We first met when Ivan Sygoda introduced us at the DanceForce NY meeting in New York City in January 2019. This was less than a year before my company would perform in the BAM Next Wave Festival and in the impending Covid-19 pandemic. I was 28 years old and the recipient of my first major recognition, the Juried Bessie Award. My company at that time was made of a very close group of friends and roommates. I was the sole administrator for the company and was learning the logistics of touring for the first time with Ivan’s guidance. This was also while dancing with the Trisha Brown Dance Company who maintained a robust national/international touring schedule. At the time, KMC was making work that was focusing on the Black dancing body. That work manifested in our trio work Colored (2017), which was thinking about the wide spectrum that is the Black American experience. The work was deeply personal and shaped by the two other performers of the piece, Myssi Robinson and Oluwadamilare (Dare) Ayorinde. With the increase in visibility and Ivan introducing us to DanceForce, we embarked on our first experiences of touring. For the first time, I had to share and talk about my work that was culturally specific with audiences that did not look like me. I was also managing the touring logistics alone, driving everyone myself, meeting with presenters, performing and navigating some serious interpersonal conflicts within the group. Between Oct-Nov, 2019 we did 4 weeks of touring in upstate all while preparing a 5-show run at BAM at the end of the year. At the time I was 28 and experiencing these pressures for the first time all while trying to maintain a group that was strained by this new visibility. Four years later, I now see that this was all part of managing a dance company, but if you can imagine, we were a group of friends and not an organization at the time.
While challenging, those tours to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Alfred University, Bethany Arts Community and Hudson shaped me and the company. I am 32 now and 2024 will mark KMC’s 10th anniversary season! From a collection of friends, we have grown into a full fledged dance company. I run KMC full time with the support of a company manager, visual director, marketing associate, lighting and sound designers and 5 brilliant, professional performers. In total there are 12 people on staff. We are paid industry level rates and are proudly still a predominantly BIPOC and Queer entity. While it is important to me that we reach diverse communities, I feel now that the subject matter of our work and our cutting edge aesthetic can be a bridge for folks from a wide range of experiences. We have now toured and been commissioned nationally by spaces like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New World Symphony in Miami, FL and the ADF in Durham, NC. I have now taught at institutions like Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College and currently hold an adjunct position teaching at NYU. We are open to sharing and discussing our work with all people while staying rooted in our embodied experience and history.
DanceForce was such a gift to the company and gave us our first opportunities to share our work outside of NYC. Like everything on the first try, I did not get everything right. However, I am proud of those experiences because that learning led to the success we have today. We are building new works in 2023-24 around the music of upstate NY composer, Julius Eastman. We would be enthused to share this work and our current repertory with the Danceforce community. I hope that you can attend our performance Saturday, May 13th, witness the growth of the company and stay connected!
In October of 2021, Flamenco Vivo presented its 7th event for emerging artists, the Flamenco Certamen USA. The NYS DanceForce has supported this program through all of its iterations: from a single performance in 2014 to the inclusion of a week-long residency at Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Lake Placid provided extensive resources including 4 studios, family-style housing and technical support. During this residency, finalists worked in depth with industry mentors and musicians to harness their artistic strengths and generate meaningful relationships. The final live performance took place on October 15th at the Bruno Walter auditorium at Lincoln Center in NYC.
This was Flamenco Vivo’s first time in partnership with Lake Placid Center for the Arts, and the residency center created a unique opportunity to build a community of artistic inspiration, cultural sharing, and collective growth. Amidst the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, LPCA was the ideal location for creating an intimate but communal shared space for artists to re-awaken their passion together. LPCA gave us the necessary studio space with appropriate flooring for flamenco. The opportunity to utilize a shared space also allowed LPCA staff to observe and witness the work being done by Certamen artists during a dress rehearsal of the Certamen program on the final day. Although limited in size due to the pandemic, these interactions lead to an important artistic and cultural exchange between Flamenco Vivo and Lake Placid. Flamenco Vivo has been invited to return for its 2022 Flamenco Certamen USA programming so that we may create more opportunities for artistic development and collaboration more fully with the greater Lake Placid community.
In July 2018, Bridgman/Packer Dance was presented at Goodwill Theatre Inc.’s Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson, City NY, funded by NYS DanceForce. The venue includes and is surrounded by shuttered industrial spaces, architecture that stands in witness to generations who worked at the Endicott Johnson shoe company.
The environment and context inspired Bridgman and Packer to develop a new work – Ghost Factory, based on the imagery and narrative of these post-industrial spaces. In an unexpected benefit and an unanticipated one — the Goodwill Theatre supported the new work by providing the artists with access to work/office space during the year they spent collecting imagery and interviewing residents. This was an extra added benefit for the artists. The American Dance Asylum provided $2,000 in commissioning support to jumpstart the fundraising. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, Ghost Factory was presented June 25, 26 2021 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Sept 23, 25 2021 at Sheldon Theater, Red Wing, MN.
In 2010, DanceForce member Kim Engel envisioned a project that would bring dance to families in a setting in which they were familiar and comfortable. Working with the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, the project developed with DanceForce support in the spring of 2011 as Undercover Playground, a short 15-minute performance piece performed spontaneously by the company’s dancers and a musician on playgrounds to unsuspecting audiences. The work premiered over a seven-week period in the late summer and fall in six New York State counties. It has been offered for over a decade now with various sources of support including the National Endowment for the Arts, city/county funds, local arts council funds and area businesses.
Beyond its original intended format, Undercover Playground has also undergone various incarnations such as versions for summer youth camps and special populations on adaptive playgrounds. During the pandemic, the work continues to have life as part of the company’s educational programs, bringing the art form to school children in a safe, outdoor environment. Undercover Playground allows school administrators an option to offer arts programs to students without the safety concerns that are currently inherent in having gatherings and welcoming outside visitors.
A network of dance activists working to increase the quality and quantity of dance throughout upstate New York.