A weekly, highly personal and subjective list of performances and artists we want you to know about:
Danspace’s month-long Platforms are extended offerings surrounding a compelling topic, issue or artist. In the last few years, the remarkable Eiko spent a month exploring the Lower East Side with her “Body in Places” and writer Claudia LaRocco investigated what classical ballet dancers and post-modern performers might learn from each other and create when paired up. What emerges from these generous spans of time and attention have been, universally, rich and powerful. Platforms are about conversation and connection as well as the movement itself.
This month, Reggie Wilson is building “Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance,” as he considers issues that pervade his own work: race, black culture, and religion. Wilson has drawn not only on African-American cultural roots, but has explored the influences from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as those connections to broader cultural forces. It was his 2013 work “Moses(es)” that first drew Danspace’s Judy Hussie-Taylor to tell Wilson the story of how the balcony of St. Mark’s Church (Danspace’s home) had been known as the “slave gallery.” The connections – black culture, churches, African-American history – were the launching point for Wilson’s development of the Platform.
One shared program of “working dance essays” by Beth Gill, Jonathon Gonzalez and others, will start with 10-minute artistic responses to a collection of research by scholar Prithi Kanakamedala on the 19th century free Black communities. Over three evenings, the artists will use their short “essays” to build something deeper, along with Wilson. A second shared evening program includes works that respond to the Platform, including the “Mandala” from Keely Garfield’s “Perfect Piranha,” and works by Same as Sister/Briana Brown-Tipley and Hilary Brown, and by Ni’Ja Whitson.
Wilson and his own company will present a world premiere, “…they stood shaking while others began to shout,” influenced by his research into the Black Shakers. And woven throughout, walking tours of the East Village and Harlem will introduce participants to Black churches and historical communities, and also includes a walk focusing on the Lenapehoking, the homeland of the Lenape in the East Village. The tapestry of performance, exploration, and conversation is what makes the Platforms so rich; the more you see, the deeper you’ll go.
The Platform opens on February 28 at 6:30 pm with a free event at the Great Hall of the Cooper Union (7 East 7th St), RSVP recommended. For a full schedule of Platform events, go to http://www.danspaceproject.org.
Cover: Same as Sister/Briana Brown-Timpley and Hilary Brown. Photo © Ian Douglas.
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