Kaatsbaan Summer Festival: dance, of course, but also music, cinema and gastronomy

You will see them dancing, don’t worry. But General Manager and Artistic Director Sonja Kostich wants you to have a full experience on many levels when you come to Kaatsbaan Summer Festival in Tivoli, New York. In fact, this experience is integrated into the programming. For three consecutive weekends, August 28-September 12, the multi-disciplinary Hudson Valley Dance Sanctuary Festival will feature three new classical dance works with live music; a free weekend of western swing music, art and picnics; a film screening in partnership with the Woodstock Film Festival; and a first end-of-summer dinner in the open air.

Although dancing is, of course, the main focus of Kaatsbaanit’s not for nothing that the organization, established in 1990 in Tivoli, New York, is called Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, and its stated mission is to “provide an extraordinary environment for cultural innovation and excellence”. .

“Translation: it should include all the arts,” says Kostich. “There are people in the Hudson Valley who love dance, but they also love music and the visual arts. And we’re in the Hudson Valley, where food is such an important part of the culture, so we’ve incorporated the culinary arts as well. With this understanding, we began to develop this approach for our Spring Festival.

Culinary culture: Ruth Reichl, Jeff Gordinier, and JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau, who will prepare the pachamanca

Two festivals in the space of a few months, that’s ambitious to say the least. But, according to Kostich, programmatically and financially, it makes sense for Kaatsbaan, and the summer festival builds on the success of the spring event.

“It was the greatest thing we’ve ever done,” Kostich said. “All the artists had a fantastic time. Our technical director built a stage in the backfield that was absolutely stunning. We were able to have the biggest audience ever – 350 people even with spacing for COVID. It was very intimate, like you could reach out to Patti Smith.

Yes, that Patti Smith. Kaatsbaan is Dutch for “a playground” and the “players” included dancers, musicians, sculptors and filmmakers. While the spring festival included icons of dance and music (American Ballet Theatre, Mark Morris, Martha Graham Dance Company), the summer festival supports emerging creators and artists. Events will take place both outdoors on its 153 acres as well as in its indoor theater, following all CDC and New York State guidelines.

The summer festival opens on August 28 and 29 with the premiere of three classical dance works commissioned by Kaatsbaan (each choreographer created their piece during a residency at Kaatsbaan). Gemma Bond’s work includes dancers from the American Ballet Theater (ABT). The famous concert pianist Cécile Licad will perform excerpts from the virtuoso “13 Preludes” by Rachmaninoff in collaboration with these dancers. ABT’s Clair Davison brings a site-specific physical comedy piece to the Kaatsbaan grounds, accompanied by the Avila Ensemble, made up of Venezuelan students from the Bard Conservatory. Choreographer Lauren Lovette (New York City Ballet) brings a new pas de deux to the outdoor stage of Mountain Stage, with live music provided by the Balourdet String Quartet. Pianist Licad will open the outdoor part of the evening on the mountain stage with a solo concert.

September 4 & 5 is a free art weekend at the Culture Park, with its fields open to the community for picnicking, western swing music with Tamar Korn & A Kornucopia, sculpture garden walks with works by local Hudson Valley artists and cocktails and beverages available for purchase from Milk and Honey Mobile Taps. Although admission is free, visitors must register to obtain a ticket to enter the park.

For the final weekend, additional disciplines come into play. On September 11, there will be screenings of the Hudson Valley premiere of ‘In Balanchine’s Classroom’, presented in partnership with the Woodstock Film Festival. Guest speakers include filmmaker Connie Hochman, along with former New York City Ballet prima ballerina Merrill Ashley.

The following day, September 12, the focus is on food with the first “Dinner on the Playground,” hosted by Jeff Gordinier, cookbook author and food writer for the New York Times and Squire. The end of summer party is in partnership with JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau of Esmeralda and Celeste, who will prepare a pachamanca – an ancient Peruvian technique of cooking in the ground for which they were recently presented in the New York Times. The evening will also feature a conversation between Gordinier and Ruth Reichl, Hudson Valley resident, author and former editor of Gourmet magazine.

Kostich is particularly looking forward to the pachamanca. “The people who attend are absolutely amazing,” she says. “They see it as a performance. The whole ritual of cooking and serving food is accompanied by choreography.

All these other arts have a connection with dance. Kostich believes collaboration is the future, which is why Kaatsbaan has opened up its bubble residency program to include writers and filmmakers. We don’t know what the next festivals will be. In the meantime, the summer festival appears to be a carefully timed mix of world-class cultural experiences.

Note: In accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the most important requirements of performing arts venues in New York City, Kaatsbaan will require proof of vaccination for all events, outdoor and indoor.

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Gerald R. Schneider