Woodstock’s Byrdcliffe Theater hosts festival of experimental dance

dance @Zack Jacobs works as the stage manager at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon, but in his off-hours he’s busy putting on his own show, Choreography on the Edge, a festival of experimental dance at Woodstock’s Byrdcliffe Theater now in its 28th year. To keep things fresh, Jacobs eschews auditions and reviewing taped performances, instead giving the choreographers, many of whom are referred to him through word of mouth, complete freedom to experiment on stage. “I don’t know of any other show like this,” said Jacobs. “Most of the other companies get invited. Their pieces are previewed beforehand. The whole purpose of this show is for choreographers to try something they’ve never done before, such as working in a genre they’ve never done before or allowing themselves to free associate. Choroegraphers actually love to do it.”

Each piece is limited to approximately 10 minutes, with many participants doing two or more shorter pieces in that time frame. At least 16 choreographers will perform in this year’s event, which will be held at 8 p.m. Friday August 2 and Saturday August 3. Participants include Joel Hanna, who incorporates Irish step dancing into his modern dance and contemporary ballet pieces; Rachel Baldelli, performing a new solo work to a live jazz combo from New Paltz; Angela Maffia, April Dayok and Betse Evans, all from New York City; local choreographers Andrea Pastorella with Movita Dance, Leighann Kowalksy and Rowan Willigan with the D’Amby Project, and Sharon Pez, from Clyde Forth Visual Theater. Also featured are returning choreographers Claire Jacob-Zysman and Laura Teeter with dancers from the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (resident company of the Egg in Albany), Laura Ward from Octavia Cup Dance Theater, and Alex Bloomstein from Dance Beacon.

A piece from Ellen Sinopoli in a past festival stands out as epitomizing the festival’s experimental aspect, in which the dancer traced a single line from one end of the stage to the other to a folk rock piece. There have been dances to candlelight and accompanied by live poetry recitations. Last year, in another piece by a choreographer from Clyde Forth Jacobs was handed three CDs before the show and asked to have the audience pick one. “It was a total improvisation,” Jacobs recalled. “I had a moving light and the dancer had the choice to go into it or run away…It never gets boring.”


Tickets are $12, and the performances both evenings start at 8 p.m.

Choreography on the Edge 2013 at Byrdcliffe Theater, 3 Upper Byrdcliffe Way in Woodstock. Tickets are $12. Visit ulsterpub.staging.wpengineguild.org, call (845) 453-8673 or purchase tickets at the door.