Queens Theater presents SUMMER VIBEZ, a 60-minute dance experience, July 25 at 1pm LIVE @ https://queenstheatre.org/
By: Paulanne Simmons
Of all the art forms, the most difficult to pursue in times of pandemic may be dance. But Queens Theatre has met the challenge. This premier performing arts venue in Queens has partnered with the D.C. based SOLE Defined and local dance companies from Queensboro Dance Festival to create a 60-minute dance experience, Summer Vibez, that will stream on Queens Theatre’s website, YouTube and Facebook channels on July 25, 2020, at 1:00pm.
The local dance companies include Cole Collective (Astoria), Flamenco Latino (Jackson Heights), Mala’s Odissi (Forest Hills), Exquisite Chill (Jamaica), FANIKE! African Dance Troupe (Springfield Gardens) and Gotham Dance Theater (Sunnyside).
The program is composed of four integrated performances by QDF companies’ dancers, choreographed by SOLE Defined artists; a live dance class for the public conducted by Crishon Jerome, and a digital dance party for all by DJ RBI, featuring dancers from QDF companies.
While creating the program, SOLE Defined artistic director Ryan Johnson says he “tried to think of which are the things that make New York City feel like New York City – music coming from windows, dance lessons in Bryant Park – and bring all of this to life in virtual programming.” At the same time, he wanted to give the Queens dancers the opportunity to work with artists outside their usual sphere.
These dancers rehearsed virtually with SOLE Defined artists for five weeks, one hour each week. Then they were given detailed information on how to self-tape. Finally, these tapes were sent for editing, which Johnson calls, “almost like choreography.”
Johnson explains that the dance company’s name, SOLE Defined, reflects the percussive nature of its dance (the sound of the sole of the shoe hitting the ground), as well as the company’s search for its “soul.” Percussion dance is rhythmic dance that “infuses tap dance with body percussion, sand dance, vocal percussion and elements of theater and technology,” which is why his artists call themselves “percussicals.” In the virtual world, this creates a hybrid form in which the dancers are taped separately performing the same choreography and edited in a way that unifies the performance.
Johnson admits creating art at this time is “hard and tedious and takes a lot of energy.” But he believes artists know how to “use art to navigate the space we’re in.” Thus, reality becomes inspiration and experience the motivation to create.
“What I love about being an artist is our ability to persevere,” says Johnson. “It was important for me to do this and to do it to the best of my ability to show that art is a necessity in our culture… If the work is sincere and passionate, people will be engaged. If you create art with love it will resonate.”
As for this Saturday, Johnson says, “It’s going to be magic.”