Two Residency Weeks at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center and Danspace Project Premieres

Moriah Evans’ “Social Dance 9-12: Encounter” at Danspace Project
Photo by Ian Douglas

Year: 2015-2016
DanceForce Member: Judy Hussie-Taylor
Artists: Moriah Evans, Catherine Galasso
Community Partner: Kaatsbaan International Dance Center
Audience: 799
Counties: Dutchess, New York

Danspace Project (DSP)’s Choreographic Center Without Walls was launched in 2010 to investigate and implement fresh ideas in commissioning, curation, and presentation, including the active development of partnerships for residencies and other exchange activities. As part of our Choreographic Center Without Walls (CW²) activities over the 2015-2016 season, DSP partnered with fellow DanceForce member Gregory Cary of Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, NY to provide artists Moriah Evans and Catherine Galasso with creative residency time in advance of commissioned presentations at DSP.

Kaatsbaan is a year-round facility dedicated to the growth, advancement and preservation of professional dance and provides a creative residence in an aesthetically inspirational and healthy working environment for dance-related artists from all disciplines and ethnic backgrounds. In the 2015-16 season, DSP continued our partnership with Kaatsbaan, developed over many years, which has seen a number of artists and companies benefiting from residency time to develop work slated for premieres on DSP’s stage.

Moriah Evans and Catherine Galasso, two emerging choreographers, were selected for a week-long residency at Kaatsbaan to realize their ambitious visions for premieres at DSP. Evans’ previous work has engaged theoretical investigations of dance histories and site-specific audience situations. Questions of authorship, the mythologizing force of history, and approaches to conveying meaning through choreography have all figured prominently in her work. At Kaatsbaan, Evans and her cast developed material for her current “Social Dance” series, which had its premiere at DSP over October 15-17 with “Social Dance 9-12: Encounter.” Galasso utilized her residency time to continue her work with veteran choreographer Andy de Groat, an American expat who has worked extensively in France since the 1980s. As a close collaborator of Galasso’s father, the composer Michael Galasso, as well as the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds in the 1970s, de Groat’s work with Catherine Galasso had a strong personal familial resonance as well as historic significance to the NYC dance community.

DSP and Kaatsbaan arranged a weeklong residency for Galasso’s and Evans’ companies concurrently over September 27th-October 4th, 2015. As part of this shared residency, the artists participated in a work-in-progress showing on Saturday, October 3rd. A local audience of 61 enjoyed a view into the artists’ working processes and research. The audience included a group of 15 young adults from a local rehabilitation program, who were particularly engaged by the experience. As Artistic Director Gregory Cary wrote, “Sitting on stage with the dancers was a new and actually thrilling experience for this group and they probably were the most responsive to the work.”

Following their residency at Kaatsbaan, both artists’ premieres at Danspace Project were highly successful. Evans participated in additional production residency time in DSP’s space to adapt her work fully to our venue, and create and test a complex entrance choreography for audiences. This residency time allowed for additional rehearsal showings to student groups from NYU and Queensborough Community College. The three-night run of “Social Dance 9-12: Encounter” over October 15-17 was fully sold out, with a total audience of 303 attending. As The New York Times’ Brian Siebert described the work, “A performer, nearly close enough to touch, stares into your eyes. As her expression morphs, registering flirtation, affection, astonishment, hurt, distrust, you might wonder to what extent those changes are reactions to the face the performer is watching: yours. It is a thought prompted by the muscles of your own face, which seem compelled to mirror hers. This social interaction is the core encounter of “Social Dance 9-12: Encounter”. Critic Eva Yaa Asantewaa wrote of her experience, “There is a real way in which we are pulled in, plugged in and deeply implicated and impacted at a level of breath, nerves, mind.”

Catherine Galasso’s “get dancing,” the culmination of her research with Andy de Groat, premiered at DSP over December 10-12th, 2015. Galasso described the evening, which included four reconstructed works by de Groat alongside a new piece by Galasso inspired by him, as “a study of aesthetic lineage that is part-tribute, part live-archive, part new work.” The run of “get dancing” was also fully sold out, with a total audience of 400. Audience members and critics alike praised the work, which illuminated a particular performance aesthetic championed by de Groat and his contemporaries in the 1970s/’80s. “Mr. de Groat’s own works, revived with such care, were the main event. New York is lucky to have them back,” enthused Siobhan Burke of The New York Times. Nicole Dekle Collins wrote in The Dance Enthusiast, “I left the theater at once exhilarated to have seen these marvelous works but also saddened to think what their fate might have been without the efforts of Galasso to restore them to their rightful place onstage.”

Our project reached a wide-ranging and diverse audience across nine presentations in total, including the local Tivoli, NY community, NYC college students, and DSP’s audience of dance practitioners, artists, and art followers. Both premieres continued DSP’s longtime practice of championing emerging artists’ works – and in this particular case, giving audiences an insightful view into a significant facet of contemporary dance lineage.