By EMERI FETZER
To kick off 2013, New York City will once again turn its full attention to the performing arts. The annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference joins hundreds of performing artists with presenters from all over the world in hopes of forging connections and fostering plans for future engagements. It's like a giant shopping expo of performances, peppered with seminars, meetings, and parties.
But you don't have to be a professional artist to enjoy what's happening at APAP. Anyone can buy a ticket to the theatre and dance pieces on display.
Dance takes center stage from January 8-14. That's when the Focus 2013 dance festival will appear at the Joyce Theater, Ailey Citigroup Theater, the NYU Skirball Center, and New York City Center.
The mission of this multi-part, multi-venue showcase is to highlight American dance with an eye toward international touring. With 30 dance companies performing on three stages over one week, both casual and passionate dance fans can find something satisfying.
For its part of the festival, the Joyce will feature eight companies, including NYC-based Camille Brown and Dancers. Ms. Brown has been nurtured and featured by the Gotham Arts Exchange, the founding body of Focus, so the relationship here between presenter and artist is one of longstanding partnership and growth.
Brown will be presenting 3 works: The Real Cool, City of Rain, and Been There Done That. The latter, a duet with Juel D. Lane, has become a crowd favorite in the choreographer's repertoire. "We play classic performers from the 1950/60s," Brown says. "You always see duos from that era dancing as if there's no place they'd rather be. I always wondered if these pairs even liked each other and were just putting up a front. The work is a peek at the onstage antics of a duo." To communicate this dynamic, Lane and Brown speak to each other onstage as they negotiate their steps. They play back and forth, competing for the spotlight. The piece illuminates that even in partnerships, there is a star. "I have to be on my toes with Juel! I never know what he's going to say!" Brown says.
Like the selections from Brown's repertoire, many of the Focus dances are tried and true. They are works that act as company signatures---artistic statements to be packaged and exported.
For instance, Los Angeles company BODYTRAFFIC is appearing in the Skirball's segment of Focus 2013, which is dubbed Dance Gotham. Tina Berkett, artistic co-founder of BODYTRAFFIC, feels that since the company is celebrating its fifth season, this is ideal time to be highlighted at the festival. Featured works will include choreographer Richard Siegel's O2Joy, which offers fresh movement interpretations of beloved songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, and the Oscar Peterson Trio.
For BODYTRAFFIC, Focus is a major financial investment that requires bringing eight dancers (plus administrators) across the country. However, Berkett says, "It's a valuable [expense]. Often, companies try to tour too early, when it takes a few years to fine-tune and be ready to be shown. We have spent five years honing our product."
Beyond formal, ticketed showcases, Focus also incorporates smaller studio showings, so BODYTRAFFIC can also show new works-in-progress by choreographers Zoe Scofield and Sidra Bell.
"I always tell my friends and family who are new to dance to come to Dance Gotham," Berkett says. "When else can you see four different companies in one program? They might find out what they like and what they don't like."
Focus will inevitably be a meeting of the minds in the dance field. Positioned within the larger umbrella of performing arts, it is a chance for American artists to reunite, reignite, and plan for big projects on the global stage. As audiences, we can be assured companies are offering the cream of their crops. We can celebrate the continued success of those we know and in the same hour, develop a new, budding love.
Emeri Fetzer is the Online Managing Editor of DancePulp.com, a website about professional dance and dancers
Photo Credit top of page - Christopher Duggan Piece - City of Rain Company Shot
Photo Credit home page - Matt Karas Piece - Been There, Done That Dancers from Left to Right: Juel D. Lane and Camille A. Brown