DANCE WITH US
Welcome to Dance With Us. A platform to engage with dance. To watch dance, talk about dance, and dance yourself. To get excited about, and learn about, dance. Talking about and teaching dance is something Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company has been doing for a long time. Since forming twenty-three years ago, the nonprofit has stayed focused on this mission of making dance accessible, interactive, and meaningful. A teaching and performing company since its inception, the Company has a history of talking about and breaking down dance, describing it, and performing it. A history of educational programming forms the foundation for this new platform.
The platform launched over the weekend of June 25-27, 2021 in a series of live events. The same program repeated on the three successive evenings, with a special guest host each night. The evenings were hosted by emcee Daniel Gwirtzman with special guests Dante Puleio, Artistic Director of the Limón Dance Company on June 25; Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Artistic Director of EMERGE125 (formerly Elisa Monte Dance) on June 26; Seán Curran, Artistic Director of the Seán Curran Company on June 27. The kickoff events included an exclusive guided tour of the website, which can be seen HERE, the screening of several short films, the World Premieres of Parade, Willow and Dollhouse, and previews of six new dance films that will launch monthly through the end of 2021.
Click HERE to see a program and watch the slideshow from the events.
Michael Novak, Artistic Director, Paul Taylor Dance Company, appeared all three nights with this special message.
WHAT IS DANCE WITH US?
The Dance With Us platform is a library of films designed to teach ways to view, think, and communicate about dance. It is a place for people to interact with dance on multiple levels. Geared toward a general viewership, this resource demystifies concert dance by explaining the foundational elements of dance and exploring how dance is made. Combining performance and instructional footage, Dance With Us hews to Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company’s manifesto that everyone can engage with dance. There is content designed for those that are newcomers to dance, for students studying dance, and for professionals in the field. Making dance available for all is the core value that has characterized the Company’s work since its inception in 1998, a long-embodied philosophy that everyone can join the dance. The platform continues in this tradition, presenting ideas about watching dance, empowering viewers to trust and own their opinions, increasing dance literacy, and sharing some of the compositional devices used in constructing dances. Dance With Us contains a trove of filmed dances and dance films that can be used to illuminate these objectives. New films are released monthly beginning July 2021.
PLATFORM LAUNCH Q & A
Each of the three nights of the Platform Launch, Daniel responded to questions and comments from viewers.
Enjoy this recording from the live Closing Night event, June 27, 2021.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
A History of the Platform
The Company has been producing interactive lecture-performances since its first season in 1998. Talking about, teaching, and performing dance has been the triple platform from which all programming has sprung. Working in partnership with many diverse communities and organizations, including the New York City Department of Education, has allowed the Company plentiful opportunities to present this programming over decades. The pedagogy balances the acquisition of skills with creative exploration, the heart of the programs.
The Company has a history of producing educational video materials. An interactive Swing Dance DVD bringing dance instruction remotely into a classroom -- a commitment to access and equity -- was piloted in the mid 2000s. In 2015, the Company developed Project CHORD with the support of a CUNY Choreographic Development Institute (CDI) residency, Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, and Kennesaw State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Atlanta. The collaborative project was developed over several months between four apprentices, all dance majors at the time at Kennesaw State University, and Daniel Gwirtzman.
Project CHORD, Choreographic Help on Realizing Dance, was designed as a resource to advance choreographic pedagogy through illustrating the fundamentals of dance making through films. The research culminated in a summer residency in New York City, where the students worked and performed alongside the Company, a transformative experience for them. The project has been presented at the National Dance Education Organization’s annual conference in Phoenix, AZ, New York University’s Tisch Dance and New Media Conference, and Towson University’s Department of Dance in Maryland.
A grant received from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the late summer of 2019 provided the leadership support to propel the interactive educational digital resource into motion. From the beginning the multi-fold project sought to combine the documentation of the Company’s live events with additional footage shot in the studio. The resulting films merge the instructional with the performative, with the goal of introducing a non-dancer into the world of dance. The goal from the beginning has been to distribute this resource widely and freely, contributing these materials to the Open Educational Resources movement, in which knowledge is shared without cost, providing access to all.
Since 2008, the Company has hosted an apprenticeship program, helping to bridge pre-professional work and professional employment. Apprentices have performed regionally and nationally with the Company over many years. The Dance With Us platform features a range of apprentices. Click HERE to read about their work.
To read more about the genesis of the platform, read Daniel’s interview HERE.
