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Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance (Danspace Project Platform 2018)

Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance (Danspace Project Platform 2018)


Danspace Project


Danspace Project
New York, NY


Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 5:00pm, 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 5:00pm
Thursday, March 8, 2018 - 8:00pm
Friday, March 9, 2018 - 8:00pm
Saturday, March 10, 2018 - 11:45pm, 8:00pm
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 5:00pm
Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 8:00pm
Friday, March 16, 2018 - 8:00pm
Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 8:00pm
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 5:00pm
Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 8:00pm
Friday, March 23, 2018 - 8:00pm
Saturday, March 24, 2018 - 8:00pm



Danspace Project


Danspace Project is pleased to announce Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance (Danspace Project Platform 2018) from February 28 - March 24, 2018. Platform 2018 will be guest-curated by acclaimed choreographer Reggie Wilson.
The Platform series was initiated by Danspace Executive Director and Chief Curator Judy Hussie-Taylor in 2010 to provide time and space for artistic and curatorial inquiry. The Platforms were conceived, as she has said, "as exhibitions that unfold over time" often providing a choreographic approach to curatorial practice. Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance emerges from Wilson's ongoing research into religion, race, and, as he explains, "the potential of the body as a valid means for knowing. "Participating dance artists include Same As Sister/Briana Brown-Tipley and Hilary Brown, Keely Garfield, Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, Edisa Weeks, and Ni'Ja Whitson. The Platform will conclude with a Danspace-commissioned new work by Reggie Wilson.
"This Platform began with a conversation Reggie and I had in 2013 after seeing his piece Moses(es) in St. Cornelius' Chapel on Governors Island," explains Hussie-Taylor. "Reggie has engaged with many facets of African diaspora religions and dance. In that context, I mentioned to him that I'd heard a rumor over the years that the balcony in St. Mark's Church might be what is historically known as the 'slave gallery.' That became a point of departure for his curatorial inquiry."
Over four weeks choreographers, writers, architects, and scholars will engage with Wilson's questions about race, religion, dance, and the architecture and history of Danspace Project's iconic home in St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. Choreographers will employ strategies and kinesthetic practices across cultural, religious, aesthetic, and dance lineages to creatively consider the following questions: What has been the relationship between race, dance, and religious architecture in New York City and other US sites? How did civil rights grass roots activism and organization in churches and community centers make way for contemporary models for performance, dance, arts organizing, and presentation?  
Built on land purchased from the Dutch West India Company by then-governor of New Amsterdam Peter Stuyvesant, St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery was completed in 1799. St. Mark's Church is the oldest site of continuous worship in New York City, and the second oldest church in Manhattan.  Since the early part of the 20th Century, St. Mark's Church has been home to cutting-edge arts programming for dance, poetry, music, and theater. "Two aspects of St. Mark's history impact heavily on the present. The first is its relationship with the arts, dating back to the rectorship of Rev. William Norman Guthrie (1911-37). Guthrie revitalized a flagging congregation by bringing the arts into worship and opening up the church to performances of dance, music and poetry. When Rev. Michael Allen became Rector in 1959, he too reached out to the increasing numbers of poets, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and playwrights who had moved to the Lower East Side. The establishment of the St. Mark's Poetry Project, and later Danspace Project and theater groups at St. Mark's occurred during his tenure," according to the St. Mark's website (stmarksbowery.org/welcome).
St. Mark's had significant connections to American modern dance history prior to DanspaceProject's founding in 1974. Reverend Guthrie invited modern dance pioneers Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Martha Graham to participate in services. In the 1950s and 1960s St. Mark's rector, Rev. Michael Allen put the Church at the center of the downtown arts scene as well as the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements. Current resident arts projects are The Poetry Project, Danspace Project, and New York Theatre Ballet. Former arts projects included Theater Genesis, Richard Foreman's Ontological Hysteric Theater, and the Incubator. St. Mark's Church congregation is still known to be socially and culturally progressive, and is the site of important landmarks in social activism, civil, and labor rights.
Danspace will publish a catalogue to accompany Platform 2018. Historical research, personal testimony, original artwork, interviews, and historic photographs will uncover the intersecting ways places of worship have shaped religious, African Diasporic, and postmodern dance practices over past centuries. Contributors include Lauren Bakst, Lydia Bell, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Keely Garfield, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Darrell Jones, Prithi Kanakamedala, Kelly Kivland, Cynthia Oliver, Carl Paris, Same As Sister (Hilary Brown and Briana Brown-Tipley), Radhika Subramanium, Kamau Ware, Ni'Ja Whitson, Tara Aisha Willis, and Reggie Wilson. The catalogue, designed by Raja Feather Kelly, echoes Reggie Wilson's choreographic logic and research methodology that reflect the complexity of time, space, and movement across the African Diaspora.

Reggie Wilson. Photo: Aitor Mendilibar.


Complete programming details and a weekly schedule for Platform 2018 can be found below.

