Battery Dance Company and Quorum Ballet in The Other Side
Step by step, new dance tackles oppression
By Wickham Boyle
Jonathan Hollander, founder of the Battery Dance Company, has dedicated three decades to forging connections in his Downtown neighborhood and around the world. In time for Valentines Day, the company holds its 33rd anniversary performance this week, at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. The program can be considered as one great, big valentine: a dynamic tribute to artistic collaboration.
Hollander is so passionate about both that a one-sided interview quickly became an edgy ITAL: pas de deux END. Having been a lucky audience member during many years of Battery Dance shows, I wondered what distinguishes this as different from previous works. The answer, according to Hollander, is that this [show] is just an artistic explosion for us. We thrive on collaboration and have had so many opportunities over the past year or two, but this collaboration with the Quorum Ballet, from Lisbon, holds a special place for me.
In the late nineties, Daniel Cardosa and his wife, Theresa da Silva, danced with the Martha Graham, Donald Byrd and Battery Dance companies. They were in their early twenties, just gorgeous dancers and lovely people, Hollander said, Lo and behold, they left New York City for Denmark and repatriated to Lisbon to dance and form a company. Daniel told me that I was his mentor and he wanted to do the same thing we had done with Battery. So for last eight months we have been collaborating.
Quorum Ballet came from Portugal last summer for the 26th annual Downtown Dance Festival (started by Hollander) and stayed to create a piece with Hollander and choreographer Thaddeus Davis. The result explores oppression on micro to macro levels. From relationships to societies, Hollander elaborated, one is always oppressing the other. This idea provides the dramatic tension. Through dance, we discuss the oppression inherent in relationships, race and immigration.
One factor that helped these tough issues to coalesce for the choreographers and performers was music. Composer Polar Levine, another Downtown artist, did Battery Drum Line and is director of Polarity/One. Hollander described him as a very, very experimental artist with a cockpit of musical and technical equipment. This gave us a through line to explore a theme and a jumping-off point.
Do you think all this artistic foment is enough? Hollander didnt. Funded by a three-year grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), he and Battery Dance began an in-house teaching workshop at the Millennium High School, a new public school across from the Stock Exchange, helmed by principal Robert Rhodes. The performance for Valentines Day includes the result of these workshops: dances choreographed by participating students. I had the distinct pleasure of attending a rehearsal early in the process and the room veritably crackled with energy and hope. And, as Hollander is quick to recall, That was in the first week. Wait until what you see what these kids have come up with!