Dancers respond to exhibits 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. Providing 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 out of a common desire to meet new colleagues, experiment and be supported. This is a rare opportunity to step out of your own box and change your process in new ways in a low-risk, high-maintenance environment.”

The seven artists from the 2022 cohort will share their new works and ongoing work on Saturday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Art Omi, on the grounds of the sculpture park and in the residence studios. The screening 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 each of the dancers shares insights into their creative process. From that foundation, they “build a relationship of trust from which to dive into artistic risk-taking,” said Morgan, who is spending the rest of his year in Makawao, Hawaii, where he is vice president of programming at the Maui Center for Arts and Culture.

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

“I locked eyes with her and we stood up in unison and went straight to this beautiful hollow silo in the field,” Lavie recalls. “We didn’t really have many conversations – we just stepped into this area of ​​dirt and wood and just started. There was this initial rush of trust and excitement and care, this kinesthetic understanding between us. I was rolling in the dirt with a guy I didn’t really know, but I felt so held by him.

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

Art Omi Dance 2022

When: 5-7pm Saturday

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

Tickets: Free, book online

Information: https://artomi.org


“When you’re in the hustle and bustle of making art, your curiosity drives you to explore and explore and create, but then you get into the making machine and it’s hard to keep feeding it,” Morgan muses. “There’s a privacy-like aspect to the residency—they can recharge and explore in a very spacious way with other curious artists.”

Along with this similarity, the group strives for diversity within the group – in terms of age, experience, geography and culture, as well as training and approach. Lavy’s work ties queer discourse to physical dance theater, exploring issues of identity and community building. Billig integrates dance, film and photography to create surreal worlds inspired by sources ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to old Hollywood westerns. Raymond Pinto, a 2013 Juilliard graduate, makes artwork using the African and Latin American diasporas as a point of reference. Ntege Moses, originally from Uganda, specializes in traditional Ugandan dance forms, contemporary dance and Afro dance.

Aimé Iracema is from Mexico City, where she performed at the Center for 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 (famous for reviving the Waacking dance style from the disco era). 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, to look into each other’s processes and see how that affects our practice, to take the 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 questions about what that collaboration means.”

Over the past few weeks, projects have been challenged, reached natural conclusions, expanded and folded 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 Omi’s giant barn, and will also get a behind-the-scenes look at the process.

While dance artists may not take away the finished pieces, they plant seeds that will nurture their own work—and the dance world at large, Morgan says. Having shepherded 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 sometimes make dance an unhealthy environment for artists who exhibit this beautiful work—unfair pay structures, lack of support, 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 that they, in turn, can come out and let it influence the work in communities they live in globally.”

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