The BAAND Together Dance Festival Celebrates Art and Unity

August 17, 2021

“We’re baaaaaack!”

So began the evening at Damrosch Park, with Robert Battle emceeing. It was the opening night of the free BAAND Together Dance Festival, a nifty collaboration between five of New York City’s top companies: Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem. These companies, each representing a different cultural slice of the dance world, were willing—and eager—to share an evening. As Battle said, we celebrate “the glory of art and the power of unity.” He joked that he did a reverse rain dance to keep the rain away.

The best part was seeing dance live again.

No, the best part was seeing our friends in the audience (if we could recognize them with masks on) whom we haven’t seen in person for months.

No, the best part was the actual dancing.

No, the best part was knowing that these iconic New York City dance companies worked together to make this happen.

Seven dancers are captured jumping high in the air with their legs bent and tucked under their torsos.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Rennie Harris’ Lazurus

Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

As you can see, I’m having a hard time deciding what the best part was. But I wish you could have all seen the actual dancing. In the excerpt of Rennie Harris’ Lazarus, with music and sound by Darrin Ross, the Ailey dancers practically were the drums. Violent twists, pelvic moves and arms thrust skyward created rousing sequences. The word dynamic doesn’t come close to describing the exhilaration of watching Lazarus. It was just too exciting to sit still in our seats. The dancers were fierce in referencing oppression but they were also joyous. The final “Hallelujah” was felt by all.

Taylor Stanley photographed in a pliu00e9 degagu00e9 position as he tilts his head against his right arm and gazes downward.

Taylor Stanley in Kyle Abraham’s Ces noms que nous portons

Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

It seemed like Lazarus was an impossible act to follow, but when Taylor Stanley of New York City Ballet started to dance Ces noms que nous portons to music by Satie, it was just the right thing. In this quiet and inward solo, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, you could feel Stanley’s soul through the soft weight of his exhalations and the uncurling of his hands.

Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos, photographed in silhouette. Smith trails behind Santos with her hand on his upper back and head thrown back grinning.

Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos in “It Don’t Mean a Thing” from Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Harlem on My Mind

Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Moving on to Dance Theatre of Harlem, Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos performed “It Don’t Mean a Thing” from Harlem on My Mind by Darrell Grand Moultrie. This duet spices up clean arabesques with jazzy riffs.

Catherine Hurlin stands behind Aran Bell in a piquu00e9 arabesque. Both reach upward with their right arms.

Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in Jessica Lang’s Let Me Sing Forevermore

Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

American Ballet Theatre contributed Jessica Lang’s Let Me Sing Forevermore, performed by Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, to songs by Tony Bennett. (Even ABT went jazzy tonight!) Pristine contemporary ballet with an occasional high five thrown in. The lifts were especially inventive, with the “Fly me to the moon” lyric accompanying a breathtaking way of launching Hurlin into the air.

In the background, a pyramid of nine dancers sit facing backwards. In the foreground, a woman dancer stands on relevu00e9 with her hands clasped above her head.

Ballet Hispánico in Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s 18+1

Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Lastly, 10 Ballet Hispánico dancers mamboed through 18+1, which was choreographed by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano with humor and gusto. The groupings were a sculptural force that splintered into fun parties, and the rhythms were infectious.

We were all thrilled to witness this glory, and this unity, on this night. The final program of the BAAND Together Dance Festival, this Saturday, August 21, will repeat the opening night program. The performances this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will vary slightly.