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December 16, 2005

Mixing It Up

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Tere quoted the original Gia Kourlas article: in Europe “innovation flows like water from country to country” and one of the things I wished had been more clear in the article was an assessement of what characterizes that innovation, and of the patterns in which it flows. These are things I am curious about, and I think Anouk’s post got to some of the issues regarding the patterns of support that foster innovation in Europe.

My final thoughts are that the dance work of “intellectual, creative rigor” that Doug asked about certainly does exist here in the U.S. and in New York. However, the places to look for it remain in some sense under the radar because they aren’t usually big-budget large-scale entities. Come to New York to see some of it—to DTW, to the Kitchen, to Danspace, to PS 122, other places too. Or to events like PICA’s TBA Festival in Portland, or Philadephia's Live Arts Festival. These are examples of environments where the curious have a very good chance of finding new dance that is intellectually rigorous and brave and bold and even sometimes brilliant, albeit under-funded.

I agree with Gia Kourlas’s point that there aren’t as many national presenters in the U.S. fostering the kind of innovative, brave work by artists in dance as there could be. Presenters feel constrained by large venues that demand work that can attract a huge audience of ticket-buyers, but what I like about TBA Festival or the Live Arts Festival is that they find a way to mix the large-hall presentations with the intimate work that can best be seen in a studio, a found space, or a black-box theater. And the Brooklyn Academy of Music did that this year, too, bringing a work of Ohad Naharin’s that was shown in a studio environment outside their own complex. The Flynn Theater in Burlington, VT build a small performance venue to complement their large theater precisely so that they could have this flexibility. And you don't have to have the funds to build something new-- you can borrow or rent it sometimes, too.

I believe it’s possible to mix it up, and that this mixing should happen more and could auger well for the future of dance-making and dance-watching in this country. It will also validate and encourage the creation of more work that is complex, brave and adventurous. This happens to be the kind of work that is being made in New York now. Scale can be wonderful, and so can spectacle, but there is new work that lives outside of these frames that must still be taken seriously as innovative and vital art.

Posted by at December 16, 2005 1:54 PM

COMMENTS

Battery Dance Company is in a position to comment on the density of dance activity in New York City. Our two dance studios in Lower Manhattan are shared with over 350 choreographers and dance companies on an annual basis. Our spaces, far from luxurious and 97 steps off the street, are booked 7 days per week. It is not unusual that dancers begin at 8 a.m., and carry on, in 2 - 4 hours blocks of time, until 1 or 2 a.m. The international and ethnic diversity of the dancers and choreographers testifies to the magnetic attraction New York City continues to hold. Given all of the hardships that we all take as a matter of course in this City, the high cost of living, the low level of prestige that dance occupies in the civic consciousness, how can one explain the fact that these individuals continue to flock here if one denies the intangible aura that New York holds in the minds of dancemakers everywhere? It is true that New York companies enjoy scant opportunity in the European marketplace. However, I venture that there isn't a dance company in Europe (or any other Continent) that wouldn't be thrilled by an offer to perform in New York City.

Posted by: Jonathan Hollander at December 16, 2005 3:17 PM

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