In the fragile realm of dance, funding is hard to come by even in the best of times. But now, despite a decidedly mean economic climate, the Pew Charitable Trusts' dance program has awarded its largest sum yet: $917,000 to 26 performers and organizations.

The Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble in Jenkintown will create costumes and reorchestrate music for a dance project exploring the Carpathian region with the help of $40,000 from Pew's Dance Advance program.

The Pennsylvania Ballet was handed $80,000 for the company premiere in April 2010 of In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, by the important American-born choreographer William Forsythe.

The Kimmel Center - with $70,000 from Pew - will be able to import the New Zealand ensemble Black Grace for a four-day engagement, including the premiere of Gathering Clouds and audience outreach activities.

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe can spend $80,000 presenting the U.S. debut of the Australian dance company Chunky Move.F

The increase in funding - up from $874,000 last year and $693,000 the year before - came with the dance program's renewal a year ago, before the economic crisis hit, and is a response to the growth of the local dance community.

"We're not given more money simply to have more money. It's rationalized by the number and quality of applications we receive and how that's increased over time," Dance Advance director Bill Bissell said. "Philadelphia has become very diverse in terms of genre and range of work."

Although the funding level was decided some time ago, Bissell said he hoped the record payout would send a strong message about the "continuity and stability" of the program.

"I am not anticipating that we will see any increase in the coming years, but I don't think we're going to see any decline either. That's a huge statement in itself," he said.

"These grants mean the world to us. Finding support for the creation of new work is hard," said Deborah Crocker, director of development for Koresh Dance Company. Koresh will use $71,000 to have Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, director of Batsheva Dance Company, set his Passomezzo on the company.

"To be able to bring someone like Ohad Naharin here - we wouldn't be able to do this. To raise money on top of operating is really hard to do," Crocker said.

The residency is an artistic boost, but the Pew money also allows Koresh to keep dancers on salary for more weeks in the year, which is a goal of the troupe.

In addition to the institutional grants, a number of recipients are individual artists, including Marianela Boan, who, with the assistance of $10,000, will create a new work called Office for four dancers, with live music and video.

Money also will go to "dance laboratories" that in turn support independent artists or small companies.

Since its start in 1993, Dance Advance and its precursor (the Philadelphia Repertory Dance Initiative) have funded 355 dance projects with $8,688,800 in grants. This year's applicants were evaluated by a panel of seven experts from other cities. Among them were Jeffery Bullock, former dancer with the Hubbard Street Dance Company and Pacific Northwest Ballet; Jean Isaacs, artistic director of the San Diego Dance Theater; and Susan Warden, an independent choreographer from Lawrence, Kan.