The 36th Annual Battery Dance Festival

by Michael Mahany | 8/15/2017 5:32 PM

 

On a pristine and gorgeous Sunday Manhattan evening last weekend, I walked with my wife, Sara, through Battery Park, to find a crowd of about a hundred and fifty or so, surrounding a completely flat stage. The modestly lit space, brightened mostly by the setting sun, didn't have back wall with a cyclorama or bricks, but a view onto a shimmering Hudson river and a proud Lady Liberty standing tall atop her island. With a late-summer breeze blowing in off the busy harbor, this small makeshift amphitheater set up around the stage made up of folding chairs and built in brick planter walls was not your typical run-of-the mill spaces for watching a dance concert, (although, the longer I live in and cover New York City, the more I realize artists will create a performance space anywhere they can) but this was one of the most pleasant to which I’ve been.

 

Dancers from Battery Dance at the Battery Dance Festival.

Photo Credit: Darial Sneed

 

As I approached the simple and small, but elegant space, dancers from Battery Dance took to the stage. Battery Dance, the professional dance company that makes its home in Lower Manhattan, is the host for the week long festival series that runs from August 13th through 19th in Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park— the public space just between Battery Park’s western pier and Battery Park City. The festival culminates in a reservation only final presentation at the Schimmel Center this Saturday evening.

 

This week marks the 36th incarnation of the Battery Dance Festival, previously known as the Downtown Dance Festival running since 1982.

 

Speaking to the beginnings of Battery Dance, Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander said in a program statement, “In those day, what is now Battery Park City was just a pile of sand deposited from the big dig that created the World Trade Center. Lower Manhattan streets and public spaces were deserted and dangerous at night. Forming a dance company in the financial district was regarded as an anomaly. Since then, architects and engineers and civic leaders created this magnificent community; residential life proliferated; and Battery Dance came of age with worldwide recognition for its artistry and social activism.”

 

Dancers from The Martha Graham School.

Photo Credit: Darial Sneed

 

Dedicated to fostering and creating new dance works and original music, the company brings in a multitude of companies, students, and dancers from all over the world to participate in the festival. SLK Ballet, The Dominican Republic’s Company Nacional De Danza Contemporanea, Mophato Dance Theatre from Botswana, Peridance Contemporary Dance Theatre, Bollylicious from Belgium, Ballet Inc., students from the Martha Graham School, and close to thirty other companies are set to perform during the week.

 

As a part of the weeklong festival, student dancers are also invited to participate in a free workshop series that takes place every weekday morning at Battery Dance’s studios, simply by signing up on the festival’s website.

 

Battery Dance Festival is New York City’s longest serving free dance festival. Bringing dance to one of the cities most iconic and historic spots and featuring raw, poignant, and relevant work, Battery Dance Festival is killing the game. There’s nothing more thought provoking than watching some of the best dancers from around the globe, with the Statue of Liberty hovering above, no less, bringing a variety of cultures, ethnicities, and styles to the place that served as the gateway for millions of immigrants.

 

Dancers from Trainor Dance.

Photo Credit: Darial Sneed

 

As far as summer dance festivals go, this is one not to miss— and it’s FREE. For more information on Battery Dance and the festival visit BatteryDance.org.