Johnnie Cruise Mercer: Residency at Petronio Residency Center

Johnnie Cruise Mercer in Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from A LIFE and other works by John Bernd, part of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016 Lost & Found, 2016. Photo by Ian Douglas

Year: 2018-2019
DanceForce Member: Judy Hussie-Taylor
Artist: Johnnie Cruise Mercer
Community Partner: Petronio Residency Center, Cairo NY
Audience: 345
County: Greene

Danspace Project proposes a 10-day residency for emerging choreographer Johnnie Cruise Mercer to create “an evening length happening/ritual attempting to exorcise the societal expectation of the black body on stage and in dance.” The work will premiere at Danspace Project (East Village, Manhattan, NYC) in winter/spring 2019 for a three-night run and reach approximately 300 audience members, and also be preceded by a production residency at Danspace for one week.

Mercer is known as an extraordinary performer and was featured recently in Ishmael Houston-Jones’ and Miguel Gutierrez’s “Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and Other Works by John Bernd.” Mercer and his collaborators (aka TheRedProjectNYC) are passionate about creating welcoming spaces to discuss and create dances about issues impacting their lives. They state: “As artists, as deconstructionists, the company’s aim is to tackle politics, history, and the occurrence of settling into the ‘natural’ human pattern. We are (both on stage and off) interrogators of the contemporary, and instigators towards post-contemporary existences.” Mercer himself is a young African American artist developing work in the age of “Black Lives Matter” and the “#MeToo” movement, and together with his collaborators they are “Confronting conflict, engaging conversation, and sparking the processes of reconstructing/reworking,” and “the company is deeply invested in facilitating live performance experiences that challenge reality, and embrace the concept of perspicacious seeing.”

In order to introduce Mercer to a wider audience, Danspace Project is excited to initiate a first-time partnership with Petronio Residency Center (PRC) in the Catskill Mountains of Greene County, a new residency center founded by choreographer Stephen Petronio and directed by David Szlasa. Szlasa has begun conversations to develop partnerships between the PRC and area community organizations in Hudson and Catskill. Danspace and PRC are interested in reaching beyond the walls of the residency center so that Mercer and his collaborators can interact with and provide workshops for youth groups in the greater area. We will also hold an open works-in-progress showing in Hudson (location to be confirmed) in order to provide easier access for more people living in Hudson and Catskill. Together Danspace Project and PRC plan to approach Kite’s Nest, a non-profit organization (located in Basilica Hudson) dedicated to curiosity, inquiry and social justice, providing educational programs for local children and teenagers, as well as NYS DanceForce member Elena Mosley of Kuumba Dance and Drum to advise on outreach to youth groups and the works in progress showing. The goal is to reach a minimum of 20-25 youth and an additional 70 people with the public showing.