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Doris Humphrey's Quasi Waltz as danced by Meggi Sweeney Smith
Photograph: Karli CadelDoris Humphrey's Quasi Waltz as danced by Meggi Sweeney Smith

The Battery Dance Festival has been completely reimagined this year

Dance companies from around the world take the virtual leap in this free nine-day event

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

The annual Battery Dance Festival usually takes place outdoors at Robert F. Wagner Park, with the dancers performing against the backdrop of the sparkling New York Harbor. For its 39th edition this summer, the nine-day event, formerly known as the Downtown Dance Festival, is stepping back from live performance but expanding its global reach. 

The 2020 virtual incarnation of the Battery Dance Festival lasts from August 14 through August 22. A new hour-long collection of performances, organized by theme, goes live on the Battery Dance Festival website every night at 7pm EDT (midnight BST) and remains viewable for free for ten days afterward.

In all, the festival includes 52 filmed performances from dance artists in New York City as well as elsewhere in the United States and in 19 other countries: Belgium, Canada, Curaçao, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, the Palestinian Territories, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, the U.K. and Zimbabwe. Themed evenings celebrate black artists, the centennial of American women’s suffrage, Indian Independence Day and the staying power of NYC. 

Check out a video preview for this year's festival below, followed by a full day-to-day schedule of this year's offerings. Let the spirit move you and the movement inspire you.

Full schedule for the Battery Dance Festival

Friday, August 14: Black Voices in Dance
In support of Black Lives Matter, this year's festival begins with a program of works by Black artists. Selection include I-will I-Will I-WILLLLL, by Illinois's Ervs Works Dance, as well as pieces by three NYC groups: Jamal Jackson Dance Company's grEeneR grASsEs, Kafago Dance Ensemble's Crossroads and D's tenderheaded

Erv Works Dance | Photograph: Andrew Bonsu

Saturday August 15: India Independence Day
As it has every years since 1993, the festival celebrates India's Independence Day on August 15. Curator Rajika Puri narrates this assemblage of works that draw on classical as well as contemporary energies. In addition to the companies and artists based in India—Aakash Odedra Company, Aditi Mangaldas Dance, Bijayini Satpathy, Kapila Venu, Pradeesh Thiruthiya, Sadhya Dance, Sreelakshmy Govardhanan, Zoya Akhtar—the lineup includes Sooraj Subramaniam (Australia/Belgium) and Sophia Salingaros (U.S.).

Kapila Venu | Photograph: Thulasi Kakkat

Sunday August 16: From the Middle East
Dancers from Lebanon (Hoedy Saad), Iran (Tanin Torabi), Palestine (Yaa Samar!) and Iraqi Kurdistan (Project TAG) are part of this evening devoted to dance from the Middle East. The program also offers a memorial to the young Arab-Israeli dancer Ayman Safiah—the first Palestinian male classical ballet dancer, who died in May—through a selection of films prepared by choreographer Samar Haddad King.

Hoedy Saad | Photograph: Kareem Nakkash

Monday August 17: From Europe and Japan
The festival extends its reach across two oceans in an anthology of international works. Participating artists include Ana Maria Lucaciu and Razvan Stoian (Romania), Emiko Agatsuma (Japan), Emma Evelein (Netherlands), Ludivine Large-Bessette (France), Odos Productions (Greece) and TranzDanz/cie. Gerzson Péter Kovács (Hungary).

Emiko Agatsuma | Photograph: Uncle Photography

Tuesday August 18: Women's Right to Vote Centennial
A roster of mostly local artists toasts the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in a program that honors female choreographers past and present. Lori Belilove dances Isadora Duncan, Meggi Sweeney Smith dances Doris Humphrey and Nancy Allison dances Jean Erdman, who died in May at the age of 104; also on the lineup are Annalee Traylor, Ashley Menestrina, Futorian Dance Theatre, Kathryn Posin Dance Company and Rosanna Gamson's RGWW.

Rosanna Gamson | Photograph: Jose Diaz

Wednesday August 19: From Africa
Companies from Southern and East Africa share their work in this program of contemporary dance. The slate includes Abdul Kinyenya (Uganda), Dunia Dance (Zimbabwe/Belgium), Luthando Dance Academy (South Africa) and Moving into Dance (South Africa). 

Dunia Dance | Photograph: Antoine Panier

Thursday August 20: From North America
The National Ballet of Canada and Toronto's Kaeja d'Dance join this evening from north of the American border and Mexico's Delfos Danza comes up from the South. Representing the U.S. are NYC's Cornfield Dance, the Southwest's Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations and Ohio's Dancing Wheels, whose work prominently features dancers with disabilities.  

Cornfield Dance | Photograph: Maria Baranova

Friday August 21: From Battery Dance
Battery Dance Company, under the artistic direction of Jonathan Hollander, takes center stage at its own festival tonight with the world premiere of Icarus, choreographed by company member Razvan Stoian. Flanking the piece are new works created in collaboration with the company by NYC's Art-a-Hack and Curaçao's Reuel Rogers. 

Reuel Rogers | Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Saturday August 22: From NYC to NYC with Love
The festival concludes on a hopeful note with this salute to the resilience of New York City. Offerings include From the Streets to the Seats, a breakdance montage by the Netherlands' Fractal Collective, as well as multiple works by local troupes: Tom Gold Dance's Plan & Elevation, Pony Box Dance Theatre's No Man is an Island, Dolly Sfeir's hi are you like me and Accent Dance's modern tango Naranjo en Flor.

Fractal Collective | Photograph: Constantin Trommlitz

RECOMMENDED: Our day-by-day roundup of the best theater, opera and dance to stream online 

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