By Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming, and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate
Bringing high-quality artists to The New Victory Theater, as you might imagine, is a layered and varied process of seeking out interesting, viable companies who we know will spark the imaginations of our young audiences. Our search culminates in the performers hitting the stage, followed immediately by the palpable joy of kids connecting with live performing arts. This week we’re doing a triumphant jig of our own to celebrate the success of our second season of Victory Dance, a curated series of local dance that unfolds over three weeks in July. We wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the things about this year’s Victory Dance that inspire us to keep shimmying—and to start planning Victory Dance 2016!
Celebrating Local Dance in New York City
Over the past three weeks, we’ve introduced nine NYC-based dance companies to approximately 4,000 New York City kids, offering summer schools and day camps free daytime performances and access to world-class dance talent. Audience members got to experience the diversity of exceptional dance that thrives in their very own hometown, a diversity equal to that of the City itself. And for many of the young people who came to the theater (a number of whom danced their way out after each show), Victory Dance was their first exposure to live dance.
Nine Companies, Many Stories
In case you missed it, the nine companies that comprised this year’s Victory Dance series each presented unique viewpoints, transforming phrases of movement, visual compositions and interpretations of the world into bold, memorable dance. In programming each week of Victory Dance, we aimed to honor each company’s individuality while weaving a cohesive thread through the three groups in each week’s program.
In Program A
, Darrah Carr Dance, ZviDance and Urban Bush Women homed in on history, folklore and tradition. Darrah Carr Dance’s traditional Irish step program led seamlessly, with intricate leg and footwork, into an excerpt from ZviDance’s Dabke
, a contemporary take on traditional Middle Eastern line dancing. The Urban Bush Women 30th Anniversary Mash-Up
connected history to the present day through a powerful compilation of strong, stylized movement and spoken word, referencing themes of struggle, resistance and joy through the visage of underserved and often overlooked communities.
The second week of Victory Dance, Program B
, unfolded with the expressive dance and rapturous, ecstatic movement of the inimitable Martha Graham Dance Company, the fiery Noche Flamenca and the deeply resonant Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. Martha Graham Dance Company’s Appalachian Spring Suite
(excerpt) revisited 19th century American pioneers, presenting a couple celebrating their wedding day, while Spectre-1914
(excerpt from Chronicle
), choreographed in 1936, evoked the chill of war. Noche Flamenca’s traditional flamenco costumes echoed the sensational dress worn in Spectre-1914
and foreshadowed the remarkable gown yet to come in Program C's The Calling
, while their passion and emotion reverberated with contraction and release, the modern dance elements made famous by Martha Graham. Excerpts from Kyle Abraham’s The Gettin’
featured dancers in ‘50s-inspired costumes (more beautiful skirts!), while projections transported audience members to apartheid-era South Africa, ending with depictions of hope set to music from We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
Last but certainly not least, Program C
featured Jessica Lang Dance, Max Pollak/RumbaTap, and Parsons Dance, all of whom presented unexpected and emotionally resonant pieces which playfully mixed forms, often with humorous, genre-defying results. Jessica Lang’s pieces explored the interaction between visual art and movement, and how each references the other. The spectacular dress seen in Jessica Lang Dance’s The Calling
became inseparable from its choreography, while for the company’s other two pieces, Lang teamed up with Shinichi Maruyama, whose visual artistry became part of the architecture for the dance-on-film White
and the excerpt from i.n.k.
. Max Pollak’s pieces mixed body percussion, tap and a cappella vocals into a mesmerizing exploration of rhythm, improv, and audience participation. Ingenious lighting design and a well-developed sense of humor were central to the three pieces performed by Parsons Dance, turning The Envelope
, Hand Dance
, and Caught
into theatrical magic. So much so, in fact, that asking the Caught
dancer “How did you do it?!” became a recurring question during Talk-Backs after each performance.
Speaking of Talk-Backs, all education and public performances of Victory Dance saw the choreographers and some of the dancers return to the stage after the final curtain. Audience members had the opportunity to pose any burning questions they might have had for the companies. The dancers offered insight into how they became dancers, their processes and practice regimens, their professional goals and personal inspirations; and the choreographers generously shared the ideas behind their creations, each as varied as the companies themselves.
Darrah Carr revealed that Dingle Diwali
was inspired by the vocal rhythms of British-Indian singer Sheila Chandra, and the challenge of combining Irish dance with her Kathak vocalizations. Kyle Abraham spoke about how a 2012 trip to South Africa sparked the idea for creating The Gettin’
. Martín Santangelo, the choreographer for Noche Flamenca, came across poems written by child refugees, which he translated and then adapted into flamenco songs to create the basis for Cambio de Tercio
For Jessica Lang, the impossibly beautiful, strange dress in The Calling
appeared to her in a vision, which she used as a springboard for creating those ingenious movements. David Parsons said, “I really enjoy light. Light is one of the most fabulous things in the universe... I’m constantly trying to do things with that imagery of light.” If you were fortunate enough to see Caught
, you know exactly what he means.
One question was asked again and again. “How old were you when you started dancing?” The answers varied but, in many cases, they were the exact same age as the young people they were addressing—a coincidence that wasn’t lost on those asking the question. At each and every education performance, as the Talk-Back ended and the curtain came down one last time, the auditorium would erupt in a hurricane of waving hands and shouts of, “No! Don’t go!” There were so many more questions, so much that our young audience members still wanted to learn from the artists who had captivated them. For these inspired kids, if only one of them becomes a professional dancer, choreographer, designer or technician, wouldn’t that be a lovely result of this new series at The New Victory? We think so.
||Mary Rose Lloyd is the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater, curating each New Victory season as well as the Victory Dance summer series, and overseeing LabWorks, the New Victory's new work development program. A staff member since 1996, Mary spends much of her time traveling to see hundreds of shows each year and to attend conferences and festivals as a frequent speaker, panelist or juror. She has served on the Boards of Directors for both TYA/USA and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is the recipient of IPAY's Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award. She is passionate about books, family, friends and, most certainly, the performing arts.
||Olga Putilina is the Artistic Programming Associate at The New Victory Theater, where she gets to live in the future by helping to plan the New Victory Season and upcoming seasons of Victory Dance. Olga holds an MSEd in Educational Theater from City College. She also once held a three-toed sloth, but that's entirely different.