This August, Dancing in the Streets, an organization that offers free public dance performances to New York City communities, produced its Dancing Through the Bronx festival, which showcased the work of four choreographers in site-specific performances at Hayden Lord Park in the Bronx, New York.
In one work, “MOUNT Hayden Lord”, choreographer, dancer and dance educator Marsi Burns brought together a group of dancers and non-dancers ages nine through 73. A part of this group with Burns included fellow teacher Jo Robbins, along with their former student at State University of New York (SUNY) Westchester Community College, Peg Moore-Maioriello. Together, they were reunited in the newly-developed Hayden Lord Park.
Moore-Maioriello, who now teaches at Transcend Dance, Inc., in Mount Vernon, New York, and has her own company, Metropolidance, says she, Burns and Robbins have all kept in touch over the years, and that these two college dance professors have served as professional and personal mentors. To again be a part of a work with them was a “full circle” experience, she says.
“They really prepared me for what was to come in the world of New York City dance,” Moore-Maioriello says. “They also prepared me for company work and instilled a love of modern dance in particular. It was an honor to work with Marsi again. She is incredibly talented as a choreographer, teacher and dancer. Marsi, Jo and I coming together at this incredible park to dance with each other at this age was like a dream.”
Burns particularly sought out dancers and non-dancers of all ages and from all walks of life for this multi-generational project with Dancing in the Streets. The work, which Moore-Maioriello nicknamed “Trail Mix” due to the nature of the performance environment, was a combination of set choreography and improvisational instruction to the dancers.
“She was open to suggestions from the dancers, especially because this was a site-specific piece,” Moore-Maioriello adds. “At some points, we were on steep sloping walls, metal fencing and elevated walls. All choreography and rehearsals were done at Hayden Lord Park, a phenomenal realization of what a park could be that really served the community.”
This performance was brought even more full circle, as one of Moore-Maioriello’s first dance students was in the audience.
That former student, Patti Charleston, a mixed media artist, says, “Marsi Burns created a great piece, and the dancers of every age were beautiful! I loved that she brought individual dancers of every type and age to perform in such an incredible place. I would like to see a lot more of this everywhere possible.”
Hayden Lord Park was revitalized just two years ago and was designed to create a sustainable and educational art space for the community. The park space is covered in mainly impressive mosaic tile and glass art, and it includes a seating area, checkerboard tables, a playground and an organic garden.
As an artist, Charleston says she really appreciates all the work that was put into the park.
“A community can come together with organizations and develop such a beautiful multi-use space, filled with art: murals on every wall, incredible mosaic tile and glass everywhere, including ‘snaking’ seating and walls,” Charleston says.
Burns, along with the three other choreographers who presented work at Dancing Through the Bronx, utilized the element of dance to add to the already art-inspired Hayden Lord Park.
“They gave the choreographers an opportunity to add dance to this space, which was not specifically created with dance in mind, with no dedicated stage or viewing area of some sort,” Moore-Maioriello says. “It certainly felt like a site-specific piece, which added the dance arts to the range of art happening at this incredible park.”
Dancing in the Streets aims to “build bridges across generations, communities and cultures” through its series of public dance performances, and this recent event and the work that Burns presented, seems to truly align with that mission.
“I think that the community needs to see more art-based dance in general,” Moore-Maioriello remarks. “It is an honor to work under and with Marsi and with Jo. It is giving back to the community my personal skill and passion, their legacy and new works together at our age. We are all capable dancers who are in relatively good condition from a life of dance. I think the dance arts bring beauty to a site, as well as a dialog with the community and questions to stimulate the audience.”
For more information on Dancing in the Streets and its programs, head to www.dancinginthestreets.org.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): A public dance performance produced by Dancing in the Streets. Photo by Ricardo Muniz.