The Encounter

Year: 2021-2022
DanceForce Member: Margaret Kaiser
Artist: Kimberly Bartosik
Community Partners: Niagara Falls Central School District; Torn Space Theatre
Audience: 197
Counties: Erie, Niagara

The Encounter: Buffalo embodied more than the usual in-depth NYS Dance Force residency plan with effective community engagement, mutually supportive partnerships, and public performances of notable artistic merit; rather, it reflected the power of art to both unite and heal a wounded community.

At the heart of this project was accomplished NYC-based dancer/choreographer Kimberly Bartosik whose original intent was to create a piece with a culturally diverse group of experienced and inexperienced performers, young and old, who were willing to explore physical and imagistic movement prompts to reveal a myriad of authentic encounters: with oneself, others, and the world around them.

What started out as a 12-month process, expanded into a 24-month process adapting to COVID related delays and, in the final stage, community trauma. Open auditions were held in the fall of 2021, a community outreach workshop in the Niagara Falls City School District high school theatre class was carefully constructed in the fall of 2022, while in-person rehearsals were conducted under uncompromising health restrictions in the fall, winter and spring of 2022. Torn Space Theater provided technical, directorial and marketing support, while the NYS DanceForce member provided community connections and lodging and transportation support.

The public performances occurred the second and third weekends in May. On the Saturday of weekend one, the most tragic and racially motivated mass shooting of this decade occurred in Buffalo only two blocks away from the theatre. The Encounter became an encounter like no other. To quote one of the participants: ” The Encounter is exactly what its title suggests: an encounter between distinct people, and one that could only happen between these people in this place in the way it does the specific time it happens. The Encounter is a chance made alive.”