xyz nyc is a new approach to modern dance-making in New York City. Bringing the choreographic process to a reality-TV-inspired format, we invite modern dance-makers to meet for the first time and create an entirely new performance-ready piece in a single week.
Three to four choreographers are chosen randomly each month, and the remaining dancers make up their teams. Every month has a different theme that must be be woven into the nascent dances—past shows have included interpretations of “Free Pussy Riot,” “Museum of Natural History” and “One Step Beyond”—and choreographers must also find a way to incorporate last-minute challenges that test their technical skill and creativity.
The public performance one week later at The Tank is a competition between the pieces. After each dance, a prominent guest judge provides feedback, but the audience ultimately picks the winner. Despite the competition structure of the show, the vibe is encouraging, welcoming, and incredibly respectful of what the choreographers and dancers have accomplished in a week. In addition, all of the choreographers receive positive audience feedback and a professionally shot video of their new piece.
Why is this series important?
xyz nyc serves both the participating dancers and choreographers as well as the larger dance audience community.
Throughout the 20th century, the modern dance world has successfully dismantled many of the preconceived notions of who is a dancer and what is a dance. At this point, the audition process seems to be the last bastion of the old guard. Traditional auditions don’t serve the current generation of dancers graduating from college and moving to New York to make dances. As today’s dance artists are overwhelmingly relying on a collaborative choreographic process, they are concerned with many more factors than simply dance ability, and those other factors are very difficult to tease out in an audition. In addition, dances are often developed over the span of years, which discourages dancers to commit to a dance outside of their comfort zone, and encourages choreographers to cast people they already know, people they know they can already work well with. Wouldn’t it be great if choreographers could sketch out a new work and work with a variety of new people and expand their personal dance communities?
As a choreographer, I am often taken aback at how little my friends and acquaintances know about the choreographic process. I’m not referring to “the average American,” I’m referring to educated bourgeoisie New Yorkers who are often arts professionals themselves. As a member of the dance community, I know all too well that most dance audiences are comprised of the artists’ closest friends, and other members of the dance community. How do we open up our community in a welcoming way? How do we address the common feeling that modern, avant-garde dance is confusing, boring, and impossible to “get,” without compromising the integrity of the work? By encompassing the work in a format familiar to almost everyone- a television game show. However, unlike the popular So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing with the Stars, xyz nyc is about inspired creativity rather than technical proficiency. This show is about dancers as artists rather than athletes. By making the short choreographic process transparent to the audience- the themes and challenges of each month are communicated, and the audience is shown video clips of the process throughout the week- the opacity of modern dance will be cleared away. The audience is asked to evaluate the pieces as works of art- what moved them? what intrigued them? This series is designed to create a new generation of dance enthusiasts who are not dance professionals, but who will check out a dance performance the way non-visual artists visit a museum or gallery, or a non-musician would go to a concert.