Volume 18 • Issue 46 | March 31 - April 6, 2006

Photo by Anna Fleshler

Cuban-born Pedro Ruiz, here with Alessandra Corona-Lamm, choreographed one of the dances in Tribeca PAC’s Work & Show Festival, through April 8.

For dancers, residency restores faith in art

By Sara G. Levin

For nine years running, the Tribeca Performing Arts Center Work & Show Festival has debuted work by emerging artists who spent nine months in the theater’s year-long residency program. This year, however, was the first time executive director Linda Herring hired an outside panel judge to help her and former program director, Jeff Mousseau, sift through the sixty applications for residency they received—four times the number that normally apply.

In an effort to broaden interest in the program, which offers space and tools to artists without a home, Herring and Mousseau had sought support from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The organization advertised for broader participation, Herring said. But expanding the scope of possible artists meant making tougher decisions.

“We decided to have a panel because it takes [the program] more into the pubic realm, and makes [decisions] less biased,” Herring said. “We wanted to make sure that funders felt that it was an open process.”

The ones they finally decided on — nine artists with a variety of dance, theatrical and music backgrounds — began showing their work in late March, and will continue to premiere shows throughout the first week in April. The festival culminates in a full-day marathon of each work on April 8.

“We are looking to offer opportunities for artists who are not well-established or who are making changes in their career,” Herring said. The Tribeca PAC space encourages participants to produce a new original work by allowing them free access to the theater, video editing equipment, and a production stipend. It also mandates showings in the fall to give artists a structured schedule and a forum for feedback.

“I started working on [‘a question of faith’] in August, and knew I wanted to make a work about the subject of faith,” said choreographer Christine Suarez, who has been a resident before, and began choreographing in New York City six years ago. Her small company has performed in many local venues, but has struggled to attract audiences.

“It’s a big sacrifice, and trying to guilt friends into coming and see me dance, that only sustains you for so long,” Suarez said. “At the end of my last season I was really, really burnt out trying to run a company in NYC, and I felt like I had no faith in my work, or dance or in continuing.”

Traditionally, the center strives to include four dance choreographers, because the plight of vying for space in the New York dance community is especially trying, said Herring.

Combining her lack of faith in dancing and religion, Suarez, who grew up Catholic, was inspired by the outpouring of worshipers during the Pope’s death to explore searching for faith in God, self and community.

“There’s a lot of real risky climbing, throwing your weight at someone—sometimes they catch you and sometimes they don’t,” Suarez said.

Although Pedro Ruiz has already had a successful career as a choreographer for Ballet Hispanico, Tribeca PAC decided to include him in the program to foster his first independent works. While he is known for emphasizing Cuban traditions, he used Tribeca PAC to create a piece titled “Diaspora Mediterranea—Labyrinths of Arches & Passion,” that explores movement from across the Atlantic.

In addition to acting as patrons for small-time or career-changing artists, the Artist-in-Residence mission statement emphasizes looking for “high quality work that is culturally diverse.” Many of the pieces focus on racial and feminine identity.

Musicians Joseph-Vernon Banks and Steve Mackes, who created a music reading last year as residents, wrote a musical about Madame Walker. The African American descendant of slaves was a sharp businesswoman who founded a hair-care products business and factory.

In “Distinctly Akin” Christal Borwn, director of Inspirit, A Dance Company, mixes movement and music with text to portray cross-racial female relationships. Her piece was inspired by Beah Richards who wrote “A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood, of White Supremacy, of Peace.”

Other artists include Baraka de Soleil, Lynn Thomson, Ellis Woood and Katie Workum. De Soleil’s D Underbelly will show “N This Hous,” soberingly questioning the legacy of what he calls “African-Americana”. Lynn Thomson’s work, “Parlor Song” is a historical play about women defining their identities in America’s post-Civil War era. Ellis Wood leads her all-female group in “Hurricane Flora: Inferno.” Katie Workum, who co-runs the Danceoff! dance-theater series, will perform “Red,” combining themes of classical myths and modern families.

The panel who chose this year’s residents was comprised of Jonathan Hollander, executive director of Battery Dance; Arthur Aviles, founder of Arthur Aviles Typical Theater; Emily Morse, artistic director of New Dramatists; a representative from the LMCC and former Tribeca PAC director, Mousseau. For a schedule of performances and to buy tickets, visit www.tribecapac.org or call 212-220-1460.


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