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CUNY Dance Initiative Announces 5th Year Fest, March 20–23, 2019, at Baruch Performing Arts Center

CUNY Dance Initiative Announces 5th Year Fest, March 20–23, 2019, at Baruch Performing Arts Center


CUNY Dance Initiative


Baruch Performing Arts Center
New York, NY


Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 7:30pm daily through March 23, 2019



CUNY Dance Initiative

The CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI), an innovative residency program for New York City choreographers, celebrates its fifth anniversary with a series of performances this spring. Co-presented with Baruch Performing Arts Center, the 5th Year Fest will feature works by 11 artists/companies in two separate programs that exemplify the diversity of dance styles, perspectives, and cultural expressions that has come through CDI’s doors. Lead funding for CDI’s 5th Year Fest is generously provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

Performances will take place Wednesday–Saturday, March 20–23, 2019, at 7:30pm, at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Ave (enter on 25th Street, between 3rd and Lexington Avenues), in Manhattan. Tickets range from $11 to $36, and can be purchased online at www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac. Full program details below.

Since its official launch in 2014, CDI has subsidized more than 100 residencies for emerging and established NYC choreographers on 13 CUNY campuses in all five boroughs. Created directly in response to the shortage of affordable rehearsal and theater space, CDI has granted over 5,800 hours of studio and stage time to artists, and attracted 11,500 New Yorkers to performances, open rehearsals, and workshops.

CDI’s unique model, which pairs the resources of the City’s vast urban university system with private funding, now awards 22 to 25 artists a year with residency space and fees. “The CUNY Dance Initiative is a vital part of the performing arts ecosystem, providing space for choreographers to experiment and develop work without the administrative and financial burdens that typically come with making work in New York City,” notes Laura Packer, Executive Director of the Howard Gilman Foundation. “We are proud to support CDI’s 5th Year Fest and provide ongoing support for this important initiative that has an impact in all five boroughs of our city.”

“CDI has grown in ways we could not foresee when we started the program,” says Jeffrey Rosenstock, AVP of Governmental Relations and External Affairs at Queens College, who played a lead role in launching CDI. “We’ve seen that CDI stretches the boundaries of where dance can happen and who, in turn, can be the audience for it. With 9 of our 13 CUNY partners located in the outer boroughs, we are creating new outposts for choreographers to share their work with non-traditional dance audiences.”



5th Year Fest Performance Schedule

Program A (Wednesday, March 20, and Friday, March 22, at 7:30pm) features a pre-show installation of Heidi Latsky Dance’s living sculpture court, ON DISPLAY; flamenco duo Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez; an excerpt from tap master Andrew Nemr’s autobiographical show, Rising to the Tap; a solo by former Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Miki Orihara; Princess Grace Choreography fellow Loni Landon; and Urban Bush Women’s signature solo, Give Your Hands to Struggle.

Program B (Thursday, March 21, and Saturday, March 23, at 7:30pm) leads audiences to the theater with an adventurous site-specific dance by Kinesis Project dance theatre, and features a world premiere by Gabrielle Lamb for her company, Pigeonwing Dance; a solo by Parijat Desai that mixes traditional Indian dance with contemporary influences; MBDance’s danced and spoken-word trio, Up and Down Her Back; and an excerpt of Ephrat Asherie Dance’s freewheeling Odeon.



Heidi Latsky Dance: ON DISPLAY

Heidi Latsky Dance presents ON DISPLAY, a deconstructed art exhibit and commentary on the body as spectacle and society's obsession with body image. ON DISPLAY, which turns a cast of diverse and extreme bodies into a sculpture court where the performers are the sculptures, has been presented at venues including the Whitney Museum, the High Line, Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, and at SY Partners for NYCxDesign Week.


Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez: ELLA (excerpt)

Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernandez have shared the stage with flamenco greats and choreographed for Madonna and Ricky Martin. Mixing traditional flamenco technique and palos (rhythms) with Duke Bojadziev’s original electronic music, overlaid with live vocals by Fernandez, their newest project, ELLA, is a compelling portrayal of one woman’s creative and emotional journey.

