Extending the Reach of DanceForce Activity into Non-Member Counties

Pavel Zustiak instructs students during a master class. Photo by Mark Schmidt.

Year: 2016-2017
DanceForce Member: Kim Engel
Artists: Palissimo Company
Community Partner: Lake Placid Center for the Arts
Audience: 355
Counties: Albany, Essex

In an effort to extend the reach of the NYS DanceForce beyond the regions that are covered by member projects, this project paired a DanceForce member community (Albany County) with a non-member community (Essex County) who shared a dance company with performances and outreach. The Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) and the UAlbany Performing Arts Center (UAlbany PAC) each presented Palissimo Company, the Bessie’s Juried Award winner, in 2016-17. This project marked a first-time partnership between the two venues.

In the fall, LPCA hosted Palissimo for three days for a performance of “Custodians of Beauty” which took place on October 28. “Custodians of Beauty” builds on artistic director Pavel Zuštiak’s theatrical and movement investigation while examining the multiplicity of concepts of beauty and its permanence within art. The work draws from a fascinating range of contextual sources while invoking beauty that can shock and transform. It continues Zuštiak’s acclaimed relationship with composer/musician Christian Frederickson and lighting designer Joe Levasseur.

To help deepen the audience’s experience and to provide an easier gateway to the work, LPCA engaged Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Artistic Director of Elisa Monte Dance, to provide a pre-show discussion establishing expectations for the performance, highlighting the difference in dance styles and giving audience members “the permission” to feel the emotions that the performance brought out within each of them. Ms. Rea-Fisher was also available after the performance for a discussion on what audience members saw and how they reacted to the performance.

Besides partnering with the UAlbany PAC, LPCA’s primary objective in presenting Palissimo Dance was to provide residents of Lake Placid, a rural geographically-isolated community, with the opportunity to experience the work of a modern, contemporary dance company that many would consider “edgy” and “risky.” With the understanding that Palissimo’s work satisfies a more niche audience than LPCA’s usual dance presentation, the venue found that exposing their audience to alternative performance styles by highly-skilled, accomplished dancers provided a deeper understanding of the art form and pushed their audience to engage on a new level.

The UAlbany PAC welcomed Palissimo on January 30 for a five-day residency which culminated in a performance of “Bastard” on February 3. The performance featured Bessie award winner Jaro Viňarský and included 22 members of the community (three had to drop out due to illness) who rehearsed for the four days prior to the performance. Community performers included high school students, UAlbany Theatre Program students, professors, adults and seniors. The show was performed to a capacity crowd, accompanied with live music by composer/musician Christian Frederickson and followed by both a Q&A and a reception with the artists and audience.

In addition to the performance at UAlbany, Zuštiak taught 20 students taking a Movement for Actors class through the Department of Music and Theatre at UAlbany. Both he and Viňarský taught master classes at Skidmore College to approximately 50 students in the Dance Department.