Supporting Buffalo Choreographers and Dancers


Nancy Hughes and Phil Wackerfuss in SIMPLE MATTER. Photo by Annette Dragon

Year: 2020-2021
DanceForce Member: Elaine Gardner
Artists: Megan Evans-Rakeepile, Nancy Hughes, Gaitrie Subryan
Community Partners: Buffalo City Ballet; Center Dance, Buffalo; Elmwood Festival of the Arts; Lisa Taylor Academy of Ballet
Audience: 480
County: Erie

The goal of the project was to support local WNY dancer/choreographers who were continuing to create and rehearse work during the pandemic. Funds were used to support their creative process, provide performance opportunities, and to host open rehearsals for feedback with the general audience and with other artists. All of the artists held workshops and classes as part of their process.

Nancy Hughes is a modern dance creative and WNY networker whose movement aesthetic is based in somatics and contact improvisation. She likes to initiate projects where Buffalo dancers learn from different teachers in different community spaces. She is currently working on bringing elders from Nancy Stark Smith’s legacy online: Steve Paxton, Erica Kauffman, Lisa Nelson, and others. Nancy regularly creates WNY community-oriented performances and workshops to connect dancers and artists from all styles. She has presented classes and workshops in hip hop, Bhangra, Salsa, Contact, Bollywood, ballet, and Dunham. Nancy also is a founding member of MoVI: A Collective (Movement of Various identities). MoVI will present a panel discussion at the Buffalo History Museum; The Untold Story of Traditional African Dance in September 2022.

Nancy choreographed an improvisational work for a small group in collaboration with composer Mati Homar for a performance at the Elmwood Festival For the Arts on August 7 2021. This piece was also a seed project for the creation of other dances and performance venues. Her creative process was open to dancers from the community as participants.

Gaitrie Subryan is a Kathak, Bollywood and folk dancer. She is inspired by Garba and village dances. As a performer/educator of these styles, she shares information about Indian culture, gesture and meaning. The Danceforce project helped her refine her mission and creative process to study and present more traditional Indian folk dance. She is giving more exposure to WNY for this traditional form. It has changed the direction of her choreography, pulling from Kathak style to include that style into Bollywood. Her dancers trained in Bharatanatyam when they were younger.

Gaitrie worked on two different projects during the pandemic. One project was a group piece that would become a film and live performance in 2022. The other was to learn and perform a traditional Kathak dance piece for the Elmwood Festival on August 7 2021. She worked/rehearsed on Zoom with a mentor to further her traditional dance studies as well as traveling to NYC for in-person feedback.

Megan Evans-Rakeepile is a native of Buffalo. After years of local training, she performed professionally with touring groups such as Garth Fagan Dance before returning to Buffalo to continue her career as a cultural activist focusing on area youth. Megan developed a new solo work that she hopes to expand into a group piece. The work was created, shared in open rehearsal and performed twice at Buffalo City Ballet (BCB)’s new studio complex on Buffalo’s East side. Megan is continuing to develop her creative choreographic work and teaching more at BCB.