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The Dance Enthusiast Hits the Street to Play with The Playground

The Dance Enthusiast Hits the Street to Play with The Playground

Published on April 28, 2014
Students in Taryn Russell's Class for The Playground

Playing with Taryn Russell of Hubbard Street in Chicago at Gibney Dance Center- 280 Broadway

The Playground In April - Choreographer Workshop Series

More Playground on May 12-13 and May 27th,

For information, go to or

The vision of The Playground is to formulate a live, three-dimensional catalog that showcases the most sought after talent in the New York contemporary dance scene.

Selected choreographers are invited to investigate their movement process with professional dancers, while a variety of presenters in the cityare encouraged to observe.

The Dance Enthusiast had the chance to sit in on a class and speak with Taryn Russell, a visiting choreographer from Chicago's Hubbard Street teaching for the Playground, and Lori Landon, one of the Playground's founders.

Here's what they had to say:


The Dance Enthusiast: What do you try to share with your students?

Taryn Russell: Confidence and belief in themselves and their choices. I encourage endless exploration of movement and the joy of it. I grew up with a very classical and structured background and I value that. Contemporary dance and improvisation is kind of being able to manipulate your own movement to find your own voice even if you’re not going to be a choreographer.

TDE: Who influenced your your dancing and teaching?

TR: Working with Ohad Naharin and William Forsythe, learning their improvisation techniques, really opened up my thought process.  Being the director of The Second Company, where constructed three to four new creations a year... I was the person next to the choreographer, and I kept my eyes open to what processes got results from people. My ballet teachers actually informed much of my contemporary work. A man named Richard Cook, my ballet teacher, used a lot of imagery that was out of the ordinary. He was very relaxed and approachable. I really appreciated that.

Taryn Russell (in blue) leads a class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.
Taryn Russell (in blue) leads a class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.


TDE: What do you think of the open environment of the Playground ?

TR: I had been teaching in Chicago for the last 18 years. I was lucky to be with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, which I feel has a very experimental and empowering atmosphere. Moving to New York,  I wasn’t sure where I was going to find that. There are many old, structured organizations here  that have extreme integrity and wonderful artistic product, but they  are very goal oriented or audience oriented, maybe not as experimental as I would like.

I came in contact with both Greg and Lonni a couple of years back, right after they started the Playground  and I was completely floored by what they had taken upon themselves to do. They  make affordable classes for dancers just so they can work on process and be in an explorative atmosphere without that competitive edge. Having an atmosphere that is growth oriented, is invaluable. Dancers here don't feel like they’re auditioning, but playing.

Students in Taryn Russell's class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.
Students in Taryn Russell's class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.


TDE: How is it going into a class knowing you will be teaching students you’ve never worked with before?

TR:  I love it. Since having my second child, I haven’t been in the studio as much. I thrive on the atmosphere and I love new energy. I get inspired by all the different personalities in the room. In this type of environment, everybody is coming in willing to experiment. You know these people are here because they want something different and new. They want to reinvent themselves. That is a great environment to walk into.

TDE: You were teaching from the Hubbard Street Rep, can you tell us more about it?

TR: I taught part of a full length piece called One Thousand Pieces by Alejandro Cerrudo. He’s the resident choreographer of Hubbard Street. It’s his largest work for the company. Alejandro is  well known in Chicago and he is becoming a lot better known nationally and internationally. But as far as New York City is concerned, he's not been prolific  and so I think that bringing his style of choreography to the city is fun and different for these dancers.  Hubbard Street  is the type of company that has dancers that the Playground is looking for.  It is one t is one of the best international companies around and that is why I stayed with the organization for 10 years,

TDE: What does the Playground stand for and what inspired this idea of play?

Loni Landon: What differentiates the Playground from than any other class being offered, is that we are giving  time and space to dancers and choreographer . New York is so expensive for renting rehearsal space or take a class. Greg Dolbashian, the other co-founder, and I,  were discussing it, and we said, "We need to create a space where people can just practice their art  before they go and spend money to get in a studio."

We  try to cultivate a community environment, where people can see their friends and meet choreographers. It can be so anonymous here. Everybody goes to their own rehearsals and doesn't know what the rest of the community is doing.  The best part of the Playground is that every day is different, and you don’t know what you’re going to get, which is awesome.

Students in Taryn Russell's class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.
Students in Taryn Russell's class for The Playground at Gibney Dance.


TDE: What do you see in the future for the Playground?

LL: We are so excited to be at Gibney, a founding partner. It is giving us a platform to have more possibilities. We want to create more possibilities, by creating residencies and performances for the freelance dancers. We want to take the Playground across the country. We want to make opportunities for the dance community and make a difference.


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