Dancers respond to exhibitions at Art Omi in Ghent

For dance artists whose body is their medium, the first condition for creative exploration is a safe space in which to push their edges. Securing this space is the main goal for Christopher Morgan, director of the annual summer dance residency at Art Omi in Ghent since 2006.

“These are unique circumstances for a residency program,” Morgan said in a recent interview. “These artists come together without knowing each other, from a common desire to meet new colleagues, to experiment and to support each other. It’s a rare opportunity to get out of your box and shift your process in new ways, in a low-risk, high-support environment.”

The seven artists in the 2022 group will share their new work and work in progress on Saturday from 5-7pm at Art Omi, on the grounds of the sculpture park and in the residence studios. The show is free and open to the public.

The first four days of the residency program, which lasts just under three weeks, are structured as an in-depth process of getting to know each other, as the dancers each share insights into their creative process. From that foundation, they “build a relationship of trust from which they can dive into artistic risk-taking,” said Morgan, who spends the rest of the year in Makawao, Hawaii, where he is vice president of programming at the Center for Arts and Culture. Maui. .

Lavy, a queer dance artist based in New York City, recalls working with another resident, Maya Billig, on the group’s first collaborative exercise.

“I locked eyes with him and we got up in unison and went straight to this beautiful empty barn in the field,” Lavy recalled. “We didn’t really have much of a conversation – we just walked into this area of ​​dirt and wood and just started. There was an initial surge of trust and excitement and care, this kinesthetic understanding between us. I was rolling around in the dirt with a person I didn’t really know, but I felt so held by.”

That kind of curiosity and openness is what Morgan and the selection panel, which includes Omi board members and alumni of the residence, specifically look for when curating each year’s group.

Art Omi Dance 2022

When: 5-7pm Saturday

Where: Art Omi, 1405 County Rt. 22, Gent

Tickets: Free, book online


“When you’re in a rush to make art, your curiosity leads to research, research and creativity, but then you get into the machinery of creation and it’s hard to keep feeding it,” Morgan reflected. “There’s an attraction-like aspect to the residency—they can recharge and investigate in a very broad way with other curious artists.”

Along with this commonality, the panel aims for diversity within the group – in terms of age, experience, geography and culture, as well as training and approach. Lavy’s work connects a queer discourse with the physical theater of dance, exploring issues of identity and community building. Billig integrates dance, film and photography to create surreal worlds inspired by sources ranging from Edgar Allen Poe to Old Hollywood westerns. Raymond Pinto, a 2013 Juilliard graduate, makes performance art using the African and Latino diaspora as a starting point. Ntege Moses, a native of Uganda, specializes in traditional Ugandan dance forms, contemporary dance and Afro dance.

Aime Irasema is from Mexico City, where she performed with the Center of Contemporary Dance Production. Cat Mahari brings a background in hip hop and house; she is a former member of the Krump Gool family and a student of Princess Lockeroo (known for reviving the Waacking disco era dance style). Miriam Hermina began studying ballet at age 9 in her hometown of Fulton, Maryland, and recently graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in dance.

“We’re fascinated by our differences and we all want to learn, take a look at each other’s processes and see how that informs our practice, to take time to question where we’re coming from artistically,” Mahari said. . “One of the benefits of the residency is that we’re not focused on a product—it’s not about a product, it’s about artists collaborating and asking what that collaboration means.”

Over the past several weeks, the projects have ignited, come to natural conclusions, expanded and merged into each other, Morgan said. Attendees on Saturday will see works made in response to four different sculptures in the park, along with work displayed in Om’s giant barn, and also get a look at the behind-the-scenes process.

While dance creators may not remove the finished pieces, they plant seeds that will nurture their work—and the dance world as a whole, Morgan says. Having trained more than 160 residents from 41 countries over the past 16 years, he believes the program has a powerful ripple effect.

“I’m interested in changing the hierarchies and power dynamics that have sometimes made dance an unhealthy environment for the artists who make this beautiful work manifest—the unequal pay structures, the lack of support, the tight deadlines,” he said. “It’s a big vision, but it’s at the heart of how to foster an environment where artists can have a rich and meaningful experience and feel deeply supported, valued and appreciated, so they in turn they can go out and let it affect the work in the communities they live in globally.”

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