Dance by the River

The Garage Venue: Multi Media Visual artist Baju Wajona, Gballoi singers/percussionists. Photo by David McIntyre.

Year: 2022-2023
DanceForce Member: Elena Mosley
Artists: Claire Deane; Elizabeth Heard; Kyle Marshall; Rashaun Mitchell; Zorkie Nelson; Silas Riener
Community Partners: City of Hudson; The Garage Dance Co-op
Audience: 1,250
County: Columbia

Dance by the River! invited four dance companies to interact with audiences composed of patrons and non-patrons of the arts along the Hudson Riverfront. A-Y Dancers, Kyle Marshall Dance and Silas and Shawn were among the dance artists in Hudson. Each event hosted by DanceForce was featured as a DanceForce special evening, within the nine concerts presented by Waterfront Wednesdays. The artists were asked to perform in non-traditional theater/black box space, utilizing natural lighting from the sun, a limited stage attached to the gazebo and an enormous landscape of grass covered grounds. The Audience consisted of patrons of the arts, dance lovers of all ages, and people coming to the waterfront to enjoy a walk, eat at the picnic tables and utilize the water activities. People brought their lawn chairs and families brought their blankets and children to move freely before and after the performances. The expectation was that of surprise for the general public coming to the waterfront and of amazement for the caliber of dance artists now appearing at the Hudson Riverfront Park. On the first evening with Silas and Shawn, a music playlist followed the performance as the sun set. On the evenings with Kyle Marshall and A-Y Dancers, there were two different bands which extended the evening beyond the beautiful sunsets post Q & A with dance artists. One of the bands, Heard, is an Afro Jazz group featuring percussionists Zorkie Nelson and dancers from Ghana.

The post event conversations were enlightening. Questions were being asked about the return of the artists, and the hope that the Hudson Riverfront Park would continue to host visiting artists free to the public, making dance affordable to all.

The Dance by the River! Extension took place in Chatham, NY at a new venue called The Garage in Chatham. This extension was inspired by the response of presenting dance in Columbia County, but mostly with collaborators in Hudson. The directors of the Garage were interested in presenting dance for the first time during their second season, having presented a first season of jazz and classical music concerts. The specific request was for an African based music and dance company. The goal of this 4th leg of the project was to introduce dance to the Garage Series, this a new component for the audiences to experience. Again, attendance was free, but limited space for about sixty seats. Second was to introduce a music and dance presence different from classical, chamber and jazz music and the third was to involve a community component not limited to Columbia County. The program was shared with Jonah Bokaer Dance Company performing work from Merce Cunningham for the first half of the program.

Three community workshops were held to invite participants to learn two dances with the company. Two workshops were done in “pop Up” style. One workshop occurred an hour before the Kyle Marshall performance, allowing people who happened to be at the waterfront to watch and join in. This added to the excitement that more dance was happening as they stayed at the waterfront. A second workshop occurred at the Hudson Sankofa Festival and a third in Albany at a church hall. All workshops had good attendance and yielded new and longtime lovers of dance. Four community rehearsals followed, two in Albany with the percussionist and two in Hudson over a period of four weeks. For the Garage performance, there were 6 community dancers, two company dancers and four musicians. The weather was excellent, and all seats were filled.

As a result of the Garage success with Gballoi West African Drum and Dance from Ghana, two new projects have developed. One was inviting Gballoi to perform at the Annual Kwanzaa Community Celebration at Hudson Hall. The same community involvement format was used for a successful event. A second project request came from the director of the Garage, Thomas Bo. I am collaborating with him to present Zorkie Nelson, two of his ensemble members to work in collaboration with 3 jazz artists that the Garage has presented during their first season. Another request came to present a similar community involved program with Gballoi in Newburg, NY.