Up on stage barefoot, moving in a circle, sounding a beat with a drumstick and a deep iron bell — we’re moving in company. I came to PS21 on a summer night for a community gathering with a dance company in residence … and I didn’t expect to be dancing. Playing music. Sitting onstage at the center of a warm chosen family of dancers who improvise together with the familiarity of people who have held each other through the pandemic.
We’re sitting in a circle in a state-of-the-art black box theater on top of a mountain, and QDance has come from Lagos, Nigeria, to talk tonight with the community of an old milltown in Chatham, N.Y. This is Performance Space 21. It’s
a center for contemporary dance, theater, with artists from around the world — Paul Taylor Dance Company, classical chamber ensembles, Andalusian folk music and Puerto Rican salsa, world premiere plays — and its a center of community.
On the night QDance came, internatinally acclaimed choreographer Qudus Onikeku told us we are not an audience and a performance — we’re people here together. An hour later, he was explaining his research into the interstices of dance and artificial intelligence, as a tool for choreographers to protect their acts of creation in digital space.
We were sitting with plats of jollof rice from Alima’s Cuisine, chicken and peanut and spice, and gingery lime juice, and the scent of the night air over the fields. The theater sits on a Taconic Ridge ot far from downtown, with a wide view across the Hudson Valley. You can walk mown grass paths through the fields, 80 acres with outdoor sculpture and a painted turtle sunning in the grass. Around sunset, before the show, you may hear the muscicians warming up. This place held an apple orchard generations ago, and in late May, the old apple trees were in full bloom.