in 1995,[1] and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award in 1998, A New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in 2000, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003, a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University in 2004, a USA Artist Fellowship in 2008, an American Master's Award in 2010.

Style of Work[edit]

Some critics refer to Carlson’s work as dance-theater and some refer to it as talking dancing.[3] Her work often incorporates different movement components, speaking or acting components, and props or sometimes animals.[4] A piece entitled The Dog Inside the Man Inside represents all these areas of Carlson’s work and is from a series of work called Animals. The setup of this piece includes a straight chair, a television set, a white picket fence, and, most notably, a real live dog.[5] Other animals are later featured, including a goldfish, a cat and a goat.[1] Carlson said she wanted "to make works that could respond to a living being, that I couldn’t choreograph in the way that I’d been taught to choreograph".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Benbow-Pfalzgraf, Taryn. International Dictionary of Modern Dance. (Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1998), p. 106–108.
  2. ^ Harris, William. "DANCE; On a Tour of Tableaus, You Move, They Don't." The New York Times. 14 May 2000. Section 2; Page 46. University of Texas Lib., Austin, TX. 24 March 2008. LexisNexis
  3. ^ Tobias, Tobi. "Dance Review: Ann Carlson Is Her Own Kind of Down-to-earth." New York Magazine. (28 Feb 2000). 24 March 2008
  4. ^ Keefe, Maura. Talking Dancing: The Choreography of Space and Character in Contemporary U.S. Dance. (Ann Arbor, MI.: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 2002), 127
  5. ^ Keefe, Talking Dancing, 122