Dance enthusiasts around the world celebrated the rich artistic culture of the Hudson Valley from the comfort of their living rooms when the Virtual Hudson Valley Dance Festival streamed online on October 10, 2020.
The event raised $100,219 for Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The first stream in the event’s eight-year history was the result of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on in-person gatherings. The event featured festival premieres, made-for-the-moment dance films and favorites from past events. Multiple pieces were reflections on life during the pandemic.
New works for the festival included dancer and choreographer Jamar Roberts presenting Cooped, a dance film and artistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of a person of color. The hauntingly gripping film is described by Roberts as “an imaginatively potent fever dream.” The piece was commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim.
Caleb Teicher, founder of Caleb Teicher & Company, shared Tee Time, an outdoor solo safely filmed in September at Kaatsbaan Summer Festival in the Hudson Valley’s own Tivoli, NY. The energetic and jubilant piece featured American Ballet Theatre’s Catherine Hurlin.
Acclaimed choreographer Adam Weinert shared an excerpt from MONUMENT. The dance, filmed outdoors around Hudson, NY, in 2016, seamlessly integrates legendary modern dance movement with original contemporary choreography and reexamines a nostalgia for Americana.
Returning from past Hudson Valley Dance Festival performances were two works. New York City Ballet soloist and choreographer Peter Walker re-shared his Words in the Fire, in which he performed with New York City Ballet’s Daniel Applebaum and Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christopher D’Ariano. The dreamlike, ethereal piece premiered at Hudson Valley Dance Festival in 2019.
A highlight from the 2018 edition of Hudson Valley Dance Festival, dancer Ricky Ubeda performed Billy Griffin’s Is That All There Is?. Set to the dulcet tones of Peggy Lee, Ubeda, who’s a So You Think You Can Dance champion and in Broadway’s West Side Story, infused his incomparable jazz skills with a touch of dark humor.
And two pieces that premiered earlier this summer at Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival returned for an encore. Ayodele Casel shared her effervescent and virtuosic solo Oscar Joy, filmed at the Original Tap House, her home dance studio in the Bronx, NY.
Surrounded by the leafy bounty of the Hudson Valley at his residency center in Round Top, NY, Stephen Petronio shared his stirring Are You Lonesome Tonight. The filmed piece featured Lloyd Knight, guest artist from Martha Graham Dance Company, and Nicholas Sciscione, a Stephen Petronio Company member.
The evening also included a reel of highlights from past Hudson Valley Dance Festivals.
Following the performance, sponsors and donors were invited to an online talkback with artists from the show and from Hudson Valley. The panel, led by Dancers Responding to AIDS Founding Director Denise Roberts Hurlin, included Casel, Griffin, Hurlin, Petronio, Teicher and Weinert, as well as Kaatsbaan Dance Center Artistic Director Stella Abrera, acclaimed choreographer Jonah Bokaer and The Lion King‘s Ray Mercer. The group discussed limitations and sources of inspiration while creating works during the pandemic.
“Dancing and living an artistic life is how I feel a day has meaning,” Teicher said. “I’m waking up and doing something that allows me to experience reciprocity in the world. I receive something from the world and I get to give back to the world. I missed the meaning dance provided in my life.”
The group also discussed the artistic draw of the dance festival’s home turf.
“There is nothing like the light in the Hudson Valley,” Petronio said. “It’s transcendent.”
The money raised during the Virtual Hudson Valley Dance Festival helped Broadway Cares provide additional, emergency grants of $2,500 to each of 13 organizations based in the Hudson Valley that are already part of its National Grants Programs. The organizations are Albany Damien Center and Alliance for Positive Health in Albany, Animalkind, Columbia-Greene Community Foundation and Hudson Valley SPCA in Hudson, Matthew 25 Food Pantry and Community Hospice in Catskill, Hudson Valley Community Services in Hawthorne, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston, Rock Steady Farm in Millerton, Roe Jan Food Pantry in Hillsdale, TOUCH (Together Our Unity Can Heal) in Congers and Troy Area United Ministries in Troy.
Each of the 13 organizations receives a discretionary grant, in addition to their annual support. This is a special gift to mark what would have been the in-person version of the Hudson Valley Dance Festival and to help the organizations respond to the overwhelming challenges of the pandemic in the Hudson Valley.
The virtual and in-person editions of the annual dance festival have raised $1 million for people in need across the country and in the Hudson Valley during the festival’s eight editions.