Studio Series: Sam Kim’s Talkback

As part of Studio Series, Sam Kim presented a work-in-progress of her newest work, Sister to a Fiend, this past January. Below is an excerpt from her talkback moderated by Jen Rosenblit.

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Elena Demyanenko & Dai Jian Studio Series Talk Back

Back in October, Elena Demyanenko & Dai Jian presented a work-in-progress of Blue Room as part of Studio Series. Below is a short snippet of the talk back conversation moderated by Melanie Maar. Don’t miss the world premiere of Blue Room this week,
Feb 13 – 15!

Buy tickets to the world premiere of Blue Room>

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luciana achugar’s OTRO TEATRO

luciana achugar’s OTRO TEATRO began with an act of devotion. Each audience member was asked to remove his or her shoes before entering New York Live Arts’ third floor studio, bathed in cool early evening light. As we stepped one by one into the space, a kneeling figure, enshrouded in a glimmering sheet of black metallic burlap that looked at once ancient and futuristic–think early Star Wars trilogy–was positioned in the doorway like a sentry. As we crossed the threshold, the figure bowed and kissed each audience member’s feet, first one, then the other. It was a tender initiation that prepared us for the performance to come: part rite and incantation, part rhythmic exploration of the body as a route through which we might transcend its limits, to touch something larger than ourselves.

achugar’s face remains covered in the black fabric for most of the piece, lending her a quality not entirely human; in a literal sense, she looks like a small black specter, cloth draped over her head and pooling around her like a child’s Halloween costume, until you get to the white flesh of her lower legs poking out from underneath. Red lines have been drawn onto her skin, tracing lines down the center of each calf and out to her middle toe. The same pattern repeats on her arms and hands, which we sometimes see clutching the fabric.

One early section is the exception to this rule. Here her face features prominently, painted with the same red streaks highlighting eyes and cheekbones, with an iridescent lavender underneath. The word shaman comes to mind, as much from her comportment as her appearance. She makes eye contact with members of the audience, her gaze at once insistent and otherworldly, as if part of her is present in the room with us, and part of her is somewhere else entirely, unreachable. She engages in a series of movements almost like a bird or small animal cleaning itself, as if to pry something nestled inside her out into the open.

Another dark shape comes to life behind her, and they move together, shifting quickly from one leg to another to create a mesmerizing auditory patter, four feet creating a sudden storm of sound and vibration. At one point the two bodies, both faces and torsos still hidden in black, shift from side to side, one behind the other, in a wide-legged squat. It’s a seemingly simple back-and-forth movement. Underlined by the chanting vocalizations of Michael Kiley’s score, it has a hypnotic power that takes us by surprise.

achugar began working on the piece in January, improvising by herself and then gradually adding on. (The current incarnation involves two other dancers and several singers who are heard but not seen onstage.) “I think of it almost as an accumulation,” she said in a post-performance discussion led by Marya Warshaw, artistic and executive director of BAX (Brooklyn Arts Exchange).

Warshaw remarked on the piece’s ability to pull us into a different temporal space. achugar and her collaborators sustain things–an image, a movement, a vocal pattern–beyond the comfortable moment where our short attention spans would expect a shift. “I don’t know where you get the bravery, to take the time,” Warshaw tells her. “It’s something that attracts me to your work,” she added, as well as something she has come to associate with achugar’s pieces–an “identifier.”

“We make work according to who we are . . . your relationship to space and time necessarily comes through,” achugar said. She acknowledged that ever since she was a child, her sense of the latter has been especially elastic, something she now observes in her son. “I like to indulge in the experience of the moment. I have very bad time management problems,” she said, smiling, “but you find ways to use those problems.”

One audience member spoke of the piece evoking a “heightened physical experience, that has some kind of magic, or sorcery.” Another spoke of performers and audience in turn seeming “possessed”: “It got into me,” he said.

If the performance calls to mind the ancient Greek mysteries or other primal rites, it may be because achugar is attuned to the through-line that connects performance today with “this thing that comes from ancient culture, when dance and music were about nature.” She strives to create work “out of that basic need.”

The fully realized production of OTRO TEATRO will premiere at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, this August, and will make its New York debut next April at New York Live Arts.  

Olivia Jane Smith

To listen to an excerpt of achugar’s In-Process Talk with Marya Warshaw, click here.

Lance Gries’ Immanent Field

Lance Gries’ Immanent Field
Studio Series: June 1, 2023

The sound score by Symphony of the Planets—recordings made in outer space by the first Voyager mission—began long before the three dancers appeared. When they did, breaking into a circle of chairs in the wide-open third floor studio, they all wore sheer black tunics of varying lengths.

The lighting was simple: room light seeping in windows north and south, and one large instrument on the north edge of the circle that brightened and paled. Juliette Mapp began alone, rising onto half-toe, repeating over and over a gesture like a modified sun salutation. The recorded sound waxed and waned as the piece unfolded.

