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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
July 30, 2015

Doing Our Victory Dance


By Mary Rose Lloyd, Director of Artistic Programming, and Olga Putilina, Artistic Programming Associate

Two young girls enjoying Victory DanceBringing 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.

Victory Dance A Talk-Back

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.

Victory Dance B Talk-Back

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.

Victory Dance C Talk-Back

Inspiring Talk-Backs

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.

Boy with microphone asks question during Talk-BackOne 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   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   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.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
July 7, 2015

5, 6, 7, 8 and Teach!


Victory Dance starts this week! Along with the action onstage, there is also an underlying educational component to Victory Dance—4,000 kids from 37 schools, summer camps and youth programs are attending Victory Dance in the coming weeks, and our New Victory Teaching Artists will be helping to give these kids their fill of dance before, during and after the performances. Here’s dancer and Teaching Artist Penelope McCourty to tell you more!
 
Illustration of children dancing, in the style of Matisse's "Dance."
What is Victory Dance, and what is your role?

Victory Dance is a fantastic, curated dance season at The New Victory, currently in its second year. The cool thing about Victory Dance is that it’s filled with some of the most exciting dance companies, dancers and choreographers who call New York City their home!

I was on the curriculum team developing our pre- and post-show workshops, which I’m also bringing into the summer schools, camps and youth programs all over the city with my Teaching Artist colleagues. In addition, I’m co-hosting the Education performances of Victory Dance, and I’m facilitating the Talk-Backs at the public shows.

How do New Victory Teaching Artists teach dance?

We create lesson plans that give young movers the opportunity to explore what they already know about moving their bodies through space and time, and we direct these explorations through the lens of the dances they will see on stage. So, if students are going to see Victory Dance, in our workshops they’ll explore ways of traveling up, down and all around. They’ll also create choreography based on words that were an inspiration from one of the dance pieces in the program.

Illustration of a young ballerinaWhen teaching during the school year, we know that we are getting students before a math test or right after lunch, in the middle of their schedules. Their days are filled with so many goals they have to reach. So when we Teaching Artists go into a classroom, we offer the kids an opportunity to see their day differently, to learn something in a new way and make connections to the many other things going on in their lives. We are basically a one-two punch of exploration and fun!

In the summertime, during Victory Dance, the focus shifts to learning in a more exploratory, process-based way. Their schedules are little looser, so there’s more room for what we’re doing—more room for them to really explore what it means to be a dancer or choreographer, or a performer of any kind, and more room for reflecting on how learning the skills of an artist can help them achieve their many goals during the school year.

What can kids gain from learning about dance?

So many skills for being a citizen in this world are taught through dance: academic skills, cognitive skills and social skills! In dance, whether you're in a group or working alone, you learn how to organize your body in space and time, which basically means that you gain a clearer sense of spacial awareness. You learn to develop creative ways of solving problems. You learn about commitment, and you develop skills for persevering in the face of a challenge. Working collaboratively, budgeting time… the list is endless! The development of all these skills creates a climate for confidence to soar.

What makes Victory Dance special?

As a young dancer, it was very meaningful for me to see live performance. It clued me in to what I could potentially achieve if I worked hard enough. Victory Dance gives students who may not get any other opportunity to see live dance for free! It’s a chance for them to see fantastic artistry in practice in their own hometown. There is such diversity in the art form, and the companies performing on the New Victory stage really reflect that. 

Each Victory Dance Program has fun and inquisitive mini-workshop interludes between dance pieces to get students thinking about what they are seeing on stage. These breaks give them an opportunity to, in small ways, physically investigate some of the movement motifs that are present in some of the pieces.
Penelope McCourty illustrated in the style of Degas's "The Star."
Victory Dance performances also feature Talk-Backs with the choreographers and company members after each performance. These question and answer sessions are a great way for students to hear what a choreographer’s process is like, why they make dance and what inspires their work. I love Talk-Backs most of all, because I get to see real “Aha!” moments happening, not only for the kids in the audience, but for the choreographers as well.

Why do you dance?

I am lucky enough to have a family who dances at the drop of a hat, so to express myself with movement is second nature to me. I started studying dance in high school and I really connected to the rigor of technique. I still remember the sense of success I felt the first time I landed a triple pirouette, along with the feeling of striving to perfect a barrel turn—I’m still so-so with them. I’ve enjoyed being able to track my growth through many performances, whether formal or in the studio. Spending time trying to figure out a new move or quality of movement is a total geek-out for me. But I think the biggest reason I dance is the absolute joy I feel while dancing, and seeing that same joy reflected in the faces of my fellow dancers.
 

We’ve been looking forward to Victory Dance all year, and we hope you can join us at one of the public performances for just $10 a ticket! Each evening features a unique program of three different companies. See them all for a full summer of dance!

Program A on July 9th includes Darrah Carr Dance, Zvi Dance and Urban Bush Women.
Program B on July 16th includes Martha Graham Dance Company, Noche Flamenca and Kyle Abraham / Abraham.In.Motion.
Program C on July 23rd includes Jessica Lang Dance, Max Pollak / RumbaTap and Parsons Dance.
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