As collaborative dance projects go, this is a big one — 18 dance artists from all around New England showcased in one jam-packed weekend. Called New England Now Dance Platform and presented at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston March 18-20, it’s part of the National Dance Project’s Regional Dance Development Initiative, designed to strengthen regional dance communities by making dance more visible and viable, and broader in scope. It’s the first time the 15-year-old RDDI has focused on New England since 2007.
For area dance lovers, the weekend promises three very different programs over consecutive days, each designed to suggest the remarkable range of movement creativity taking place around New England. Audiences can expect to see everything from contemporary and ballet to hip-hop and tap, and voguing and dance for camera.
“Over three performances, Boston audiences will encounter a stunning variety of dance forms, styles, and themes and recognize the depth and breadth of our region’s dance artists,” says John Andress, the ICA’s Bill T. Jones Director/Curator of Performing Arts. The New England Foundation for the Arts, Global Arts Live, and the ICA have partnered to sponsor the performances.
Involving professional dancers from each New England state, the performances are the culmination of a yearlong initiative that NEFA’s program director of dance, Indira Goodwine, says will help reimagine the New England dance landscape. The goal is to support performance opportunities and set participating artists up to become leaders in their dance communities. “It’s part of building networks for sustainability,” Goodwine says, “deepening relationships to talk about what’s next — how do we contribute to the culture and how does it ripple out to build a more sustainable landscape for dance in the region?”
In July, a group of 12 dance artists, chosen by a regional panel, participated in a seven-day Professional Development Lab at Bates Dance Festival. This past fall, a virtual Intersectional Summit connected the group with leaders in education, the sciences, and political/social organizing to share and learn from each other. Conversations between artists, regional curators, presenters, and producers will continue over the March performance weekend.
“I have friends who were in the Chicago version of RDDI, and it’s cool to see how NEFA has shaped this to this region specifically,” says participant Ian Berg. “This feels very actionable, part of something really happening, not just talking.” To Friday’s dance program, he will contribute a tap trio (perhaps with live music) being developed for his Boston-based company SUBJECT:MATTER.
Deborah Goffe, assistant professor of modern-contemporary dance at Hampshire College, and a member of her Connecticut-based Scapegoat Garden since 2002, says this opportunity connects her with a broader community. “There are a lot of life demands that can sometimes overshadow a creative practice, especially those of us living outside of perceived cultural centers,” says Goffe, who will perform Sunday, March 30, in a quartet from her work “Liturgy/Order/Bridge.” “I have needed that kind of camaraderie and co-dreaming together, to see something more for ourselves.” All of which should lead to a richer, more active and diverse viewing experience for audiences.
NEFA asked the original 12 participants to recruit six more, so that the group would better represent New England dance’s multiplicity. One of them is Toby MacNutt, who lives in Burlington, Vt., and identifies as a queer, nonbinary trans, disabled artist. MacNutt is bringing two excerpts from a solo show in development called “A Singular They.”
“It’s based on my experience as a person who has fluidity in a lot of the ways I exist in my body,” MacNutt says. “I’m a nonbinary transgender and disabled person whose disability has varied over the course of my life. In the show, I started out looking at how change works in the body — either with gender or disability — and ended up realizing it’s a very pertinent topic to the rest of my life. I’m really working on pulling out that idea of change and fluidity … and I’m excited to see what the other artists have been making, particularly after this weird, weird time we’ve been going through for the last couple of years.”
MacNutt appreciates the chance to share work beyond their geographic area. “We often end up a bit siloed in New England, so for people to really recognize how much dance is happening in the region and build connectivity is really exciting. … It’s also been really gratifying in the past couple of years to see NEFA shouldering the work of dance in New England and how we can boost it and elevate it and connect and grow it,” MacNutt said. “The timing with RDDI coming back to New England at this moment seems really great.”
Goffe sees RDDI as a catalyst. “There’s an enormous amount of talent and creative tenacity in this region,” she says. “I think we’ve only just begun.”
NEW ENGLAND NOW DANCE PLATFORM
At Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, March 18-20; tickets $10-$25 per program, www.globalartslive.org
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.