DANCE NOW, Inspiring Creativity Through Artistic Limitation

by Michael Mahany | 9/5/2018 3:38 PM

Nicole Wolcott, left, and Gina Ianni, right, rehearsing for the 2016 DANCE NOW Festival. Photo Credit: Kevin Hagen/Wall Street Journal

The 23rd annual DANCE NOW Festival begins this week at The Public Theatre’s cabaret space, Joe’s Pub.

The festival has grown into a highly anticipated annual autumn event drawing some of New York City’s brightest emerging and established talent. Working within given guidelines of “limitation”, the festival pushes dancers and choreographers to create within the mantra of “less is more”. The festival has produced consistently exciting work and set in motion the career advancement of numerous choreographers over its two decades.

DANCE NOW, a company that developed out of New York City’s Downtown Arts Festival in 1995, began by creating destination dance events. Through staging concerts and choreographing showcases in spaces like empty swimming pools, firehouses, and galleries, the company continued to grow. In 2003, DANCE NOW began its program, Dance-mopolitan, and found a permanent home at Joe’s Pub.

DANCE NOW Festival. Photo Credit: The Public Theatre

Often, as with the case with Joe’s Pub, festival choreographers and dancers are forced to work within the literal limitation of a small performance space. The well-known cabaret venue, near Astor Place in Manhattan, has a limited sized stage not traditionally conducive to choreographed dance.

The DANCE NOW festival takes artists limitation even one step further, however— limiting time.

“The annual DANCE NOW Festival offers a unique challenge for artists,” the festival’s site states, “to create a clear and complete artistic statement in five minutes or less for the specifics of the stage at Joe’s Pub.”

Ten groups perform each night on the four-day festival, and a special one-night encore performance is scheduled for September 27th.

DANCE NOW, in the last decade or so, has grown to include more than just annual festivals. The dance company has cultivated, “five distinct programs” that serve, “a diverse and full spectrum of dance makers at varying stages of development.” Younger and new choreographers are presented “alongside emerging and maturing artists” and relationships are built within the company’s artist base. Through these relationships, these newer dance-makers receive “comprehensive assistance to support the creative process and new career opportunities.”

Outside of the festival, DANCE NOW has since developed multiple educational programs and partnerships, creative residencies, and performance opportunities.

DANCE NOW Festival. Photo Credit: The Public Theatre

DANCE NOW’s artist residency program, Silo, allows “urban dance makers an inspiring retreat away from the stresses of city life… These artists, primarily from NYC and Philadelphia, can enjoy rare, uninterrupted time to explore, create, process, rehearse and re-energize their artistic direction at historic Kirkland Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.”

While in residency at Silo, artists are encouraged to create new works in two state of the art studios located in the farm’s renovated barns. Companies of up to ten dancers are able to use the space for up to two weeks and stay on location in guest houses for only minimal costs.

DANCE NOW at SteelStacks is a program developed in conjunction with the non-profit organization ArtsQuest located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The consortium brings “New York City’s most exciting dance innovators” to the Lehigh Valley.

DANCE NOW still provides festival style opportunities for emerging choreographers to develop new works for presentation, as well.

Through DANCE NOW Boston— only in its fifth season— dancers and choreographers in Massachusetts get a chance to develop and perform in a transformed studio complex in Cambridge’s Central Square.

DANCE NOW Raw, in its ninth year, “provides emerging [New York City based] artists with a platform to show new work.”

The current 2018 DANCE NOW Joe’s Pub Festival Lineup and Schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, September 5: The Bang Group, Jane Comfort and Company, Dance Heginbotham, Brendan Drake, Raja Feather Kelly | the feath3r theory, The People Movers, Amber Sloan, Gus Solomons Jr, Nicole Wolcott, and Kate Weare Company.

Thursday, September 6: binbinFactory/Satoshi Haga & Rie Fukuzawa, Chelsea Ainsworth + Doron Perk, Alexander Davis and Michael Figueroa, Paula Josa-Jones/Performance Works, Loni Landon Dance Project, Heidi Latsky Dance, Kyle Marshall Choreography, Schoen Movement Company, TAKE Dance, and Zvi Dance.

Friday, September 7: Tsiambwom M. Akuchu, Christal Brown/INSPIRIT, dendy/donovan projects, Jamal Jackson Dance Company, Cleo Mack/Rock Dance Collective, LAJAMARTIN, Claire Porter/PORTABLES, Marion Spencer, Subject: Matter, and Riley Watts.

Saturday, September 8: Tricia Brouk, Catie Cuan x RAD Lab, Khaleah London/LAYERS, Passion Fruit Dance Company, Dimitri Peskov, Kora Radella, Shaina + Bryan: BAIRA I

MVMNT PHLSPHY, Megan Williams Dance Projects, Wallie Wolfgruber, and Yin Yue/YYDC.

Deb Lohse, also known as TruDee, will serve as the festival’s emcee.

DANCE NOW Festival tickets are $20 in advance/$25 at the door. Festival Discount Package: Buy two or more shows at $16 each. Encore tickets are $25 in advance/$30 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 212-967-7555, online at, and in person at the Public Theater box office from 2pm to 6pm. For more information, visit DANCE NOW’s website, here.

Joe’s Pub at The Public is located at 425 Lafayette Street (between East 4th Street and Astor Place).


Michael Mahany is a writer, host, actor, and serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.