Festival Frenzy

Try a little of everything at fall dance smorgasbords

New York still sits at the center of the dance universe, but financial concerns make self-production increasingly hard. Getting into festivals lets choreographers display their work with the imprimatur of a known producer who bears some of the expenses. The dance season opens September 6 with dueling festivals and climaxes with the calculated crowd-pleasers of BAM's Next Wave.

One success story in a crowded field is Dancenow/NYC, a two-week, $80,000 extravaganza at two sites. Robin Staff, the former ballet dancer who's run it since 1995, sees growth and improvement though her geographical reach is smaller than before. She and her staff chose 88 pieces out of 350 proposals submitted, and offer six shows beginning with "40Up," a mouthwatering lineup of older choreographers including Wally Wolfgruber, Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, Vicky Shick collaborating with young pup Christopher Williams, the inimitable comedienne Claire Porter working with Irving Burton and Susan Thomasson, and eight others. "Wolfgruber is creating a new trio for Rebecca Rigert and Dirk Platzek, who's coming from Germany to dance it," says Staff. "All three of them danced with Lar Lubovitch for years. Merian Soto's new work is breathtaking."

After years based at Joyce Soho, Dancenow/NYC relocated to Dance Theater Workshop (219 West 19th Street, 212-924-0077), which has three times the capacity and more sophisticated technical options. "The quality of the work increased when we moved into DTW last year," says Staff. "The artists took it seriously. Many showing at DTW have never been presented there in any capacity, so it's opening a door." Dancenow/NYC permits audiences to get the feel of 10 or 11 troupes a night, doing pieces no longer than seven minutes, for $15. "I'm excited about Kyle Abraham: He's done solos for us, but this is a huge group work; the crafting is really mature for a young artist. Jimena Paz, out of Petronio, is choreographing a great trio." Most are New Yorkers, but Step Afrika is coming up from Washington, D.C. "Chris Elam is showing a six-minute duet. There's so much going on it, it's stunning. We're pushing artists to get clarity and brevity in the work. Nobody has an attention span, but they'll come to our shows and take a chance."

Dancenow/NYC welcomes Step Afrika! from D.C.
photo: Lydia Martin
Dancenow/NYC welcomes Step Afrika! from D.C.

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  • Shorter works take the tiny stage at Joe's Pub (September 14 through 16, 425 Lafayette Street, 212-239-6200); three late-night programs hosted by Leigh Garrett showcase 28 soloists and groups. "If I see a good space, I walk in and think, 'What can I do here?' " says Staff. "We developed an audience that's stayed with us. They embraced our move to Joe's Pub. We got hooked on that feeling of cabaret, of cocktails floating around the room. We love the short format."

    New this year is a free program, Saturday at 5 p.m. at DTW, showcasing work created this summer at the second Omi International Dance Collective, in Ghent, New York, under the direction of Christopher K. Morgan.


    Evening Stars
    Sept 6–8, 10

    Free festival opens with William Whitener's Kansas City Ballet in works by Twyla Tharp, Todd Bolender, and Whitener himself. Thursday's bill includes Philadanco, Battleworks, Cedar Lake, and Pilobolus. On Friday the Trisha Brown Dance Company, the Stephen Petronio Company, and Ashleigh Leite Dance demonstrate the principle of lineage in the dance world. On Sunday at 4 there's a salsa contest, and in the evening a show called "Salsa: From Club to Broadway." Battery Park, State & Pearl, 212-220-1460, rivertorivernyc.com

    AMBUSH
    Sept 9, Oct 7, Nov 4, Dec 9

    This collective, artist-run "ambulatory program of new dance, performance, and related forms" discloses its location two weeks prior to each event. Its aim is to "catalyze a new opportunity for artists to instantiate their work." Don't say we didn't warn you. Various venues in greater Bushwick, Bklyn, 917-459-1072

    Agora II
    Sept 13–16, 20–23 & 27–30

    Wear sensible shoes to this outdoor production, a festival all in one night. Noémie Lafrance rallies a cast of hundreds: breakdancers, ice skaters, hula hoopers, rock musicians, and more, creating a microcosm of city life in the bed of the huge abandoned pool. Brooks Williams and Norm Scott contribute an original score. McCarren Park Pool, Lorimer St between Driggs and Bayard aves, 718-388-6309, sensproduction.org

    Brooklyn Mecca Dance Showcase
    Sept 16

    They're calling their free-style dance form Afro- House, and nine different Brooklyn-based ensembles and soloists bring it from the house music nightclub scene into a concert space. White Wave's John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St, Bklyn, 646-382-3440

    European Dream Festival
    Sept 20–Oct 31

    Twenty-two countries participate in this new event, which begins its dance offerings with Constanza Macras and her 18-member troupe Dorky Park, making its U.S. debut. Born in Argentina, Macras now lives in Berlin, where she first made Back to the Present, a piece that explores the difference between memory and storage; it's on display at Dance Theater Workshop September 21 through 23 (219 W 19th, 212-924-0077). Also opening weekend, the Slovene group Betantonc performs a work inspired by Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, at Danspace Project (131 E 10th, 212-674-8194). The following weekend, Italy's Compagnia Ariella Vidach and Claudio Prati create visual environments and soundscapes with cameras and computers at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers, 212-220-1460), and Hungary's Honvéd Ensemble provides an introduction to Gypsy dance at the Skirball Center (566 LaGuardia Pl. 212-992-8484). And much more. Various venues, europeandream.us

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