There are many dance festivals that are famous all over the world but then there are a few legendary one that one looks forward to being a part or just witness what they bring year after year. Among the later, is the prestigious and world famous dance festival is Battery Dance Festival, which celebrated its 41st edition this year.
The Annual Battery dance festival is New York City’s longest running free public dance festival which is in association with New York State of Opportunity and Battery Park City Authority. Each year the festival draws thousands of people and now it also is showcased online as a result of which the number of audience has increased manifolds.
With over 30 dance companies and hundreds of dancers having participated this year the super excited President of Battery Dance Festival Jonathan Hollander spoke about how the festival looked this year:
Post pandemic, Battery Dance Festival is back, how does it feel?
We feel absolutely exhilarated. But I must say that we managed to keep our festival alive and vibrant even during the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 and again in 2021, facing unprecedented challenges but feeling that the art-loving public and the performers themselves needed the enlightenment and inspiration of dance even more than in normal times. Thus we managed to film live in our iconic location with the Statue of Liberty in the background and the waves of New York Harbour as the dramatic backdrop in 2020, supplementing the dozens of beautiful made-for-camera dances from the around the world. Then in August, 2021, we went live with a hybrid program of in-person performances on our stage with live-streaming for remote audiences, supplemented by international dance films since dance companies from overseas were not able to travel at that time. This time we went “all-live” but kept our remote audience engaged through live-streaming.
What were the highlights of this year show?
We have been noted for the international roster of companies across various genres and this year was no exception. We lived up to the way The New York Times has described us “The Olympics of dance!” and at the same time, because of the no-cost aspect of our outdoor programs, Fjord Magazine dubbed “The people’s dance festival”! Having thousands of people each night, the feeling of community and camaraderie and engagement of the performers and the audience felt like a highlight, especially so after the social distancing-enforced precautions of the past 2.5 years.
How challenging was it to get the festival on this year?
After 40 years, we have the “system” of Festival coordination down to a science. However, obtaining U.S. performance visas for dancers and dance companies from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Romania, Singapore and Spain was extremely time consuming and anxiety-producing. Some of the artists literally retrieved their passports and went directly to the airport since the approval and processing were so last-minute.
It has been four decades of battery dance festival; how does it feel?
We really do not calculate the history — we just go forward with the fervour and drive and commitment that we have always had. People need art and it is our job to make sure they have access. Dance is the poorest-funded, least accessible and most marginalized of the art disciplines and we have made it our mission to provide exquisite dancing in all genres to the public and when people come out year after year and accord their love and appreciation to us and the performers, we know we are on the right path.
Tell me more about Battery Dance Company?
We perform on the world stages, teach, present and advocate for the field of dance. The Company is dedicated to the pursuit of artistic excellence and the availability of the Arts to everyone. An integral part of the fabric of New York City since 1976, Battery supports the creative process; educates children in the New York City schools; enriches the general public through local programs and performances, national and international tours, and international arts exchange programs.
Based in Lower Manhattan, Battery Dance has produced over 125 original dance works, it’s repertoire reveals a wide thematic and stylistic range. Presented in New York City and on tour in the U.S. and worldwide, Battery performances are characterized by choreography and music inspired by worldwide sources, reflecting American society and its multiplicity of cultures. The Company is among New York City’s foremost cultural ambassadors through its participation in international performing arts festivals, conferences and symposia throughout 70 countries on 6 continents. Through the award winning Dancing to Connect program, the company uses dance as a tool for building social cohesion and resolving conflict throughout the world.
Each year the festival showcases Indian Dances…
Yes, I feel I have a spiritual connect with India and Indian dances, I find Indian art forms extremely fascinating and the depth each dance has is even more intriguing, so I make sure India is a part of Battery Dance Festival each year and our world audience can get a glimpse of what India and its rich heritage and culture has to offer.
What is next on your platter?
We are already engaged in a new iteration of our creative workshops for youth and overseas performances here in Germany, with programs coming up in Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria and elsewhere. We have also recently launched a new college partnership with Vassar College and look forward to bringing free dance workshops to New York City public schools in the next months. Next year we will present the 42nd Annual Battery Dance Festival at a new location downtown — Rockefeller Park, since our home location at Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park will be undergoing a major re-make to account for rising sea levels in future.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacifica University USA, an honorary doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder, a
well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three
National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award
by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]