After a while Lance Gries joined Mapp, still, quiet, observant. The pair, plus Diane Madden, walked around the outside of the circle of chairs, entered and crossed the space; Madden lay on the floor in a cruciform shape. Each dancer appeared to be in a private space; Gries and Mapp also took cruciform positions on the floor. When they rose, they made incredibly precise gestures, carving pathways through space, repeating and echoing the same gestural patterns, moving very close together. They began a series of plies, over which they did what looked like breast strokes, in the air. They reached and relaxed their arms, testing the air like weathervanes. Gries pushed his head to the ground; I thought he’d rise into a headstand, but he didn’t. All three left the circle.

All this took about 45 minutes. I found it peaceful but opaque. These dancers, all of whom are on the cusp of middle age, are centered and still, lovely to look at.  It will be interesting to see how the piece develops. ‘

-Elizabeth Zimmer

Studio Series Artist Profile: luciana achugar

luciana achugar is a Brooklyn-based choreographer from Uruguay whose work explores the relationship between aesthetics and ideology. She makes dances to be felt as they are seen and as an occasion for community. achugar began making work collaboratively with Levi Gonzalez in 1999 and started working independently in 2002. Since then, achugar has created works in numerous venues in New York, the United States and in Uruguay, including: The Kitchen, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, Abrons Arts Center, the River to River Festival, the Walker Art Center and ShowBoxLA. achugar is a two-time New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award recipient and has received support from a variety of foundations, including: Creative Capital, The Field Dance Fund, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Jerome Foundation, the Multi-Arts Production Fund and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is currently a Guggenheim Fellow. OTRO TEATRO will premiere at the Walker Art Center in February, 2014; in New York at New York Live Arts in April, 2014 and at the River to River Festival in July, 2014.

Placed metaphorically in the ruins of a collapsed theater, OTRO TEATRO is achugar’s current search for another kind of theater; a ritual of becoming; an occasion for communion. OTRO TEATRO, which translates both to “another theater” and “other theater” in achugar’s native Spanish, is a dark rite of passage from destruction to rebuilding. It is a dance that is meant to be felt as it is seen, giving voice to the arcane spirit and desire of our uncivilized bodies.

Studio Series: luciana achugar
Jun 7 & 8 at 6pm

Sign up for luciana’s Shared Practice,  May 11, 1:30-3:30pm, $15.

Photo: Peggy Kaplan



Studio Series Artist Profile: Lance Gries

Lance Gries is an independent dancer, choreographer and teacher based in NYC. From 1985-1992, he was a member of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, receiving a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award and a Princess Grace Foundation Award.

Since 1990, he has created and presented solo and group choreography in various venues in New York City such as The Kitchen, Danspace, La MaMa Experimental Theater and The State Theater, as well as cities throughout Europe, Australia and South America. In the past year, he has presented two group research projects, Primary Field and Extended Field in Brussels, Belgium, parts of an ongoing series. His most recent solo evening, Etudes for an Astronaut was nominated for a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for best production of 2011.

Gries is a renowned teacher, having taught workshops and master classes throughout the world. In 1994 he was invited to be a “founding teacher” of P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, Belgium and continues there as a visiting teacher as well as guest teaching for many other dance companies and institutions. For a decade he has maintained a retreat space, Casa Arriba, between the jungle and ocean on the Pacific Coast of Mexico; friends and artists connect there in a setting of nature and creative regeneration. His ongoing research into the interconnectedness and individual expression of body/ mind/spirit is the basis for his teaching and artistic work.

Lance Gries’ Immanent Field, a collaborative work with Juliette Mapp and Diane Madden, is a trio that begins with the belief that there exists a primary field of conscious energy that pervades and connects everything. How do dancers, as masters of moving consciousness into action and form, access and create from this potentiality? How do time, space and content become differentiated through this active exchange? In Immanent Field, Gries in interested in creating a dynamic realization between what the performers and public sense as immaterial and witness as its material manifestation in dance as an art form. Using these explorations as a jumping off point, Gries views these seemingly intangible elements as essential formal ones, organizing them into a dance so they become the vital gestures of a choreography of experience.

Studio Series: Lance Gries
May 31 & Jun 1 at 6pm

Studio Series Artist Profile: Burr Johnson

Photo by Daniel Clifton

Burr Johnson has been choreographing and presenting dances in New York City since 2009. His works have been shown at Dixon Place, Judson Church, Rooftop Dance, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, Josée Bienvenu Gallery and Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church. In May 2012, Danspace Project presented the first full evening of his work with Special Collections and Shimmering Islands. Johnson has performed in the works of Walter Dundervill, Christopher Williams, Helen Simoneau, Shen Wei and John Jasperse. He holds a B.F.A in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. In his spare moments away from Dance he is in Bushwick, either gardening or snuggling with his cat.

Burr Johnson’s Long Division consists of the second draft of a group dance for four fronts. Departing from his previous practice of guiding artistic creation in response to the spaces in which works would eventually be performed, in Long Division Johnson uses the seating of the audience as a starting point. Called “long-limbed and striking” (The New York Times), Johnson, known for creating “promising choreography” with “delicious qualities” (The New York Times) explores themes such as physical implication of audience members, proximity and diversity of vantage points in Long Division.


