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See Free Outdoor Dance this August in NYC

By: Susan Reiter
Date: Aug 01, 2018

Catch an eclectic selection of companies at three alfresco festivals


Free outdoor theatre is considered a rite of summer in New York City. But there are also plenty of no-cost alfresco dance performances during the dog days of the season. Uptown, downtown and on the Queens waterfront, you'll find a wide variety of movers and shakers, from classical ballet to international ensembles to site-specific works, all done in scenic settings. And the price truly can't be beat.


Lincoln Center Out of Doors
This venerable festival includes two wildly different dance offerings:

POP-UP Duets (fragments of love)

Wednesday, August 1 to Sunday, August 5 in the Plazas of Lincoln Center. Visit the fest's website for exact times and locations.

All the world's a stage -- or at least all of Lincoln Center's campus is for this New York premiere from Janis Claxton. The Scottish choreographer's series of intimate, sensuous duets is performed in and among the audience. A hit at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the piece features nine different encounters exploring "ephemeral glimpses of love and affection," set to a score by Pippa Murphy.

Dance Theatre of Harlem

Saturday, August 4 at 7:30pm in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park

New York City's groundbreaking troupe marks its 50th anniversary this year, and you can celebrate by enjoying a trio of works created specifically for its versatile and engaging dancers: New Bach by resident choreographer Robert Garland; Change by Dianne McIntyre and Harlem on My Mind by Darrell Grand Moultrie. Hardcore dance fans may want to come early to catch the 4pm panel discussion Fifty Years of Dance Theatre of Harlem: Experiencing History on Pointe and in Color featuring current and former company members in Lincoln Center's New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.



INSITU Site-Specific Dance Festival

Saturday, August 4 to Sunday, August 5 in four Queens parks. Visit the fest's website for the complete schedule.

Though INSITU is only in its second year, it's already quite ambitious in scope and range. The fest features 22 site-specific contemporary dance experiences in four public parks along Queens' East River waterfront: Hunters Point South Park, Gantra Plaza State Park, Queensbridge Park and Socrates Sculpture Park. (For Queens newbies don't worry -- there's a handy downloadable map.)

The fest's numbers are dizzying: Approximately 40 hours of dance organized into four 75-minute sequences per park, per day at 1, 3, 5 and 7pm, often followed by interactive workshops. Highlights include veteran choreographer Douglas Dunn; Melissa Riker of Kinesis Project Dance Theatre; the House of Ninja's vogue-inspired Peer/Pier; and the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival. But you don't really need to plan beyond knowing you'll be spending the day hopping around Long Island City via bike, bus, ferry or foot.



Battery Dance Festival

Sunday, August 12 to Friday, August 17 at 7pm in Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park in Battery Park City. Visit the fest's website for the complete schedule.

The programming is diverse and plentiful at this annual favorite presented by Battery Dance, a company that focuses on forging international connections. Founded in 1982, Battery Dance Festival offers local dance-makers a chance to share the bill with troupes from Botswana, Canada, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Spain, Turkey and other nations. Its lineup on Wednesday, August 15 is devoted to Indian dance.

In addition to its six nights of outdoor performances alongside the stunning waterfront setting, the fest is bookended by two special events. On Saturday, August 11 at 8pm, there's an outdoor screening of the dance doc Moving Stories, which follows Battery Dance's members as they work with at-risk youth in various countries. The fest closes out on Saturday, August 18 at 6pm with an indoor performance at Pace University's Schimmel Center featuring Battery Dance, Skopje Dance Theater and Mophato Dance Theatre. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance online.


Susan Reiter regularly covers dance for TDF Stages.

Top image: POP-UP Duets by Janis Claxton Dance. Photo by Lucas Kao.

TDF Members: Go here to browse our latest discounts for dance, theatre and concerts.

Susan Reiter covers dance for TDF Stages.