Cooking in Chelsea

At the Kitchen, a New-Style Chef

One of the director's missions: "Let's sort of come back to what the Kitchen was. What made it special? It has one leg in the performing arts, one leg in the visual arts. We get an enormous amount of support from the visual arts world, so let's go back to those friends and see how we can work with them." Another Kitchen hallmark: fostering contact between artists from different disciplines-- contacts that may result in collaborations. The notion of collaborations gets Bernhardt fired up. At DITS, she brokered quite a few. This December at the Kitchen, visual artist Gary Hill and choreographer Meg Stuart will come together in the culmination of a three-year project, Splayed Man Out. And then there's the ultimate collab form: "Where do people really get to do small scale, smash-the-envelope opera? Here! They should be doing it here." She's delighted that ex­music curator Ben Neill brought in Chaos, a comic science-fiction opera. And how's this for a future possibility? Lighting designer Jennifer Tipton and choreographer William Forsythe want to collaborate on lighting a dance by Susan Marshall. "I said, 'Come here. Go wild! Use the space!'"

So: the Kitchen as a lab where you cook up stuff, as well as a great place to present it. The building boasts a fine, flexible second-floor space and, on the ground floor, one of the best black boxes in the city. As choreographer Wendy Perron says, "It's intimate--I mean you're close to the audience--and yet it's so high. And deep. The dimension gives the work depth." No wonder Belgian dancemaker Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has chosen this venue for a farewell appearance (opening September 22) in her earliest work, Fase.

I would imagine that shaking up the Kitchen might not always sit well with the organization's board or with curators used to complete autonomy in their respective fields, but as anyone who's seen Bernhardt in action knows, her artistic smarts and sense of community can bring this historic institution to a steady boil.

Nancy Topf was on her way to teach a workshop in Geneva when Swissair Flight 111 crashed. Through her classes in "dynamic anatomy," known as Topf Technique, and in private sessions, she introduced people to their bodies--not just their physical bodies, but their emotional and spiritual ones. Youdidn't have to be a dancer to discover what it meant to dance freely and creatively in her classes. You didn't have to be injured to feel healed by her wisdom. Everyone who knew her speaks of her warmth and buoyancy. "She took so much honest-to-God joy in what she did," says dancer Hetty King, "and that never went away." It's not just Nancy's husband, musician Jon Gibson; her son Jeremy; and a large immediate family who mourn her, but the far larger family touched by her knowledge and spirit. A memorial concert is being planned for early December.

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