American Dance Asylum

LOIS WELK

Daniel Nagrin’s performance of The Peloponnesian War inspired Lois Welk, to  pursue a career in dance.  A native of Buffalo NY, she earned a Bachelors of Arts degree in Dance at State University College at Brockport, NY where Richard Bull became her mentor.  Following graduation, Ms. Welk performed with The Workgroup, an improvisational company directed by Daniel Nagrin.  In 1972, she founded the American Dance Asylum Inc. (ADA), a producing and service organization for the performing arts.  From 1973-1979, she co-directed the ADA (then based in Binghamton, NY) with Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane.  For more than 35 years the ADA has produced Welk’s artistic projects among them The Parking Ramp Dances, The Train Station Dance, The Carousel Dance, The Hiawatha Island Dance, The Pavilion Dance, The Twilight Zone Dance, The Lois Welk Show and most recently Moving the Music.   She was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowship in 1978.

From 1979-2007, Welk taught Dance and Creative Movement to students of all ages at 171 Cedar Arts Center (Corning, NY) and for various arts-in-education programs across New York State.  

In 1988, Ms. Welk was appointed Executive Director of 171 Cedar Arts Center, the community multi-arts center where she had been teaching since 1979. Her work in that capacity (1988-2002) earned her a New York State Governor’s Arts Award in 1998.   At 171 Cedar Arts Center, Welk developed a nationally recognized presenting program that included a concert dance series, artists’ residencies, a jazz series, family programming and a world folk music festival.   Welk brought a dazzling array of world-class artists to the relatively rural and isolated Southern Tier of New York, among them - New York City Ballet, Eiko and Koma, Philadanco, Sean Curran Co., Chuck Davis’ African-American Dance Company, Ungar and Mason, Dave Holland Quintet, Regina Carter, Geri Allen, Tito Puente, B.B. King, Eddie Palmieri and Jason Moran.  The dramatic program growth warranted a capital campaign and expansion project that more than doubled program space including a 170-seat black box performance space, exhibition space and two additional dance studios.   

From 2003-2006, Ms. Welk served as Artistic Director of the Yard Inc., a performing artists’ colony on Martha’s Vineyard that supports the creation of new work through its residency programs.   

Ms. Welk served as Director of the New York State DanceForce from 2005-2007. The NYS DanceForce, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, is a network of organizations and individuals working to increase the quality and quantity of dance in New York.  As Director, Ms. Welk brought leadership to the re-structuring of the organization and expanded the reach of the programs to underserved rural communities.  

In March 2007, Ms. Welk became Director of Dance/USA Philadelphia, a branch office of Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance.  She served in that capacity through March 2015, developing programs and initiatives to support the Philadelphia dance community. Currently, she is Company Representative for BalletX, Philadelphia's premier contemporary ballet company, and a member of the NYS DanceForce.