Gibney Dance and Sonya Tayeh Explore Hope at Inside Dance Series

Amid the loss and isolation of the pandemic, celebrated choreographer Sonya Tayeh was driven to channel her complex emotions into art. That work became OH COURAGE!, an excerpt of which was intimately performed by Gibney Dance for Inside Dance Series on February 20, 2024.

“I felt this soul march to renew, reassess and excavate possibility, in courage and hope and love,” Tayeh said during a Q&A following the performance.

OH COURAGE! features a collective of dancers navigating change through pulsating and electric movement, exploring both a sense of loss and euphoric possibility. The performance seamlessly shifted between joyous sequences where the full group moved in tandem, solos impassioned with moments of sadness and loss, and athletic pairings complete with gravity-defying lifts. The dancers embodied the universal feelings of resilience and promise that permeated the early days of the pandemic.

At Inside Dance, the piece was performed by Miriam Gittens, Eddieomar Gonzalez-Castillo, Graham Feeny, Eleni Loving, Jesse Obremski, Jordan Powell, Jie-Hung Connie Shiau, Madi Tangua, Jake Tribus and Zack Sommer. The performance was introduced by Gibney Dance Founder, CEO and Artistic Director Gina Gibney and Company Director Gilbert T Small II.

The Q&A with Tayeh was moderated by Martin Wechsler, senior advisor for dance presentations at The Music Center in Los Angeles, festival associate and producer for NYC’s Center’s Fall for Dance festival and longtime supporter of Dancers Responding to AIDS. The conversation offered an inside look into Tayeh’s diverse career, covering her experiences in the commercial and concert dance worlds, the piece’s premiere at City Center, and what’s next for the revolutionary artist.

Tayeh’s diverse and flourishing career has transcended genre and dance styles. In addition to her celebrated choreography across dance repertoires and celebrity performances, she is known to many as a Tony Award winner for her work on Moulin Rouge! The Musical and for her Emmy Award nominated choreography on So You Think You Can Dance.

Inside Dance Series 2024

When asked whether she planned on pursuing directing or choreography, Tayeh wryly replied: “I want to combine them. A lot of men do that.”

The audience of supporters and dance enthusiasts alike cheered her answer. Mirroring the emotions stirred in the piece they just witnessed, the room was imbued with a sense of hope.

The evening started with a welcome from Broadway Cares executive director Tom Viola, and Denise Roberts Hurlin, the founding director of Dancers Responding to AIDS.

The performance was part of the Inside Dance Series, which offers supporters an exclusive look at dance with performances featuring acclaimed companies and choreographers. Each evening includes a Q&A with the artists and a cocktail reception.

Photos by Elyse Mertz