February 28, March 7, March 14, & March 21 at 5pm
Walking Tours
Meeting place confirmed with RSVP
Admission: $10 with RSVP
Danspace Project's Platform 2018 considers the cultural, dance, and architectural histories of the many peoples who've inhabited downtown NYC and beyond. Each week the Platform will feature a commissioned walking tour led by an artist or scholar. RSVP required. Space is limited.
February 28, 5pm: Walking Tour #1: East Village with Cynthia Copeland
Cynthia Copeland is a public historian and interpretive specialist focused on Afro-American, American, urban, and museum studies. She is president of the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History. This tour will focus on Copeland's perspective as an historian, East Village resident, and a parishioner of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.
March 7, 5pm: Walking Tour #2: East Village with Prithi Kanakamedala, Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York. Kanakamedala's tour will delve into her research interests including the Black Atlantic, New York's nineteenth-century free Black communities, and the city's historic material culture.
March 14, 5pm: Walking Tour #3: East Village with Emily Johnson
Emily Johnson, a director/choreographer/curator, originally from Alaska and currently based in New York, will lead a silent walk through the East Village of Manhahtaan in Lenapehoking, homeland of the Lenape. Since 1998, Emily has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances often function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment-sights, sounds, smells-interacting with a place's architecture, history and role in community. This walk will include the neighborhood surrounding St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery and Cooper Union, considering our relationship to land and the Indigeneity of New York.
March 21, 5pm: Walking Tour #4: Harlem with Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, award-winning author, dance historian, and Professor Emerita of dance studies at Temple University. Dixon-Gottschild hosts Brenda's Way, a tour of New York City's Harlem neighborhood, where she grew up. With Wilson's Platform interests in mind, and with the unique perspective as someone who grew up in New York City and danced here in the 1960s, she'll share personal memories of the neighborhood, her childhood home, the church she attended, in an afternoon where history meets memory.

February 28, 6:30pm
Danspace Project Platform 2018 Opening Event
Co-presented with The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
The Great Hall at Cooper Union (7 East 7th Street)
Admission: Free and open to the public. RSVP recommended.
All are invited to the public opening of Danspace Project's Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance. The opening event will take place in the historic Great Hall at The Cooper Union--the same auditorium where Abraham Lincoln made his famous speech against the expansion of slavery. Danspace celebrates the release of its 12th Platform catalogue with words, movement, and song featuring Platform 2018 curator, choreographer Reggie Wilson, and other participants to be announced. The event is free and open to the public.

March 8-10, 8pm
The Dossier Charrette: a series of working dance essays by Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, and Edisa Weeks
Danspace Project (131 East 10th Street)
The Dossier Charrette 
: a series of working dance essays 
 is inspired by the notion of an architectural charrette, a collaborative and intense period of design or planning activity, which emerged out of the École des Beaux-Arts in late 19th Century Paris. The word charrette is French for "cart" or "chariot." Architecture students rushed to complete their work in an allotted time period as professors made the rounds with carts to collect the students' final projects. This practice came to be referred to as working en charrette, "'in the cart."
Over three nights, artists Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, and Edisa Weeks each present their own 10-minute artistic response to a dossier compiled by scholar Prithi Kanakamedala whose research interests include the Black Atlantic, New York's nineteenth-century free Black communities, and the city's historic material culture. The responses are meant to evolve over the course of the three evenings. Each evening is followed by "refraction and reflection" between the artists and Wilson, deepening the engagement between the artists and facilitating engagement with the audience.

March 15-17, 8pm
A Shared Evening: Keely Garfield Dance, Same As Sister/Briana Brown-Tipley & Hilary Brown, Ni'Ja Whitson
Danspace Project (131 East 10th Street)
Reggie Wilson has invited artists Keely Garfield, Same As Sister/Briana Brown-Tipley and Hilary Brown, and Ni'Ja Whitson to share new work in response to the Platform. Each evening will be followed by a discussion with the artists.
"What can be expressed is simple. What cannot be expressed is most urgent. What if there are no words yet for what we are living through? Meaning accrues -- intonation, accumulation of speed, diminishing space, hate speech, embodied listening, sublime utterance -- who are we now?" Keely Garfield Dance presents Mandala from Perfect Piranha, performed by Emma Rose Brown, Keely Garfield, Paul Hamilton, Raja Feather Kelly, and Molly Lieber.
Same As Sister/Briana Brown-Tipley and Hilary Brown present The Exciting Event..., a collaboration with an international cast of performers, including Kristina Hay (Oslo, Norway) and Rahmus Rifical (Kingston, Jamaica). The collective will perform a fairytale through the visual and aural language of ten characters. A blending of history, personal experience, and the imagined, the work confronts the paradoxical representation of race in our culture.
Ni'Ja Whitson presents Oba Qween Baba King Baba -- Excerpt One, performed by the NWA Project (Kirsten Flores-Davis and Ni'Ja Whitson) and guests. Oba is a Yorùbá word for ruler, a genderless term that has come to be known as king. Oba Qween Baba King Baba explores non-binary occupations of rulers, queering sites of the parade, politics, the parisol, the processional, and the pulpit, to reexamine the embodiment/roles of father and king. Informed by personal narratives of queer and trans children of preachers, and designed to be witnessed from above -- the site/sight line of God or the Father or the Slave -- Oba Qween Baba King Baba ritualizes an interrogation into dynamics between father, masculinity, and power.

