“You’re late!” A thin muscular man calls out, his chin pointed high in the air with dissatisfaction.
A young lady joins a string of other young women lined up at Tandem’s wooden bar. Each is dressed in some variation of stretch pants and a tee-shirt; some are barefoot, some in socks. The man lowers his chin and takes a tall stance, “Okay, let’s start with pliés.” This weekend as part of Bushwick Open Studios, men and women found themselves clamoring for a spot at Tandem’s bar, or should we say barre, for a ballet class hosted by Movement Research. Taught by long time dancer and choreographer Greg Zuccolo, the class was a surprisingly vigorous two hour full of tondués, rond de jambs, and pirouettes.
“Okay, this one is for a shot. Whoever does it best and whoever does it worst.” What’s an afternoon at the bar without drinking games? Perhaps the biggest challenge for attendees was mastering turns without actually getting the spins.
Curator Larissa Velez-Jackson says challenging traditional concepts of dance was a big part of Movement Research’s spring dance festival this year. “Ballet Barre at the Bar” was designed to play with how a ballet class is conducted as well as examine the differences between public and performance space. “You could walk around, have a beer, talk to your friends,” says Velez-Jackson. In a more traditional setting dancers are required to be focused, disciplined, and quiet.
Ballet class at Tandem was anything but. Movement Research hosted a variety of these hybrid events this past weekend that combined social settings with performance and dancers with non-dancers and visual artists. Velez-Jackson says she was trying to cultivate a more diverse audience while taking a few risks in performances. “We really wanted to expand and break the mold of previous dance festivals. They did not represent the climate of dance making.”
And they succeeded in one sense. The program over the weekend was eclectic. There were small traditional dance performances; a ballet class; a dance party that incorporated some performance; dancers working as visual artists and vice verse to create performance art. In this sense the four curators involved with this year’s festival worked hard to replicate the innovation going on in the dance world, instead of only showcasing new choreographic works. However, the weekend was not a total success.
“Ballet Barre at the Bar” didn’t get the turnout they were looking for (pun not intended). “We were hoping for more foot traffic,” says Velez-Jackson. It attracted about 10 women, the majority of which had previous ballet training. There were also very few audience members and they seemed to be comprised of left-over-brunch-crowd.
However, Velez-Jackson says she felt the show was embraced by the dance community this year and that felt good.
Movement Research offers a variety of dance classes and workshops throughout the year and holds a dance festival annually in the Spring and Fall.