Residencies by Gesel Mason in Two NYS Sites

Gesel Mason Photo by Enoch Chan
Gesel Mason
Photo by Enoch Chan

Year: 2013-2014
DanceForce Member: Kim Engel
Artist: Gesel Mason
Community Partners: Emma Willard School, Russell Sage College, Skidmore College, SUNY Potsdam
Audience: 618
Counties: Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, St. Lawrence

In 2012-13, DF member Kim Engel brought Gesel Mason to the Capital Region for two residencies: one for four days for the artist’s full company at UAlbany, and one for seven days for Gesel herself at the Emma Willard School in Troy. Both residencies were wonderfully successful, creating a desire to work with this artist once again.

For 2013-14, Kim brought Gesel back to upstate New York for a week-long residency in February 2014 which was split between two sites: one at SUNY Potsdam (Feb. 1-4) and the other at UAlbany (Feb. 5-8). The two sites had worked together previously on a similar residency structure with Bridgman/Packer Dance. Planning was done predominantly between Gesel, Kim and Robin Collen (Potsdam) through conference calls and email communications. At Potsdam, Robin’s fellow colleagues in the Department of Theatre and Dance were brought into the process, and Kim reached out to her dance colleagues at the Emma Willard School, Russell Sage College and Skidmore College, all of whom had been partners on previous projects.. Gesel enlisted the help of three of her colleagues: two dancers (Erin Liebhard and Mekka Madyun) and one technical director (JP Osnes).

The focus of Gesel’s residency in each location was her solo show, No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers. Several of the nation’s leading contemporary African-American choreographers, including Bebe Miller, Donald McKayle, Reggie Wilson, Andrea Woods, David Roussève and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, have set original and historical solo works on Gesel. In the fall of 2013, Gesel worked with Rennie Harris as the latest choreographer commissioned for her show. Interspersed between the solos are taped interviews with each choreographer. These artists demonstrate the diversity of work by, for and about African-Americans; their visions push Black Dance in America beyond stereotypes and color boundaries and encompass almost seven decades of choreographic vision. The performances in February were planned to coincide with Black History Month.

Several residency activities were planned in each location to coincide and create excitement for the performances. The full schedule was:

February 3, 2014 – Two modern technique classes at Potsdam; dance composition class at Potsdam; Afro-aerobics class at Potsdam
February 4, 2014 – Jazz class at Potsdam; lecture at Potsdam; performance at Potsdam
February 5, 2014 – Lecture at Emma Willard School (cancelled due to weather conditions)
February 6, 2014 – Lecture at Skidmore College; improvisation class at Skidmore College; African dance class at Emma Willard School
February 7, 2014 – Lecture at Russell Sage College
February 8, 2014 – Performance at UAlbany

The outreach also served to promote the performances. Other promotional efforts included targeted mailings, email blasts, poster distribution, social media and media coverage.