March 22 - 24, 8pm
Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
...they stood shaking while others began to shout (World Premiere)
Danspace Project (131 East 10th Street)
Reggie Wilson premieres an all new work on the occasion of Platform 2018. ...they stood shaking while others began to shout is a dynamic tapestry that connects the past with the present.

This work is influenced by Wilson's recent research into Black Shakers, particularly prominent Shaker Eldress, Mother Rebecca Cox Jackson; The Ibeji, an orisha (god) of the Yoruba religion that is represented by twins; the problems and dynamics of duets and pairing; and his 1995 work, The Littlest Baptist, which incorporated investigations into the deep South and Trinidad and Tobago - an early example of how Wilson's field research was synthesized into performative theater. Wilson plans to revisit The Littlest Baptist with an eye for reclaiming movement he created after research travels that traced his family roots in the US South, and Spiritual Baptist retentions in twin island country of Trinidad and Tobago.
Performed by Wilson's Fist & Heel Performance Group: Hadar Ahuvia, Yeman Brown, Paul Hamilton, Raja Feather Kelly, Clement Mensah, Gabi Silva, Annie Wang, and Michelle Yard, ...they stood shaking while others began to shout includes live vocal components performed by two of Wilson's longtime collaborators, Rhetta Aleong and Lawrence Harding. The vocal score incorporates Wilson's research into Ring Shouts and traditional American Baptist, Trinidad and Tobagonian Spiritual Baptist, and Shaker praise songs to find and create the phrasing and rhythms to structure the new work's ideas and choreography.
Each performance will be followed by a conversation with Reggie Wilson.


March 10, 11:45am-5pm
Bell & Water: a symposium
Danspace Project (131 East 10th Street)
Admission: $10 suggested donation, RSVP recommended.
This is an afternoon of sharing, information, and talking. It will be comprised of three parts and artistic interventions: History of Site and Memory, Story of Blackness and Downtown Dance, and How to Navigate the Platforms.
Participants include: Cynthia Copeland, Emily Johnson, Prithi Kanakamedala, Thomas J. Lax, Ernest Julius Mitchell, Radhika Subramanium, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Charmaine Warren, Reggie Wilson, and Eva Yaa Asantewaa.
11:45-12pm: Opening Ceremony by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, followed by a "light love feast"
12pm: Welcome and Introduction
12:15-1:15pm: History of Site and Memory will investigate the history of St. Mark's Church and the intersections of site, memory, and religion.
1:30-3pm: Story of Blackness and Downtown Dance asks participants to share their experiences of making dance downtown, and how thoughts on blackness have shaped their dance-making and kinesthetic investigations of site and history.
3-3:30pm: Emily Johnson Performance Offering
3:30-5pm: How to Navigate the Platforms will approach the conceptual and practical aims of Danspace Project's prior Platforms, developing a navigating tool for Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance.

Platform 2018 Schedule of Performances and Events

Unless otherwise noted, advance tickets are priced at $22 ($15 members) and can be purchased by visiting danspaceproject.org or by calling (866) 811.4111. When available, tickets can be purchased at the door on the night of the performance for $25 (cash or check only).
Unless otherwise noted, all performances and events take place at Danspace Project, located inside St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery at 131 East 10th Street (near 2nd Avenue) in Manhattan's East Village. Danspace Project's main entrance is fully wheelchair accessible via ramp. For further accessibility questions, please contact (212) 674-8112.
Week 1
Wednesday, February 28, 5pm: Walking Tour #1: East Village with Cynthia Copeland
Wednesday, February 28, 6:30pm: Platform 2018 Opening Event
Week 2
Wednesday, March 7, 5pm: Walking Tour #2: East Village with Prithi Kanakamedala
Thursday, March 8, 8pm: The Dossier Charrette: a series of working dance essays by Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, and Edisa Weeks
Friday, March 9, 8pm: The Dossier Charrette: a series of working dance essays by Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, and Edisa Weeks
Saturday, March 10, 11:45am-5pm: Bell & Water: a symposium
Saturday, March 10, 8pm: The Dossier Charrette: a series of working dance essays by Beth Gill, Jonathan Gonzalez, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Pittman, and Edisa Weeks
Week 3
Wednesday, March 14, 5pm: Walking Tour #3: East Village with Emily Johnson
Thursday, March 15, 8pm: Keely Garfield, Ni'Ja Whitson, Same As Sister
Friday, March 16, 8pm: Keely Garfield, Ni'Ja Whitson, Same As Sister
Saturday, March 17, 8pm: Keely Garfield, Ni'Ja Whitson, Same As Sister
Week 4
Wednesday, March 21, 5pm: Walking Tour #4: Harlem with Brenda Dixon-Gottschild
Thursday, March 22, 8pm: Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
Friday, March 23, 8pm: Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group
Saturday, March 24, 8pm: Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group


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