This Saturday evening on the Walkway over the Hudson, a performance will finally take place that has been many years in the planning: the Bridge Music Dance Project. Ten different Hudson Valley dance companies will take turns interpreting the ten sections of Bridge Music, Joseph Bertolozzi’s innovative composition that uses various parts of the Mid-Hudson Bridge as percussion instruments. The Walkway Friends organization is playing host, and the free event is the brainchild of choreographer Livia Drapkin Vanaver, founder of the Vanaver Caravan dance company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Bridge Music was recorded in 2009 – the same year that the Walkway opened to the public – and the Caravan was deeply involved in the festivities that christened the Walkway itself: “We ‘married’ both sides of the river, with our dancers and the Bridge Puppets from Processional Arts Workshop, on Opening Day,” Vanaver recalls. “It’s fun to have a relationship with the Walkway.” She has wanted to choreograph a dance to Bridge Music ever since it debuted, in collaboration with other companies representing a variety of dance styles and cultures.
“This was conceived from the beginning, but we were all too busy,” she says. “Then the pandemic hit. This is the third time the date has actually been scheduled. It was supposed to be in June 2020.” This weekend the long gestation of the project reaches fruition at last, although the performance will include “not all the same choreographers as originally planned. So many things have happened.”
Another change from the original concept is that all the dances will take place on the same spot on the Walkway: “It’ll be all in the middle of the bridge – in the center bump-out,” Vanaver explains. “It would’ve been my druthers to have it progressional along the bridge, but soundwise it was not possible.” The designated performance space is 90 feet long, on the northern side of the Walkway. The audience will watch from the south side, which has some concrete benches to accommodate those who cannot stand or sit on the road surface for the entire 38-minute duration of Bridge Music.
Bertolozzi will be on hand, along with the assembled dancers and choreographers, Vanaver notes. “Joseph will be introducing and welcoming, and then we’ll begin.” There will be a pause of at least five seconds between each movement of the composition as each new dance company takes its places, but no bows or applause until the end, as if listening to a symphony. “The piece is in ten sections. Each choreographer took a section. The very last section we all together in a joint improvisation… We end up in a spiral coil all together.” The overall theme of the performance is “what connects all of us,” with the idea that the Walkway itself is a connecting force between the river’s shores and communities.
As for costumes, originally “We were going to do everyone in all white,” Vanaver says; but that would have meant losing the gorgeous getups that are part of the splendor of the ethnic dance companies participating, and the Energy Dance Company kids wouldn’t get to wear their signature matching tee-shirts. So now only four of the groups will be dressed in white. “We decided to let each choreographer do what they want to do. Each one has approached the music in a different style.”
Besides the Vanaver Caravan, the Bridge Music Dance Project’s diverse collaborative of choreographers includes Alison Chen and Angela Chen; Ariana Brisport; Bryant “Drew” Andrews, Malik Andrews and Lisa Brown; Jessie Levey; Joel Hanna; Kantham Chatlapalli; Leighann Kowalsky; Maia Martinez; and Sondra Loring. To sample the variety of dance styles that will be melded into one performance, check out the website links below.
Says Bertolozzi, “By using no other sounds than drumming on the surfaces of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, we can now hear it as an instrument. My Bridge Music brings a whole new dimension to this monument of civil engineering by recreating it in sound. Now, with the pulse and flow of dancers expanding that same music onto another bridge (the Walkway over the Hudson), enhanced by the public as a live audience, it’s an unparalleled fusion of artforms. I can’t wait.”
The performance is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, but attendees are urged to arrive no later than 7 p.m. to allow time to park and walk out to the center section of the Walkway, which typically takes 20 to 25 minutes. The rain date is Tuesday, June 28. Access will be open from both the Highland and the Poughkeepsie side of the Walkway.
For logistical details, visit www.walkway.org. More information about the participating choreographers and dance companies can be found on their websites:
Bryant Drew Andrews/Malik Andrews/Lisa Brown: cce4me.org/classes/energy-dance-co
Alison Chen and Angela Chen: mt.feitian.edu/academic-programs/dance
Kantham Chatlapalli: natyanikethan.net
Joel Hanna: joelhanna.com
Leighann Kowalsky: classes.thedambyproject.com
Jessie Levey: barefootdancecenter.com
Maia Martinez: dojodancecompany.com