Danspace Project, presenter member

Danspace Project supports a vital community of contemporary dance artists in an environment unlike any other in the U.S. Founded and located in the historic St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery since 1974, the organization presents and commissions new works in dance, supports a diverse range of choreographers in developing their work through choreographic experimentation, and connects artists to audiences through a responsive framework.

Judy Hussie-Taylor, executive & artistic director
New York, NY

Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives. Please explain the adjectives you selected.

Exhilarating. Relevant. Dynamic.

Danspace Project is a dynamic culture of artists and creative audiences who are engaged with dance, art, and ideas of our time. We present an array of artistic and curatorial perspectives relevant to the contemporary moment. “Exhilarating” speaks for itself when you experience brilliant artists in our iconic space.

What makes Danspace Project a unique organization?

Danspace Project began as a dance presenting organization and has become a creative center at the forefront of choreographic ideas, projects, and presentations. What enables this is a unique atmosphere that encourages participation by our responsive and creative staff. We try to work closely with choreographers, artists, and curators to realize their visions. Danspace Project is currently the only dance presenting organization in the U.S. with a series of publications to accompany our acclaimed artist-curated Platform series.

Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?

Dance will continue to be an urgent and dynamic art form that informs how we engage with one another and with our communities. Danspace Project’s role will be to amplify knowledge of, for, and by artists to expanding and interconnected communities.

Who are some of the dance artists Danspace will be working with this year, and what about their work inspires you and your staff?

Danspace Project presents so many inspiring artists each year, but in the fall I am intrigued by the number of artists engaged with history, dance history, and art history and the way bodies hold and reveal complicated layers of these histories. These artists include Sarah Skaggs, Rebecca Davis, Legacy Russell & Clifford Owens, Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener, Noé Soulier, Melanie Maar, Cori Olinghouse, Patricia Hoffbauer, and Megan Kendzior.

We are also looking forward to our Winter Season, when we will premiere a full length version of Bronx Gothic by Okwui Okpokwasili, a singular performer, writer, mover, and shaker perhaps best known for her performances in Ralph Lemon’s work. Our next Platform will be a mid-career survey of choreographer DD Dorvillier. We will devote four weeks in spring 2014 to examine the concepts, scores, philosophy, and nuances of her choreographic mind.

I asked Lily Cohen, Danspace Project’s communications associate, for her thoughts and this is what she had to say:

When we asked taisha paggett to share her significant artistic influences in her performance program last spring, I was excited to see her articulate ideas I had been thinking about myself. Her investigations of songs, lyrics, and popular culture, with their sociopolitical meanings and histories, have inspired me since I first became acquainted with her work.

I remember reading a blurb on Katy Pyle’s "ballez" classes that described the work as both ballet and "exorcism." Her approach is generous and accepting (which my own personal experience with ballet has not always been!) with a nod to the rich history of the dance form. I think this is so valuable to the contemporary dance community and beyond. Pyle’s ability to bring many people together and work collaboratively is also very inspiring and important.

In what ways does Danspace connect artists to their audiences?
I think about ways of making choreographic ideas visible, and connecting audiences to the work through our Conversations Without Walls events, Platform series, catalogues which highlight the artist’s voice, and short video interviews to illuminate artists’ influences in their own words. We also have free programs, like DraftWork, which invite the community in to watch a work-in-progress and discuss it over a meal on Saturday afternoons. This season we will also begin to document production residencies more extensively.

All of these aspects of our programming are providing the audience access to the artist, their unique histories and interests, and a deeper understanding and context of the work and how the artists create it. There's also something to be said for the unconventional performance space – the actual physical proximity to the artists. And the fact that the staff is comprised of experienced audience members, performance-goers, and deep-thinkers makes us just as curious and interested in connecting to the artists and the work as well.