Maida Withers

Born in Kanab, Utah, Maida studied at Brigham Young University (BA) and the University of Utah (MS). Maida is known as a dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and master teacher. She is recognized internationally for her large-scale multimedia performances, the fresh and often sensual and robust movements that brand her performances, and her intense interest in all things social and political. Maida’s tours internationally include Guatemala, France, Netherlands, Japan, Croatia, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Brazil, Finland, Venezuela, Mexico, Poland, Germany, and others with sponsorship of U.S. Embassies and the U.S. Department of State, Trust for Mutual Understanding, others. Her dance film shorts have been shown in Germany, Australia, Brazil, and India; California, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Utah, Chicago, and Arlington. Recent awards and commendations to Maida and the Company include the Life-time Achievement Award – Festival in the Desert (2010); Arlington County Fellowship for Filmmaking “Portraits in Dance” (2010); Commission from Research Channel Grant, “Data to Dance, Documentary Film (2008); Pola Nirenska  Award for Contribution to the Field (2006); 2006 Metro DC’s highest award annually for dance, “Outstanding Overall Production in a Large Venue;” 2006 Washington DC Mayor’s top prize for “Distinction in a Discipline;” Dance Place Award for Lifelong Achievement in Education, Maida is a Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The George Washington University.

Maida, a powerful and commanding performer, is known for her daring in movement and innovation as a choreographer.  She has created a significant body of work for Maida Withers Dance Construction Company, over 50 dances of breadth and vision, involving a process of experimentation and collaboration.  Every three to five years, Maida initiates and produces a large-scale work resulting from on-site research and investigation.  Current projects involve international travel and collaboration with artists, scientists, and technologists. Maida has an on-going interest in the use of technology, multimedia and new media, mixing imagination and daring with a keen sense of formal structure and beauty.  Works  reflect her activism for art and other important social and political issue through thought-provoking non-linear narratives often laced with wit and humor. Site specific performances and dance improvisation have been significant aspects of Maida’s creative work.  Improvisation is important in the development of the works as well as an art creating spontaneous choreography during performance.

Maida’s career began in the late 1960’s.  Inspired by the likes of Anna Halprin and John Cage, she soon took her own style, influenced by Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Alwin Nikolais, and Mary Wigman, from Germany.    She was part of what has become known as the modern dance revolution that created post-modernism in dance in America.

The earth and natural phenomenon are primary sources, subject and processes for several art projects starting in 1987, making Maida  an early leader in this artistic arena.  Projects often involve the video camera as a collaborator in a land site process with artists at earth sites, with indigenous people, location history, mythology, and other cultural aspects.  Resulting stage works include the site video.

Dance in the university setting has been an important aspect of Maida’s life work.  In the Department of Theatre and Dance at the George Washington University in downtown Washington, DC she teaches choreography, improvisation, performance art theory/practice, advanced modern dance technique. She has been the director of the MFA graduate dance program in choreography and performance.  Maida has traveled through the world teaching workshops in over 15 countries.  She has been on the faculties of Purdue and Howard universities and taught nationally as a specialist with NEA Artists-in-Schools Program, and internationally for various festivals and conferences.  Maida feels strongly that the art work informs the teaching and that teaching informs her art work as well.

Maida has played a significant role in Washington, DC as a curator, producer, and board member.  In 1995 Maida founded the DC International Dance Improvisation Plus+ Festival now in it’s eighth season.  She has co-produced  performances with District Curators, The Washington Performing Arts Society, various embassies and others.  She founded the Dance Direction Festival, an annual two-week performance season in Marvin Center for local artists, and has presented or co-produced  concerts by international artists Phillip Glass (The Photographer), Kei Takei, Yamada Setsuko and H. Art Chaos (Japan), Kim JeYoung and Kim Hyun Je (Korea), Slaski Teatr Tanca (Poland), and residencies with American icons such as Erick Hawkins, Yvonne Rainer, Anna Halprin, Meredith Monk, Ann Carlson, others.  Withers served on the founding board of  directors of Washington Project for the Arts and worked in that capacity for eight years, Program Chair for three years, and served a three-year term on the Kennedy Center Education Committee.  She has served on various selection committees for artist grants.

Dance videos have been shown nationally and internationally. SandS Cycles, a land site video created at White Sands, New Mexico and Coral Dunes, Utah, toured with In Winds of Sand to China, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Paris, Venezuela. Orbit was selected for showing at the 1990 DC Roesbud Film Festival, the 1991 Women in Film Festival, Kennedy Center, and exhibited in Frankfurt, Germany at 1992 IMZ Dance Screen.  State of the Art, a video art documentary, received national recognition for innovative local cable programming. Withers narrated Dance, Dance, Dance, in 1978, a ten-part series for NBC-TV, broadcast in five major US cities.  Utah * Tukuhnikivatz video and earth art slide installation was the final event for the 1997 Environmental Film Festival of Washington, DC.

Maida  has received various honors and awards.  In 2001 she received the prestigious Pola Nirenska Life-Time Artistic Achievement Award presented by The Washington Performing Arts Society and as part of the 2001 DC Metro Dance Awards.  She was selected as the 1999 distinguished professor, Columbian Professorship Award, by The George Washington University,  Awards have been received from the National Endowment for the Arts, Choreographers Fellowship; NEA Inter Arts; NEA Visual Arts in Performing Arts; DC and Virginia Commissions for the Arts; Dilthey Fellowship; The George Washington University Faculty Research Awards; Washington Area Studies Grant for Cultural Preservation and Archiving; Fulbright Travel Award to Taiwan; Kansai University Exchange to Japan; Washingtonian Magazine Award to Outstanding Women; and others.  Many of Withers international workshops and performances are supported by the United States Information Services (US Embassy).