Andrew Nemr: Rising to the Tap (excerpt)

Mentored by Gregory Hines, Andrew Nemr has performed with Grammy Award-winning musicians, founded and directed the tap dance company Cats Paying Dues, co-founded the Tap Legacy™ Foundation, Inc. (along with Hines), and is currently artistic director of the Vancouver Tap Dance Society. Cited as a “best of 2017” by the Huffington Post, Rising to the Tap is a personal window into Nemr’s struggles with cultural identity, exploring the life-changing influence of a traditionally African-American dance form on a first-generation Lebanese-American.

Rising to the Tap was commissioned by CDI, produced by Flying Carpet Theatre, and premiered at Tribeca Performing Arts Center at BMCC in December 2017.


Miki Orihara: Shirabyoshi

Co-created by legendary Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Miki Orihara with Noh artist Tanroh Ishida, Shirabyoshi (literally translated as “white stamping”) reimagines the undocumented dances and rituals of the shirabyoshi, female dancers who entertained warriors during the Samurai era, within a contemporary context.

Shirabyoshi was commissioned by CDI as part of Orihara’s Resonance II concert and premiered at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in April 2017.


Loni Landon Dance Project

Loni Landon creates lush, innovative movement full of subtle detail and sophistication. A recipient of a Princess Grace Award for Choreography, Landon has presented her work at The Joyce Theater and Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out Series, among other venues. For the showcase, Landon will present a group work from her repertory.


Urban Bush Women: Give Your Hands to Struggle

Internationally acclaimed Urban Bush Women is known for weaving contemporary dance, music, and text to bring the under-told stories of disenfranchised people to light. Give Your Hands to Struggle, choreographed by Founder & Visioning Partner Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, with music by Bernice Johnson Reagon, is a tribute to civil rights leaders whose work contributed to a better future for all of us. The title is based on a speech by Adam Clayton Powell, “What’s in Your Hand.” 




Kinesis Project dance theatre

Led by choreographer Melissa Riker, Kinesis Project is known for creating large-scale, site-specific performances that democratize contemporary dance for audiences of all ages and demographics. Kinesis Project adapts the company's newest work, Breathing with Strangers, to the curving corners, halls, and balconies of Baruch’s layered lobby spaces.


Gabrielle Lamb/Pigeonwing Dance: World Premiere

Known for her elegant and playful choreography, Gabrielle Lamb is the recipient of a Princess Grace Award for Choreography and recently participated in ABT’s inaugural Choreographic Incubator. In this world premiere collaboration with composer James Budinich, Lamb adapts the tensile intricacy of her movement to respond to Budinich's musical explorations of simplicity.  


MBDance: Up and Down Her Back

MBDance’s artistic director, Maria Bauman-Morales, is a multidisciplinary artist and community organizer who creates bold work based on physical and emotional power, an insistence on equity, and a fascination with intimacy. Her new trio, Up and Down Her Back, draws on handclap games, tall tale traditions, and the dancers’ personal stories to craft a nuanced foray into womanhood, Blackness, and in-the-moment communication.


Parijat Desai: Pardon My Heart

Praised by the New York Times for moving “with lush attack” and work that is “a seamless blending of new and old,” choreographer/dancer Parijat Desai creates hybrids of contemporary and Indian classical dance and theater. In Pardon My Heart, Desai offers a contemporary take on the longing-filled nayika (heroine) often portrayed in Indian classical performance, framing her choreography with Hindustani music and verse by poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Marcus Jackson.


Ephrat Asherie Dance: Odeon (excerpt)

In Odeon, Bessie Award winner Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie layers breaking, hip-hop, house, and vogue to Ernesto Nazareth’s buoyant score, which melds classical romantic music with popular Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Odeon premiered at Jacob’s Pillow in summer 2018.


Ephrat Asherie Dance. Photo by Robert Altman.

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