Involving Communities into the Dance
In October 2019, five months before the pandemic shut down most of the United States, Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company was in residence in Sheridan, Wyoming working with elementary school children, high school and college students, and older adults. The week-long collaboration culminated in a featured presentation of Welcome to the World of Dance, weaving the Company with local community members as part of the Whitney Center for the Arts’ season. Integrating communities into the dance-making and dance-performing processes has been a central theme since the Company's inception. In 1998, Evolution premiered with a cast of community members of various ages in Martha’s Vineyard; in 2002, the production was re-mounted and expanded during a two-month residency in Rauma, Finland as Evoluutio; in 2003 Renascimento, an evening-length dance was produced in Salvador da Bahia, Brazi, with thirty community members ranging in age from 7-65.
Welcome to the World of Dance, an interactive performance-lecture, is geared toward educating audiences ways to view and think about dance, and to speak about dance with comfort. The show introduces language, perspectives, and essential concepts that structure the art form of modern dance. Some of footage on the LEARN page, especially on The Theater page, is from this show, the last tour before the pandemic cancelled engagements, five months later.
First produced in 2000, this is the seed for the willow tree of this platform. A rich history. It has become the distillation of the Company’s repertory and ethos. The show is designed to create a meaningful dance experience for each participant. Reviewing the show at the time of its premiere, The New York Times called it “a delightful introduction...explaining what contemporary choreography is all about. The dancers then take the lesson several thrilling steps further by inviting the young audience members to join in. By the time the last strains of the score from Saturday Night Fever were heard, most of the adults were on their feet, too.” If you’re interested to dance The Bus Stop too, check out the Interactive page.
THE RESIDENCY: SUMMER 2020
Developing Willow, Dollhouse, Parade
The Company was in residence in August 2020 for two weeks in Newfield, NY. Early on in the pandemic, the organization took measures for the dancers and collaborators to work together safely. Three main films were produced which herald the launch of the new platform. They premiered June 25-27 with our Launch Party on Vimeo Live: the opener Parade, the elegiac Willow, and the humorous Dollhouse, filmed in an eclectic interior and set to piano wizard Jonny May’s stride version of I Got Rhythm at breakneck speed. A lot of new content was choreographed, taking advantage of the stunning property and advancing the objectives of the platform, sharing insights into the creative process and teaching concepts about dance.
The platform has been designed to teach audiences about the numerous elements involved in putting a show on, peeking behind-the-scenes in order to gain an understanding of the myriad jobs involved with stage production and ways to view choreography. An additional benefit of the platform for pre-professional students in dance training programs, as well as professionals, spans learning, or being reminded of, the craft of choreography. The platform hopes to help cultivate future choreographers, and seeks to share knowledge about the creative processes, how dancers influence that process, how choreographers work, and how these fundamental skills strengthen and support the interpretive work all performers follow.
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED DURING THE PANDEMIC?
“Being in touch with humanity and understanding empathy is articulated and sharpened through the arts,” said Daniel in June 2020, the first summer of the pandemic. “Art in general provides that opportunity to be in touch with the range of emotions and the range of connections that make us tick as humans. And dance specifically, where you are literally sharing somebody’s weight, you’re holding somebody’s hand, you’re looking in their eyes. You’re having an analog connection, not a digital connection, in this increasing age of more and more technology and distractions. The spirit of being alive comes through art.”
One of the new films central to the Dance With Us platform is The Fantasyland Project, which premiered a few months into the pandemic. The film enjoyed a limited screening at that time. Now the film is housed on the new platform, free of charge and available for all to enjoy.
The Fantasyland Project, a collaboration between choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman and a cast of sixteen dancers, investigates the notion of fantasy through a range of lenses. Through a very socially distanced process, each dancer was charged with responding to a series of written prompts to spark the conceptual kernel that interested them most. Working to distill the intellectual ideas and ground them in a concrete scenario, the process of creating a unique fantasy necessitated finding a location, and collaborating with the choreographer, costumer, and composer. The project reflects this moment in time as a springboard from which to explore the mundane, comedic, dramatic, and the terrible.
“I don’t want to see any more dances of dancers in their living rooms,” Daniel wrote to the Company dancers when he explained a vision for transforming a cancelled spring/summer performing season into an ambitious film project involving sixteen dancers in sixteen different locations. The project began a year earlier, in July 2019, when Daniel dreamt up the concept and title for the presciently named Fantasyland while in Greece. “I think this moment in time is one in which we all are fantasizing: about life before, and after, the pandemic. To the extent that this project can reflect the urgent events shaping all of our lives - how this theme of utopia and harmony fits against the current climate - is something the Company is interested in investigating.”
ENJOY THE PLATFORM
The platform provides multiple opportunities to gain insight into the world of dance from listening to the dancers’, other collaborators', and choreographer’s perspectives.
Enjoy the programs from the launch event for Dance With Us!
Enjoy the slideshow from the launch event for Dance With Us!