Bust a movement

This year's Movement Research Festival is driven by female intuition.

TRACK MARKS Gill, Brooks, Lewis and Hand, from left, grace the secret site of “Slow Walk.”

TRACK MARKS Gill, Brooks, Lewis and Hand, from left, grace the secret site of “Slow Walk.” Photograph: Sarina Finkelstein

Movement Research Festival Spring 2007 is slightly crazier than past years—the result, it seems, of four female artists in their twenties banding together to make something happen despite, or perhaps because of, a nasty time crunch. The foursome, who refer to themselves as a curation/production group, have taken a “rigorous and playful” approach to the festivities. Fittingly named Reverence (Irreverence), the festival runs through June 7 at more than a dozen venues throughout New York City.

Movement Research, a celebrated and more-than-ever necessary laboratory for dance and movement-based forms, is a vital institution where artists can still take chances. For curators Rebecca Brooks, Beth Gill, Erika Hand and Isabel Lewis, the festival marks a moment in time, made possible by their cohesive experimental spirit. “Our approach was very open from the beginning,” Gill recalls. “I never felt a personal agenda coming from anybody, ever. We were really open to discussion and very intuitive. Like, just do it. I really don’t remember ideas getting turned down—I feel ideas were really pushed forward and encouraged. We didn’t even whittle them down: It was more about making them more expansive.”

Lewis adds: “One of the things we talked about was, what can the festival be? What is this format that we’re working inside of? What are the different ways of exploring that? So we talked a lot about intellectual rigor and the playfulness involved, even just in how we communicate with each other.”

Along with predictably odd participatory events such as the outdoor “Silent Ride” (a gathering that will take place on the Staten Island Ferry) or “Slow Walk: Along the Tracks” (set on abandoned freight train tracks that slice into Bushwick), there are real surprises relating to a word usually avoided in experimental circles: ballet. In addition to a class taught by Barbara Forbes on Tuesday 5, the festival showcases a “Ballet Research Panel,” held Saturday 2, in which teachers including Zvi Gotheiner, Marjorie Mussman and Christine Wright will discuss the role of ballet in contemporary training.

“That panel came up kind of naturally in our meetings,” Hand says. “We were talking about our personal practices and how they’re different—I’ve been practicing ballet a lot, and from talking to people in my class, who are all primarily modern, contemporary dancers, there was a sense that it was not cool.” Gill, with a tinge of frustration, notes, “I’ve always been saying that ballet is really cool. But we made a little bit of a leap in deciding that there was something there.”

“We wanted to push the idea out there a little further,” Hand adds. “We know that conversation is old, but we wanted to reinvigorate it.” Just visit the “critical correspondence” online forum at movementresearch.org to view the responses so far, including one by ballet teacher Janet Panetta, who is currently working in Brussels and writes, “Good luck to those who think they will be perpetually 'cool.’ Tell them to call me in ten years,” and, “There is no place for any social politics in my room. We are all too busy being humbled and inspired by the art form.”

According to Hand, some of the antagonism between ballet and modern dance is linked to a larger issue of training. “I think that we’re paying homage or reverence to these teachers who have spent many years teaching and dedicated to this form, and who have a really strong awareness of what it means to dance as a contemporary-modern dancer, as well as what it means to train in the form of ballet,” she says. “They’re thinking about that at the same time.”

But there is just as much typical Movement Research fare, including two programs organized by the collective AUNTS, whose work falls somewhere between dance and performance parties, and “Dream Team,” a sleepover improvisational event led by Charlotte Gibbons, Ray Roy and K.J. Holmes.

“In my mind, the purpose of a festival is that it gives opportunity for events and experiences that might not necessarily happen otherwise,” Gill explains. “We were really clear that conceptual agendas or interests would be almost futile because the time frame was so limited. We worked really quickly to generate ideas that were exciting to us. The connections are our collective interests.”

Movement Research Festival Spring 2007: Reverence (Irreverence) runs through Jun 7 at various locations.