The Encounter: Buffalo + NYC

Joanna Kotze and Burr Johnson in rehearsal for The Encounter. Photo by Ryutaro Mishima.

Year: 2022-2023
DanceForce Member: Margaret Kaiser
Artist: Kimberly Bartosik
Community Partners: Niagara Falls Central School District; Torn Space Theatre; UB Arts Collaboratory
Audience: 400
Counties: Erie, Niagara

The Encounter:Buffalo, a piece conceived by internationally renowned choreographer Kimberly Bartosik from NYC, is entering Phase Three of its original design to become The Encounter: Buffalo + NYC.

Phase One, 2020-21, was originally planned to be presented as part of Torn Space Theater’s Response Festival in May 2021 with a cast of culturally diverse high school students from Lafayette High School, an international high school in the Buffalo City School District. The original plan, featuring non-professional teen performers, included these performers working intensively with choreographer Kimberly Bartosik from NYC (i.e. audition, rehearsals, performance). Due to the COVID shutdown throughout New York State, the entire project was put on hold for a year.

Phase Two, 2021-22, The Encounter: Buffalo, expanded to include a multi-generational cast (ages 17-62) two of whom are Lafayette students, a graduate of Lafayette, five from the Buffalo community at large, and one from a Niagara Falls City School District theater/dance class as a result of a master class there from which the senior high school student was selected to join the cast.

If COVID restrictions are lifted by the spring 2022, a performance is planned at Torn Space Theater in May 2022. Phase 3—The Encounter: Buffalo + NYC, for which this proposal is targeted, has expanded the original project plan three-fold:

1.) 4 dancers from Kimberly Bartosik/daela will join the Buffalo cast for a performance in Buffalo in September at Torn Space Theater;
2.) the entire Buffalo cast will travel to NYC to perform with professional company members at a venue in NYC later in September or early October; and
3.) two new partners have been added: the UB Arts Conservatory which will host master classes/workshops for the Buffalo community at large, and the Nathan M. Clark Foundation which is providing generous financial support for this phase.

Performers in Phase 3, professional and non-professional, will work intergenerationally and across life-experience divides to create a temporary performing company, merging and integrating the theme of Encounter with the express intention of deepening artistic exploration and connection. The intergenerational cast of performers includes teens from under-resourced high schools and the community who might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in a project of this kind and depth. The size of the in-person audience is estimated at 400, with even more for online viewing(metrics to be collected and evaluated).

At the heart of The Encounter is the exploration of the impact of social isolation imposed by COVID on young persons as they navigate issues around gender identity, body image, equity, independence, etc., as well as connect with others across life-experience divides. The Encounter provides a space of imagination and trust, as well as a deep connection to others. At the heart of Bartosik’s The Encounter and her inclusion of working with teens, is the belief that they represent a space for transformation where movement can illuminate their complex encounters with life and audiences can witness it as they experience it, unfiltered.