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Curated by Lar Lubovitch, the perspective-changing dance series returns for its second edition
Even though John Jasperse and his dance company had performed at the Joyce in the past, he barely recognized the theatre when he walked into it two years ago for the inaugural NY Quadrille, conceived and curated by legendary choreographer Lar Lubovitch. The venue had completely reconfigured itself. Gone were the proscenium and wings; instead, the audience sat in the round with the performers in the center, making the space more intimate and inviting experimentation. "It was an entirely different, destabilizing experience to be there," Jasperse recalls.
This week, the Joyce kicks off its fall season with the return of NY Quadrille featuring five companies, all handpicked by Lubovitch. John Jasperse Projects (September 24-28), Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener (October 2, 3 and 6), Beth Gill (October 4, 5 and 7) and the Donna Uchizono Company (October 10-13) are presenting world premieres created specifically for this provocative setup, while Kyle Abraham's A.I.M will perform Dearest Home, which debuted last year at The Kitchen (September 29-October 1).
"NY Quadrille allows us to program work that might not be appropriate for a proscenium stage," says Linda Shelton, the Joyce's executive director. "We can include choreographers that usually perform at smaller venues and give them a chance to develop new and larger audiences. And we can also give our regular choreographers an opportunity to do something different."
Jasperse, whose Hinterland opens NY Quadrille, loves getting a chance to surprise audiences. "That kind of freshness that allows the public to come in and have an experience that is somehow different feels extremely important," he says. "I may be more on the extreme end of wanting to defamiliarize performance for audiences. That's something I'm generally committed to, so I feel the format helps."
Of course, rearranging the Joyce's layout into this new "format" takes quite a lot of effort. "It is a major commitment of time and money," admits Shelton. "Building the stage out over the seating is probably the most technically challenging part -- making sure it is an even, danceable, sprung stage. We also had to figure out how audiences would enter and exit the theatre safely, and how sight lines would work." For the three-week series, the Joyce's capacity of 450 remains more or less the same, but all the seating is general admission.
Like Jasperse, Donna Uchizono is an alum of New York City's downtown dance scene who founded her company more than 25 years ago. Her March Under an Empty reign marks her NY Quadrille debut. "I saw two programs the first time and was really excited by the experimental nature of the different perspectives," she says. "This piece is about the group, and being in solidarity with each other in very tenuous, difficult times. Most of it is in unison. It's all feet. It's coming from this feeling that there's this heaviness that has been placed on top of us that is looming. I think that both the music and the set lend themselves to that."
For Jasperse, who is the director of Sarah Lawrence College's dance program and often presents work at BAM, NY Quadrille is the ideal setting for Hinterland. The quintet explores many ideas, including "how thinking about a spatial vantage point for one side or another might also be reflected in certain kinds of dualities or tensions that exist inside the concept and structure of the piece," he says. "This plurality of vantage points is also related to a plurality of identities within the cast. I made a very conscious effort to cast a group that you might not imagine together in the same ensemble. That had to do with age, and with training, and practice history, and race and size. All of those things contributed to trying to figure out how to make a micro-community within this cast."
Jasperse and Uchizono feel honored to be part of such a groundbreaking series at such a venerable venue. "It brings in artists who are not part of the Joyce's normal subscription programming," Uchizono says. "It gives their audience an opportunity to see work that they might not normally experience. I think there's a certain excitement about what's going to happen."
Susan Reiter regularly covers dance for TDF Stages.
John Jasperse Projects' Hinterland. Photo by Alon Koppel Photography.