It’s rare in today’s world that an artist is given space and time to experiment, free from censorship and from pressure to appeal to large, mainstream audiences.
It’s also unusual for presenters to weave public conversation as densely as Tanz Farm does into its web of performances, artistic residencies, workshops and other events that aim to make the Goat Farm Arts Center’s Goodson Yard a destination for bold, contemporary performance.
But in the thinking of Tanz Farm curators Lauri Stallings and Anthony Harper, such plans are necessary for their bundle of courageous arts initiatives to take root in Atlanta. To build an audience that truly loves and supports contemporary performance, people at many levels of the community have to engage with the work.
“This season adds even more initiatives that continue to bring together different disciplines and knowledge bases in different ways,” Harper said. “We want to show that Atlanta understands that you can’t look in a new direction by looking harder in that same direction.”
This year, Tanz Farm will offer several “works in process” open to the public; more than a dozen “TanzPLAYground” creative initiatives in conjunction with the Alliance Theatre, workshops involving more than a dozen local and visiting artists; and FEED, a series of “spirited dialogues” among artists, curators and writers that will look at connections between visual arts practice and contemporary performance thought.
As with last season, these free public initiatives will buzz around a four-part subscription series of cutting-edge performances. Plans for the coming season are no less daring, even if they reflect a clearer vision. Highlights will include Israeli dance-theater duo Niv Scheinfeld and Oren Laor; Canadian sound artist C.D. Howe; Sidra Bell Dance New York; New York-based mixed-media artist Austin McCormick with Company XIV; Gustavo Ramirez Sansano of Spain; and Stallings and Atlanta-based choreographer Greg Catellier with their companies.
Sidra Bell’s “Nudity” was one of the strongest showings last year; she will return to Goodson Yard with her company of elegantly fearless dancers in December. “Nudity” was a departure for Bell. The stark, shadowy work explored how acknowledging personal imbalances can bring power and strength. Bell explained, “I have a way of extracting who the person in front of me is, and exploding that and amplifying it and making it a universal human experience … for the audience to have a window in on.”
New to Tanz Farm will be Austin McCormick, a 28-year-old Juilliard graduate who’s charming the New York critics, and for good reason, with his breathlessly sensual blend of baroque dance, modern dance and burlesque styles of the cabaret and music hall.
At long last, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano is scheduled to show work in Atlanta in May. The former member of Nederlands Dans Theater and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago became artistic director of Chicago’s Luna Negra Dance Theater in 2010, infusing its Latin-flavored repertoire with European contemporary dance influences. Critics noted the rapturous beauty of his work, but the troupe had difficulty finding an audience and folded last May due to financial difficulties. Perhaps Sansano, now returned to his native Spain, will find a new base among Atlanta’s Tanz Farm aficionados.
Perhaps it is Tanz Farm’s investment in building a supportive community that can make Goodson Yard a new dance center, similar to facilities in other large cities. Tanz Farm asks that its audience go beyond seeking diversion and get involved in activities that revolve around performances, such as talks that seek to define contemporary art and explain its relevance in today’s world.
As Stallings put it, “We envision performance sharing the center of conversation resonating across disciplines, of fresh ideas and forms. We want to provide people more choices, let them find their own way into the work, and let it happen to them. Collectivity is an urgent need; what does it mean to be a part of a community, through action? I want Atlanta to keep discovering ways, and always body to body.”
TANZ FARM: A PERFORMANCE ANTHOLOGY
Subscription Performance Series
Series I. Niv Scheinfeld and Oren Laor, dance-theater; C.D. Howe, sound installation. November 1-3, 2013.
Series II. Sidra Bell Dance New York and Lauri Stallings with gloATL. December 12-14, 2013.
Series III. Austin McCormick/Company XIV, contemporary performance. March 27-30, 2014.
Series IV. Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, contemporary performance; Catellier Dance Projects, modern dance. May 22-24, 2014.