31st Annual Downtown Dance Festival
The open stage is set and the backdrop is the bustling Water Street of downtown Manhattan – early 20th century, brick buildings dwarfed by neighboring grey and concrete skyscrapers of the 60’s and 70’s. With the city’s own energy fueling the scene, the pristine stage with white Marley flooring sits like a throne or a cloud –its inhabitants rest above the audience watching from below. Not even far below, but enough to make the dancers on the stage look as though they are floating above in a magical state. But the sounds of the city still resonate; with cars honking, horns blowing, and trucks blaring as the delicate dancers of this week’s 31st annual Downtown Dance Festival perform. Every day this week from 12-2pm, One New York Plaza transforms into a haven of cultural dance for the Wall Street business suits to soak in during their quick, lunch breaks. Beautiful weather and beautiful art make the workweek that much more bearable for the Stock Exchange regulars of this neighborhood.
The festival is presented by Battery Dance Company, founded by Artistic Director of the dance company, Jonathan Hollander. Yesterday’s performance started with a full spectacular by Sri Warisan, a performance group from Singapore featuring dances, costumes, music, and stories of the Malay tradition. The dancers took us on a musical journey through the Malay culture with traditional song and dance accompanied by clapping and live instruments, then followed by pre-recorded pieces with other Western and Indian influences in story-telling, a bit of theater opera, and some transformation. The performers were not just musicians and dancers but small temples of emotion conveying the legendary tales told for centuries of betrayed princesses, love-stricken princes, and dark evil forces. High energy mixed with fast-paced transitions kept the audience entertained and well-versed in the Malay dance cultures in under 60-minutes.
Following the international group, the Battery Dance Company performed Perceptual Motion, a dance piece based on the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Each section of the piece, which represented each of the senses, was choreographed by one of Battery Dance Company’s principal dancers. The dancers were at ease, a little too at ease for my taste, but maybe this was an intentional direction as each of the five senses lack emotion in nature and are direct reactions and innate characteristics of the human body.
The Battery Dance Festival will showcase over 10 more companies in the remainder of the week; Hollander and his team have always been very good about keeping a wide variety of performances, including an array of international companies. This New York summer festival is the essence of the artistic spirit that needs to be nurtured in this city. With artists being driven out by how unaffordable New York has become, we must remember that this city is not only a money capital but also an art capital. Be sure to take your lunch break downtown this week: pack a sandwich, grab an outdoor seat, and be entertained for a few hours with the beauty and talent that makes New York City flourish!
1. Downtown Dance Festival: The Downtown Dance Festival continues through the week, August 14th-17th, 2012 with daily performances at 12pm-2pm, FREE and open to the public in One New York Plaza (Water St. between Whitehall St. & Broad St.)
2. Week of performers: The list of performers includes Buglisi Dance Theatre, Morales Dance, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, and more! Friday’s final performance will be the IAAC Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian Dance.
3. Master Classes & Workshops: Throughout the week, a series of dance master classes & workshops will be held at the Dance New Amsterdam (DNA) Studios in Downtown Manhattan. Classes run from 10am-3:30pm; for more information, click here!
5. Liberated Movement: Liberated Movement, the non-profit dance organization that offers donation-based dance classes in New York is housed in the Battery Dance Studios. Classes offered include Hip-Hop, contemporary, ballet, yoga, Pilates, and more – be sure to take a class today!