Providing an Upstate Residency to the Bessies Juried Award Winner

Abby Zbikowski. Photo by Effy Falck

Year: 2018-2019
DanceForce Member: Toni Smith
Artist: Abby Zbikowski
Community Partners: The Egg, Albany; UAlbany Foundation & Auxiliary Services; UAlbany Performing Arts Center; University Auxiliary Services, UAlbany
Audience: 155
County: Albany

My project provided a five-day residency in Albany to Abby Z and the New Utility from November 30 through December 4, 2018 which accomplished three goals:

1) It provided a performance experience for my community.
2) It provided an outreach opportunity for students taking dance.
3) It provided the artists with much desired creative time and space.

The performance of “Abandoned Playground” was offered as part of the Dance in Albany series presented collaboratively by The Egg and the UAlbany Performing Arts Center. Taking place on the evening of Saturday, December 1 and presented stadium-style as per the company’s request, the work was performed to a sold out crowd of 136 adults, seniors, students and young children at UAlbany. Following the show, artists and audience were able to converse and connect during an on-stage reception.

On the final day of the residency, Abby taught a hip-hop based master class to students taking a dance class at UAlbany through the Department of Music and Theatre. Those students were also treated to a short demonstration by the company of new work that they had been rehearsing. Many of those students had attended the company’s performance just a few days prior.

During preliminary discussions with Abby Zbikowski, it became very apparent that the company’s most pressing need was time and space to focus on creative process. With dancers scattered around the country and Abby teaching in the Midwest, the company’s time together is limited and at a premium. The five days in Albany helped them prepare for the performance at UAlbany as well as one shortly after at Bryn Mawr College. It also gave them time to work together in a performance space on “Radioactive Practice,” a new work set to premiere at New York Live Arts in March 2020. The opportunity to have unrestricted time and space early in the creation process was invaluable and deeply appreciated by the company. This final goal reinforced the DanceForce’s commitment to the Bessie Juried Award winner, providing funding and resources to the company at a critical juncture in their development.

The bulk of the planning of this project was undertaken by Kim Engel, Associate Director of the UAlbany Performing Arts Center along with Abby Zbikowski, Artistic Director, and Fiona Lundie, Business Manager, of Abby Z and the New Utility. The performance was promoted by The Egg and UAlbany Performing Arts Center as part of the Dance in Albany series.

About the performance and residency experience, Abby Zbikowski had this to say:
“The presentation of ‘Abandoned Playground’ and the residency for our new work, ‘Radioactive Practice,’ was a wonderful opportunity for me and my company. It was great to perform for this specific audience who don’t know much about me or the mission of my work. It was also great talking to people during the reception to get a feel for how it was received.

The residency was timely and needed. I work weekly or every other week with my company, but having this concentrated time together really moved the work forward. Being out of the city and working on such a large stage helped me make some dramaturgical decisions about the direction of the work. The concentrated time allowed us to push our bodies and discover potential physical ideas that will continue to serve the work as it evolves. Kim took such great care of us and the accommodations were excellent, a great space to unwind in after a hard day of work.

I want to thank you and the New York State Dance Force for the continued support of this work and I look forward to sharing this new work with you all in the future!”