a performing and teaching company

Bryant Park Blog

A blog created by DGDC to illuminate the behind-the-scenes process of reconstructing dances and preparing for our Bryant Park performance, July 10, 2015.

Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company has a history of performing in Bryant Park.  In our sixteen-year history we have been presented three times before, twice by Dancers Responding to AIDS, when we performed Puzzle and Obsession, and once by the Booking Dance Festival, Daniel’s signature solo for himself Character.

This return to Bryant Park marks the first time the Company will present an extended program.  and we are taking advantage of the opportunity to share some of the favorite dances from the diverse repertory.  These dances, all accessible, theatrical, musical and colorful, are audience favorites that have enjoyed many performances throughout the years.  However, this program, combining ten dances in thirty minutes, has yet to be seen in New York.

With an acclaimed cast of fifteen dancers, the Company brings its classic summertime program, which previewed at the Nazareth College Summer Dance Festival in 2011 and premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2012, to New York for the first time.

In preparation for the Bryant Park performance, DGDC is working to revamp many previous works for the unique outdoor setting and the dimensions of its stage. Being a repertory company, DGDC strives to maintain the detail-oriented and intricate choreography despite rotating and growing casts of dancers. Throughout the rehearsal process leading up to Bryant Park, the lively energy of the movement vocabulary allows this group of dancers (some of whom have never performed together before) to form a welcoming community and camaraderie with each other despite their various dance backgrounds.

While the process of preparing for Bryant Park has been in motion for months, only now, two weeks before the performance, have we begun to integrate the many moving parts: dancers, choreography, notes, costumes, music; the whole show must come together at a dauntingly-fast pace.

Director and choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman says, “Some of the dancers are learning new roles, other dancers are reconstructing old roles that have not performed in a few years.  This is the life of a repertory company with over one hundred dances in its repository.  A repertory company is a most intricate and fragile enterprise. Maintaining dances, the most ephemeral of the arts. As we are re-learning the dances, with the use of video and written notes, so many details to figure out. Each time we perform, or remount, a work, there is the opportunity to refine our understanding and execution of it. How scrubbed/polished can a dance be?  It’s an endless quest, but we work under the pressure of time to achieve the greatest sheen possible.”

Most exciting for the Daniel and the Company is having long-time dancer Stacy Martorana (courtesy of Mark Morris Dance Group) joining the ranks.  Stacy first began dancing with DGDC in 2006 and has consistently danced through the years, even when working with Merce Cunningham’s Repertory Understudy Group and Mark Morris Dance Group, where she is currently.  Daniel says, “To be able to dance with Stacy again is pure joy. The connection that history forges cannot be underestimated or easily replicated. There are no shortcuts for time. Her role in the Company’s history, the dances made for and with her, what she has contributed, is an important part of the legacy of the repertory, and the other dancers gain a sense of history through her involvement.”

While Stacy will be featured in multiple dances at Bryant Park, including the much-loved A-Tisket, A-Tasket solo, she is not the longest-standing member of the Company.  Those roles go to Oren Barnoy (since 2000) and Jason Garcia Ignacio (2001), who will dance together in Dreamland, a duet choreographed in 2013.

Bryant Park brings together an array of dancers from the Company. Derek Crescenti reflects: “Having been present from the very beginning of the creative process for Olympiad and Museum, the reconstruction process has thus far been an exciting opportunity to dive back into the work, clarify, and continue to explore the aesthetic that is a signature of DGDC. I enjoy every opportunity to work with Daniel and The Company as we continue to deepen our relationship through the recreation of existing repertory and development of new works.”

Aslan Rolston: ” Today was an exciting day in the studio…The energy is there to carry us into these next two weeks before our show at Bryant Park, and it’s revitalizing! Daniel’s work has a layer of challenges but is always met with time, patience, and persistence. I’m really happy to have the chance to learn all of this new repertory as so far I have only learned The Oracle. Ready for the push!”

Justin Keats: “I’m excited to be back with DGDC and to be learning and performing Danny’s classic rep. Even though it’s only day one, I can tell this process is going to feel like a drag race. By that I mean we started by flooring it and have to speed learn because the finish line is pulling up fast! The race is on and it will be over before we know it! I also couldn’t be more excited to perform in Bryant Park, a place that holds, for me, some very fond memories.”

Jeff Davis, who danced this program at Jacob’s Pillow, remarks,” Getting the chance to perform with Daniel Gwirtzman Dance again is very exciting. Olympiad is a really challenging, fast and dynamic dance so today was a great way to fire back into Daniel’s style. The young dancers are great to have in rehearsal. They bring a fresh young enthusiasm to the workplace. Im very excited to continue this process. I’m most excited  to be performing in Bryant Park. What a fabulous location to dance!!”

The dancers of which Jeff speaks are four apprentices working with the Company, students from Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, GA. Daniel, teaching at the University, was able to obtain a grant to bring the apprentices to New York for the summer to understudy and perform. Their perspectives cast a different light on the process.

Simon Phillips, who will perform at Bryant Park: “At the beginning of the process, I began to think of things that come to mind when I think about summertime. Simple things like sunshine, sweets (rather than suites), kelly green, and blue skies. Then I thought of laughter, high fives, and friends. I noted a list of more things, small phrases, and feelings, of joy. I thought that I would think of these things when learning, rehearsing, and performing the piece.”

Simone Stevens, also dancing reflects: “Today’s process began at a more relaxed pace than rehearsals had been in the past. The stress that can come as a result of being in a foreign environment was void during this rehearsal because of the atmosphere in which we entered. The material was new to us all, but it was a joy to be a part of this process. The Summertime Suite clearly embodies Daniel’s choreographic aesthetic; quick-paced and dynamic, and also intricate and original. When the company is all together we are able to rehearse multiple pieces, such a new and exciting adventure for us all.

Jaiva Crawford, who makes an appearance in the last section of Summertime: “Restructuring Summertime was a new experience, a fun one . The piece seems easy but in actuality there’s a lot of numbers and counting and partner switching that occurs. You must know where you are going at all times because in a split second you could miss a count, be in someone else’s spot, or, most importantly, run in to somebody and that throws the whole piece off. Being aware of our surroundings and what’s happening around you is always imperative but especially for this piece. I thoroughly enjoy how fun and easy going it is, although everything has a count and a position to execute. Performing this, with the Company members that have already performed this before, is thrilling, exhilarating, and brings a new spark to my fire because I feel my performance quality will enhance immensely standing next to the pros. We must dance as one, therefore we are all one. And in order to be one, you must take risks and see what the next level has in store for you. You never know, you might like it there.”

The last member of the student team, Issac Rose, is understudying a few of the male roles.  He remarks, “Reconstructing Summertime has been a very eye opening process so far. I especially appreciate the structure of the formations; how we were able to deconstruct the pathways for individual dancers and the beauty of the piecewise nature of the overall dance working together to create a, “deceptively simple” piece of work. I always find it amazing when a choreographer and his dancers can present a seemingly effortless performance when what lies beneath is much more complex and full of effort. As an understudy for the first time, I find that I have a lighter load on my mind; usually when learning a dance, I feel pressure to perform, often over-perform, the choreography until I get it absolutely as the choreographer wants it, but working out the framework and focusing primarily on that has added a level of ease and enjoyment that I have not experienced in some time. Looking forward to more!”

Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company is looking forward and we hope you will come see what all the fun is about!