Bringing the Bessies Winner Upstate to the Capital Region

Tatiana Desardouin works with fifth grade students at Abram Lansing Elementary on 11-6-23. Photo by Patrick Ferlo

Year: 2023-2024
DanceForce Member: Kim Engel
Partnering DanceForce Member: Toni Smith
Artist: Tatiana Desardouin
Community Partners: The Egg, Albany; UAlbany Foundation & Auxiliary Services; UAlbany Office of Intercultural Student Engagement
Audience: 606
County: Albany

This project proudly served the NYS DanceForce’s initiative to support the annual Juried Bessies Award winner. The UAlbany Performing Arts Center hosted Passion Fruit in a creative residency in November which included a public performance and one for local schoolchildren. Composed of Tatiana Desardouin (Haitian), Lauriane Ogay (Swiss) and Mai Lê Hô (French-Vietnamese), the company’s mission is to promote the authenticity of street dance and clubbing styles, Hip Hop and house cultures and their Black heritage, as well as its contribution to society.

As part of The Egg and UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Dance in Albany series, the company performed on the UAlbany stage on November 4 to an audience of over 200 patrons. In the 65-minute program entitled Dance Within Your Dance, the artists invited the audience to embrace the techniques, rhythms and essence of hip-hop and house dance. The two dancers (Ogay & Hô) and artistic director (Desardouin) participated in a 30-minute post-show Q&A for which about half of the audience stayed.

About the performance, an audience member shared this comment:
“That was the best dance concert I have seen here in the Capital Region. I absolutely loved it. I felt like I was in New York City being treated to the dance riches they have to offer there.”

Following the performance, the artists had five days of access to UAlbany’s stage for creative time. From planning conversations with the artists, it was understood that they there was a deep desire for rehearsal time to develop a new work which is slated to premiere in June 2024.

Tatiana had this to say about the creative time:
“The theater was perfect for us to explore choreographically. We were able to transform the space to develop our photographic work. I was able to create a lot of material. Our needs were heard, we felt respected, and we had enough time to do a lot. We will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”

With support from fellow DanceForce member Toni Smith, Passion Fruit also visited a local elementary school. On November 6, they performed an assembly program in the school’s gym to the 400+ student body. They also provided a workshop experience to the 75 students in fifth grade.

The school’s principal had this to say about the experience for his students:
“It was so exciting to bring a professional hip hop group to our high poverty/high needs school. Frankly, never have my “minority” students seen themselves in the artists who have visited us–until Passion Fruit stepped on our stage.”

This project was immediately preceded by a five-day educational/outreach residency by the company in the Capital Region which was organized by the UAbany Performing Arts Center. This associated but non-DanceForce funded residency put the artists into contact with approximately 300 high school through college level students through master classes, lectures and performances. Both of these residencies happened in connection to a larger network of NYS activity by Passion Fruit (see projects by Jim Self, Ivan Sygoda and Cynthia Williams).