Studio Series: Burr Johnson
May 10 & 11 at 6pm

Sign up for Burr’s Shared Practice,  May 11, 1:30-3:30pm, $15.
Studio Series receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Foundation For Contemporary Arts, and The Puffin Foundation.



Studio Series Artist Profile: Tara O’Con

Tara O’Con’s work has been presented consistently since 2005 in showcases around NYC, including Dancenow | NYC, and Dance Theater Workshop’s Fresh Tracks series. Her work has also been commissioned and presented by Danspace Project, The Chocolate Factory Theater, and most recently as part of the River To River Festival produced by The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. As a performer, she is a long-time contributing member of Third Rail Projects and also performs regularly for mvworks/Megan Sprenger. Tara O’Con’s Frame explores ideas surrounding the role of cinematic tone in the performance of movement. Three months into the first phase of choreographic exploration, O’Con approaches the work as a cinematographer might approach a film. How are actions framed by the space? When are the performers zoomed in and zoomed out from the viewers’ point of view? When is the duration of images sustained versus choppy? How do all of those factors affect the experience of building and releasing tension? Analyzing how the performer’s focus guides that of the viewer, the work also questions how sustained images or durational movement can resonate when cut by abrupt stillness or change.

Studio Series: Tara O’Con
May 3 and 4 at  6pm

Studio Series Artist Profile: Laurie Berg

Laurie Berg is a Brooklyn-based artist who works in multiple forms including dance, performance, collage, jewelry, and video. She is a 2010 Movement Research Artist-In-Residence. Laurie maintains collaborations with several dance and visual artists including Bessie McDonough-Thayer, Siri Peterson, Liliana Dirks-Goodman, and the women of Bitch Creek. Her various projects have appeared at Pieter PASD in Los Angeles, Roulette Intermedium, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Food For Thought, Danspace Project as part of PLATFORM: 2011 Body Madness – Rhythm and Humor, BRINK at Dixon Place, FACADE/FASAD, 303 Gallery, ICMC at Stony Brook University, the TANK, draftwork, AUNTS, and CATCH 35 among others. Most recently she has performed in the work of Heather Kravas, Megan Byrne, Sasha Welsh, Laura Diffenderfer, Christine Elmo and appeared in Tom Murrin’s The Talking Show, at PS122, directed by Lucy Sexton. She currently co-produces AUNTS with Liliana Dirks-Goodman, and the Salon Show at Ulla’s House with Sasha Welsh. Her jewelry can be seen around the necks of many NYC artists.



Laurie Berg. Movement Research @ the Judson Church (2011)

Berg’s workings of The Afterlife is a collaboration with performers Bessie McDonough-Thayer, Jodi Bender, Gillian Walsh and other special guests. The Afterlife contains material located in the following limerick: the constant rotation of people and objects/the double entendre, shifting gazes of subjects/a dance with death/ a mess made of cloth/and a ritual on the face of the moon___.


Studio Series: Laurie Berg
Mar 15 & 16 at 6pm
In-Process Talks moderated by Larissa Velez-Jackson.
Studio Series receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Foundation For Contemporary Arts, and The Puffin Foundation.


Reflections on Studio Series: Kimberly Bartosik

Kimberly Bartosik


March 1, 2013

As we waited for the Studio Series event to begin, we were surrounded by recorded birdsong, a wall of mirrors, a wall of windows, and a wall of sleek metal. The gleaming surfaces of the northern studio on the third floor of Live Arts provided a dazzling contrast to two lean women, Joanna Kotze and Tamara Riewe, in trousers and sheer strappy tops, who hovered in the dark over a small oblong of LED bulbs roped in like a little corral, and dropped pastel feathers , scrounged from inside the blouses, into the corral.  Upstage, two more rectangles of light shone from the floor.

The room light was very low, creating a kind of pre-dawn atmosphere. A steady drone replaced the birdsong. The women trembled, and moved in nearly perfect unison, very slowly across the floor. Riewe’s blouse, untucked, still oozed feathers as the pair tilted forward in a flat arabesque.

Ten minutes in, Rick Murray’s lights began to come up, and a few minutes later the two dancers fall out of unison; one is still while the other moves. Riewe untucked Kotze’s top, allowing more feathers to drift into one of the oblongs. They both lift their arms, opening their throats to heaven as lights fall again.  A  line of red light streaks across the silvery metallic wall, seeming to signal dawn.

A fifteen-minute study for a longer piece, and… carves a sustained arc in space and time. I look forward to seeing it at its next developmental stage….

-Elizabeth Zimmer

Elizabeth Zimmer writes about dance, theater, and books for Ballet Review, Dance Magazine, Metro, and other publications. She served as dance editor of The Village Voice from 1992 until 2006, and reviewed ballet for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1997 through 2005. She has reviewed dance in cities across North America, and taught writing and dance history at several universities.