Dance Curators' Sharp Focus

January 4, 2014

We all like to talk about which choreographers we like and which one’s leave us cold. The great thing is that we can change our minds depending on the venue, the performers, and the music.


But I think that programming has a lot to do with how we respond to a piece—where it is during the evening, and what else is on the program.


This is the principle that Focus Dance goes on. During this week of APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters), there will be many combinations of companies appearing under this banner. And they won’t just be thrown together for 20-minute slots, the way it often happens at APAP.


Yvonne Rainer (far left) and Group in
Assisted Living: Do You Have Any Money?, which will be performed January 11 and 12 at the Joyce.
Photo by Mathieu Malouf


In the case of Focus Dance, which is sponsoring several events at APAP this week, two of their series (one at the Joyce, the other at the Skirball) are carefully curated to represent U.S.–based choreographers. At the Joyce January 7–12, the savvy international presenter Laurie Uprichard has come up with four pairs of two very different choreographers. The first juxtaposes the supremely subtle Vicky Shick with the boisterous, hip-hop infused Doug Elkins. (Full disclosure: I am performing in Shick’s piece.) Another brilliant pairing is Yvonne Rainer with Urban Bush Women—both led by fierce women whose cultural contexts are radically different. Yet another set pairs master improviser Mark Haim with Irish step dance star Jean Butler.


Camille Brown (far right) and Dancers will perform in Dance Gotham on January 10.
Photo by Matthew Karas


The Focus series called Dance Gotham, at the Skirball January 10–12, is curated by Jodee Nimerichter of American Dance Festival. These three nights each offer four groups. Program A brings together Stephen Petronio (hyper-inventive movement), Chris Yon (wry simplicity), Camille A. Brown (theatricality and humor), and Rosie Herrera (absurdist scenes with pathos). I am wagering that the differences between them will make each stand out in relief. Programs B includes veteran companies like Ron Brown’s Evidence with Paul Taylor 2, and Program C includes an excerpt of David Dorfman’s poignant Come and Back Again (click here for the “Choreography in Focus” about this piece) and the visceral work of LeeSaar.


Ronald K. Brown/Evidence performs in Dance Gotham, January 11 at NYU’s Skirball Center.

Pictured: Brown in
For You, photo by Julieta Cervantes.


A good curator can make each company bounce off each other artistically, rather than be compared to each other. Although Focus Dance was originally designed for the presenters who flock to NYC to attend APAP, they provide an opportunity for all of us to catch up on what we might have missed during the year.