These Are the Issues That the NYC Dance Community Cares About
It's not every day that you get to learn the opening of Balanchine's Serenade from Damian Woetzel. But over 100 attendees at yesterday's Dance/NYC Symposium at Gibney Dance were treated to exactly that at the start of the "Conversation about the Future of Dance in America" hosted by Woetzel and Afa Dworkin. (You can watch a video of that talk here.) It was a moment of calm in the midst of what is always a jam-packed day, with several hundred dancemakers, presenters, arts advocates and more shuffling in and out of a couple dozen panels, conversations and workshops. I attended four back-to-back panels on topics ranging from cultural planning to diversity to the problem of affordable rehearsal space. Here's what I took away from the experience.
The "Creative Place Making: The Role of Millennial Artists" panel at the 2017 Dance/NYC Symposium. Image courtesy Dance/NYC.
Yes, diversity and inclusivity are still issues.
Using Dance/NYC's State of NYC Dance and Workforce Demographics report as a starting point, speakers dived deep into issues of gender, race, ageism and disability and made recommendations about what needs to be done next. As all of the panelists were quick to point out, acknowledging the issues brought to light by the study is a start—and access is only one facet of the problem. The speakers emphasized that rather than just ticking boxes on diversity and inclusion requirements, deep and meaningful—not transactional—collaboration is needed to open up the dance field. And the issue reached beyond the panels dedicated to its discussion, surfacing everywhere from Woetzel's talk to a conversation about affordable rehearsal space.
One panel at the 2017 Dance/NYC Symposium discussed affordable rehearsal space. Image courtesy Dance/NYC.
"We have to make spaces that let the work go deep." In the "Making Affordable Rehearsal Space for Dance" panel, choreographer Raja Feather Kelly expressed frustration at a prevalent cycle in which a choreographer gets a residency, creates intensively and then is back to square one the moment the residency period ends. Other issues that arose: how young artists need space to develop their work before they can be considered for merit-based residencies and the lack of infrastructure allowing studios to apply for the grants that would let them subsidize rental costs.
Also of note: Dance/NYC has been advocating for more affordable rehearsal space for dance to be incorporated into Create NYC, the city-wide cultural plan that will be unveiled this summer. As Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs put it, "Affordability isn't just a problem for artists, it's a problem for the city."
Dance's power lies in how it brings us together. When Department of Cultural Affairs Chair Susana Leval commented how wonderful it would be if every New Yorker who spent time in a gym gave dancing a try, she got a few laughs, but mostly agreement. She went on to reiterate that coming together to dance now is more important than ever. As Woetzel put it, "The future of dance is the future of the arts. And I am optimistic."
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."