"You Are the Show": An Outpost of the Hudson Valley Vanguard

And restrictions on audience size weren’t such a liability, as much of what Siyanko wanted to present was, in his words, “very niche.” T...


And restrictions on audience size weren’t such a liability, as much of what Siyanko wanted to present was, in his words, “very niche.” The pandemic also accelerated a trend: audiences already drawn to these kinds of works — and the artists who make them — were moving around the region. (Chatham is a 20-minute drive from the towns of Hudson and Catskill.) Donors piled up and gave more. The PS21 budget has increased by around 50%, Siyanko said, with a large surplus in 2021.

It may sound like cultural gentrification, but Siyanko is also committed to low ticket prices and uncompromising accessibility. Pathways events, in particular, are designed as entry points leading into the PS21 campus and its more adventurous programming.

Pathways began in 2020 with unconventional dance lessons and with the Alarm Will Sound chamber orchestra scattered around the grounds “Ten Thousand Birds” by John Luther Adams.” “The kids loved it,” Siyanko said, which was also true of Montreal acrobats frolicking in the trees at nearby Crellin Park in 2021. Some Pathways events, like this one, take place off-campus, in conjunction with schools and local arts organizations. Others brought local students to PS21, in one case to rehearse and perform with the experimental flautist Claire Chaseand in another to participate in a theater camp with the Wooster Group.

Onikeku fits right into the Pathways project (right down to the theatre-camp confidence exercises he incorporated into “Middle Ground”). In an interview before “Middle Ground”, he talked about how, while growing up in Nigeria, he turned to contemporary dance as a mode in which “you can have your own ideas”, and how, while dancing in France, he ended up at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts du Circus, studying contemporary circus which reminded him of the total theater of the Yoruba tradition.

From the start of his career, he was inspired by the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti as an awareness-raising artist. In a series of solos, Onikeku explored philosophical ideas: the isolation of exile, the difference between history and the past, the body as a storehouse of generational memory. Although he had success in Europe, appearing at the prestigious Avignon Festival when he was still just 20, he became “appalled by the dictatorship of the art market”, he said. he says, the cycle of producing, touring and producing again.

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Newsrust - US Top News: "You Are the Show": An Outpost of the Hudson Valley Vanguard
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