This week, the lower tip of Manhattan is being taken over by dancers, thanks to the 35th Annual Battery Park Dance Festival. The free public festival, which takes place outside at Battery Park over the course of 7 nights (through August 20), features work by a variety of local and international companies, including everyone from Mumbai-based Indian dance company Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts to the Martha Graham School. But at the helm of this giant dance undertaking is Battery Dance, a New York-based dance company with a global mission that should definitely be on your radar.
Based in Lower Manhattan, Battery Dance has been creating work for 40 years, and has presented over 100 works choreographed by founder and Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander. Their repertoire is as wide-ranging as New York itself, reflecting America’s multiculturalism and drawing on influences from around the world. Most recently, the company’s New York Season last May included the world premiere of The Durga Project, which blended both Indian and Western dance and music, along with works choreographed by former Martha Graham principal Tadej Brdnik and South African choreographer and iKapa Dance Theatre founder Theo Ndindwa.
But this company’s worldwide mission goes far beyond their choreography. Calling themselves “New York City’s dance ambassadors to the world,” Battery Dance has partnered with over 200 foreign organizations and traveled to more than 62 countries worldwide, where they’ve performed, held master classes, lectured, and provided technical training. Other dance companies embarking on a worldwide tour can even learn something from the company’s international travels, thanks to Battery Dance’s Cultural Diplomacy Toolkit, which documents the company’s stay in each country and the lessons they learned working there.
In addition to their international outreach, Battery Dance works with public schools throughout New York City. At the centerpiece of their local and global educational work is Dancing to Connect, an award-winning educational initiative that “engages participants in creativity and team-building through the art form of modern dance.” The program helps with various school subjects and helps to tackle such massive cultural issues as inclusion/exclusion, conflict resolution, empowering the less advantaged, gender-based violence, human trafficking, and perceptions of disabled communities—all one dance step at a time.
“Battery Dance Company is a unique institution,” says Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander. “One could think that we’re spread too thin, because we run a festival for the public, we’re in New York City public schools, we’re in 60 countries around the world, we’re creating and performing new work every year. But we see that as a fabric. It all speaks to the impact that you can have as a dancer on your community—and your community can be as small as a small part of the city, like Tribeca, or the entire world.”
Battery Dance can be seen in action this week at the Battery Park Dance Festival, which they co-present in association with the Battery Park City Authority. The company will be performing in the evening programs on August 19 and 20. For more information about Battery Dance, visit batterydance.org.
Meet our newest blogger: Alison Durkee is an NYC-based freelance arts writer with a passion for dance and theatre. Her writing has appeared in such publications as City Guide NY, Exeunt Magazine, and Critical Dance, and she also serves as the Features Editor for the London-based theatre website Everything Theatre.