BAAND Together Dance Festival celebrates art and unity


“We are baaaaaack! “

So began the evening at Damrosch Park, with host Robert Battle. It was the opening night of the free BAAND Together Dance Festival, a nifty collaboration between five of New York’s biggest companies: Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet and Dance Theater of Harlem . These companies, each representing a different cultural slice of the dance world, were willing and eager to share an evening. As Battle said, we celebrate “the glory of art and the power of unity”. He joked that he did a reverse rain dance to keep the rain away.

The best part was seeing the dance live again.

No, the best part was seeing our friends in the audience (if we could recognize them with masks on) that we hadn’t seen in person in months.
No, the best part was the dance itself.
No, the best part was knowing that these iconic New York dance companies were working together to make it happen.

American dance theater Alvin Ailey in Rennie Harris’ Lazure

Photo of Erin Baiano, courtesy of Michelle Tabnick PR

As you can see, I’m having a hard time deciding which was the best part. But I wish you all had seen the actual dance. In the excerpt from Rennie Harris Lazarus, with music and sound from Darrin Ross, Ailey’s dancers have practically were the drums. Violent twists, pelvic movements and arms pushed up to the sky created the catchy sequences. The word dynamic is far from describing the euphoria of watching Lazarus. It was just too exciting to sit in our seats. The dancers were fierce when referring to oppression, but they were also cheerful. The final “Hallelujah” was felt by all.

Taylor Stanley photographed in an open bent position as he tilts his head against his right arm and looks down.

Taylor Stanley in Kyle Abraham These names that we bear

Photo of Erin Baiano, courtesy of Michelle Tabnick PR

It seemed Lazarus was an act impossible to follow, but when Taylor Stanley of the New York City Ballet started dancing These names that we bear to music by Satie, that was just what was needed. In this calm and interior solo, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, you could feel Stanley’s soul through the soft weight of his exhales and the unfolding of his hands.

Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos, pictured in silhouette.  Smith drags behind Santos with his hand on his upper back and his head thrown back, smiling.

Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “That Means Nothing” Harlem in my mind

Photo of Erin Baiano, courtesy of Michelle Tabnick PR

Moving on to the Dance Theater of Harlem, Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos performed “It Don’t Mean a Thing” by Harlem in my mind by Darrell Grand Moultrie. This duo spices up clean arabesques of jazzy riffs.

Catherine Hurlin stands behind Aran Bell in an arabesque.  The two reach upwards with their right arms.

Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in Jessica Lang’s Let me sing forever

Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Michelle Tabnick PR

American Ballet Theater contributed to Jessica Lang Let me sing forever performed by Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, to songs by Tony Bennett. (Even ABT got jazzy tonight!) Immaculate contemporary ballet with sometimes a high five. The elevators were particularly inventive, with the lyrics to “Fly me to the moon” accompanying a stunning way to launch Hurlin into the air.

In the background, a pyramid of nine dancers seated facing upside down.  In the foreground, a dancer is standing on the upright with her hands clasped above her head.

Ballet Hispánico in Gustavo Ramírez Sansano 18 + 1

Photo of Erin Baiano, courtesy of Michelle Tabnick PR

Finally, 10 dancers from the Ballet Hispánico have mambo 18 + 1, which was choreographed by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano with humor and enthusiasm. The groupings were a sculptural force that split into fun parties, and the beats were infectious.

We were all delighted to witness this glory and unity that night. The final program of the BAAND Together Dance Festival, this Saturday August 21, will resume the program of the opening night. Performances this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will vary slightly.

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