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.