When the 60 Pre K children at the University Settlement House on New York’s Lower East Side built their own wall this past spring, its political message countered the one currently circulating through the halls of Congress. This wall, which symbolizes an embrace of all, was constructed from drawings that the children created to depict their family stories and fantasies. Their colorful works of art, drawn on cardboard sections were then connected and transformed into an interactive set created by visual artist Ben Heller for “Welcome,” a new work choreographed and directed by the 2016 Jerome Robbins Award-winning choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland, the creative brains and heart behind the project. The original score is by Paul Damian Hogan.
“Welcome” will have its world premiere as part of the 2017 La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival, May 25-28. With its five dancers depicting relationships alternately loving, alienating, and tender, the dance considers walls in multiple ways, regarding them from many points of view including creating barriers between people or things, defining a space in which to live, as well what the graffiti-decorated building walls meant to Stefanie as a child growing up in Soho: a communal canvas for neighborhood artists to freely express themselves.
Equally embracing of its audiences, inviting its members to create their own drawings before the performance begins, the hour-long dance is performed by Company SBB, which Batten Bland established six years ago after returning from over a decade in Europe.
Batten Bland’s story is also an international one. After dancing with the Bill T. Jones Arnie Zane Dance Company for four years, she spent over ten years performing for companies and choreographers such as Pina Bausch Tanz Theatre Wuppertal; Pal Frenak, Budapest; Compagnie Linga, Switzerland; Compagnie Georges Momboye. She also worked with the Opéra Comique in Paris, where she was appointed head choreographer for Jerome Savery’s international hit musical “Josephine Baker,” and was head choreographer for “Soweto,” a musical centered on the release of Nelson Mandela, which played at the Casino de Paris.
Her permanent return to the United States six years ago was greeted with a great deal of encouragement including her selection as a 2010-12 Baryshnikov Arts Center/Jerome Robbins NEW Fellow, a 2014 Joffrey Ballet Choreographer of Color, a 2014/15 Alvin Ailey Foundation New Directions Lab Fellow, a 2015 Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists Choice Awardee, a Camargo/Jerome Foundation Choreographer for Zenon Dance Company–France, and a 2016 Bessie Schonberg Choreography Fellow at The Yard.
In addition to commissions by the Second Avenue Dance Company (New York City), Modlin Center for the Arts (Richmond, VA), Zenon Dance company (Minneapolis, MN), Transitions Dance Company (London), Alvin Ailey II Company (New York City) and Frontier Danceland (Singapore), Batten Bland’s work for her own troupe, Company SBB, has been seen in throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
While the majority of her creative efforts are committed to creating site specific dance installations that unite dance with music and the visual arts, Batten Bland has created nine films that have been seen in international festivals in Europe, South America, the United States and South Africa. She has also choreographed for Guerlain Perfumes, Van Cleef & Arpels, Louis Vuitton, SYTYCD-Poland, UNESCO International Dance Day and a French Presidential Gala.
Continuing her stage career, she has performed in Punch Drunk’s hit show in New York City “Sleep No More” from 2014-2016 and is currently choreographer and associate director on two upcoming theatre productions.
WHERE TO GO & TICKET INFORMATION
Ellen Stewart Theatre: General Admission $25, Students/Seniors $20
All tickets can be purchased online at www.lamama.org or by phone at 212-352-3101. Tickets are also available for purchase at the box office one hour prior to each performance.
Bienvenue欢迎WelcomeBienvenidoأهلا بك is funded by the Jerome Robbins Foundation, Harkness Foundation for Dance and is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
“Welcome” was created with the support of The Performance Project’s Artist in Residency Program at University Settlement.
Since 2007, The Performance Project at University Settlement has been offering local young artists and emerging professional artists opportunities to connect, create and publicly present new work.
“Welcome” was initially created during The Yard’s Offshore Creation Residency as a Bessie Schonberg Fellow, which enables artists to pursue their explorations of what matters most.
Funding was also received from FUSED: French-US Exchange in Dance, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and FACE Foundation, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.