The Rolex Initiative's Global Reach: The Pairing of Mentors and Proteges

Article excerpt

In a far-reaching effort to stimulate artistic activity across cultures, The Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative culls talent from all corners of the world. In its seventh year, the program bestows grants on an international group of exceptionally promising young artists. Each grant cycle pairs one protege and mentor in each of six disciplines--dance, film, literature, music, theater, and the visual arts--and fosters their one-on-one artistic relationship for a year. The mentors are chosen from amongst the giants in each discipline. Past dance mentors include Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and William Forsythe. (Mentors in other fields have included writer Toni Morrison and filmmaker Martin Scorsese.) The latest to be paired are American Jason Akira Somma and celebrated choreographer Jiri Kylian.

The program casts a staggeringly wide net from urban cultural centers to remote, sparsely populated regions. A nominating panel uses grassroots research methods to ferret out artists who are causing a stir among in-the-know insiders. Junaid Jemal Sendi, an Ethiopian dancer, was chosen to be mentored by Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara in the 2004-2005 cycle and now shuttles between his homeland and various European cities to appear as a guest artist. "It is very difficult to find dance mentors in Africa," says Sendi. "In Ethiopia, we only have one dance company." Sendi says because Teshigawara has a different background and technique, "I learned a new way of moving. He taught me a lot about how to create a solo performance and how to work with natural elements in a space." It's true that Sendi's career enjoyed a boost after his affiliation with Teshigawara. But equally interesting is that Sendi is acting as a dance mentor to others in Ethiopia, keeping with the Rolex program's two-pronged aim of invigorating the cultural community surrounding the artist. …