Magazine article Dance Magazine

Past the Proscenium: In-Theater Site-Specific Works Are Trending among Concert Dance Companies

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Past the Proscenium: In-Theater Site-Specific Works Are Trending among Concert Dance Companies

Article excerpt

Donning sneakers, 24 dancers performed the rapid, rhythmic contemporary movement of Benjamin Millepied's Counterpoint for Philip Johnson during American Ballet Theatre's fall season. Using members of the ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the commission was an unusual late addition to the program. But even more unusual was its setting: The work was danced not behind the proscenium, but as an intermission interlude on the tiered balconies of the David H. Koch Theater promenade, with the dancers looking down on the patrons from above.

With pieces like Counterpoint at ABT and Peter Chu's Space, In Perspective at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Paris Opera Ballet looking to set work in the public spaces of the Palais Gamier this spring, in-theater site-specific works are trending among companies whose seasoned patrons are more used to sitting comfortably in the dark.

Site-specific work isn't new, particularly among contemporary dance circles. (Case in point: Space, In Perspective was not the first work to take advantage of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance's non-theatrical spaces.) The scale, however, of these recent efforts from companies who customarily present work in big, proscenium settings is notable. Choreographers are looking to every corner of their home venues, getting off the stage and changing the rules about how theatrical spaces are used.

Similarly to Counterpoint, Chu's Space, In Perspective used members of the new Hubbard Street Professional Program. The evening-length work asked patrons to "follow a dancer" on unmapped tours through the Harris' lesser-known spaces, like the loading dock and dressing rooms. The work culminated onstage, with the dancers' backs to an empty house, audience members close enough to feel their breath. …

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