The 92nd St. Y in New York City may have an unassuming name, but it is one of the leading venues in the country that produces soul-stirring art—be it poetry, prose, music, or dance. Wait a minute, See Chicago Dance is a Chi-town rag, so why are we talking about NYC? That’s the beauty of the digital age, that a fan in Chicago can see their favorite artists and prodigal performers from 800 miles away.
The 92nd St. Y was founded in 1874 to serve the social and spiritual needs of the American Jewish community—the original name was the “Young Men’s Hebrew Association”—and over the last 147 years has grown into an inclusive and diverse hub of creativity. Over the years, 92Y, as it’s now called, has presented such dance luminaries as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm and Charles Weidman. And in 1994, they opened the Harkness Dance Center, offering performances, classes, dance movement therapy and their own Dance Education Laboratory program.
There is a Chicago connection found in the current director of the Harkness Dance Center (and former director of Hubbard Street 2), Taryn Kaschock Russell. “I was in Chicago for 17 years, so it is a part of my identity as a director, as a producer, as an artist and it will go with me wherever I am,” said Russell in a phone call. “So, I am excited to have what’s happening in New York being heard about in Chicago because I still consider it my home.”
For the opening of the new season, Russell decided to bring a little bit of her old “home” to her current one by commissioning the dance-choreography team of Flock, created by Alice Klock and Florian Lochner, who met during their time as members of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
“My relationship with this choreographic duo is born out of my time in Chicago and their time out of Chicago,” said Russell. “When they formed Flock, from the very first moments, I have been fascinated and intrigued by their journey, by their continued growth.”
Flock co-founder Alice Klock recalls her and Lochner’s initial collaborations at the now-demolished Lou Conte Dance Studio, formerly in Chicago’s West Loop. “We met at Hubbard Street where we danced together, and we found that we had this kind of telepathic-artistic connection and started making work together,” said Klock. “Our first full duet that we made was called ‘Familiar’ and was about that feeling of having ‘a’ familiar, being very familiar with someone else—this feeling of, ‘Are we one person?’ ‘Are we two people?’ It’s kind of the framework for this new piece.” Lochner adds, “We always felt like it was a very special piece to us because it was our first piece. Revisiting it… felt like home.”
92Y’s new season also includes performances and choreography by veteran Alvin Ailey dancer Hope Boykin; Chinese Folk and Western Contemporary dance fusion artist Yin Yue and the Yin Yue Dance Company; street dance theater-based and artists in residence Passion Fruit Dance Company; current Tanztheater Wuppertal dancer, choreographer and winner of Hubbard Street’s National Choreographic Competition, Jonathan Fredrickson; former Batsheva dancer and documented choreographer Bobbie Jene Smith in a collaboration with violinist Kier GoGwilt; and an evening of tap dance hosted by hoofers extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia.
Another addition to the program, “Counterpoint,” is a collaboration between tap dancer Caleb Teicher—who you may have seen as a guest at last summer’s Rhythm World festival in Chicago—and pianist and composer Conrad Tao. The program stands out amongst this diverse lineup simply by being another to feature tap dance.
As Teicher explains in an interview, “I think there used to be frequently, from arts presenters, this idea that one tap dance show is enough; that, if you saw one tap dance show, you knew everything that you needed to know about tap dance right now. There was this idea that the art form was a monolith.”
The goal of 92Y is to not only present artists, but to listen to them and to be “artist-centric,” as Russell puts it. The additional representation of contrasting styles of tap dance is evidence of that. Russell gushed at the question of how she chose this season’s lineup, as if it was the simplest answer in the world:
“These are people I love,” she said. “The crux of it is that every single person that’s going to be on this stage — there’s some kind of a personal connection and I wanted to either give opportunity for them to kick off where they haven’t been before, or say, ‘What would you like to do next?”
It’s a special treat for viewers in Chicago, to see where some of our cherished artists have been, what they have been up to and how they have changed and grown. Watching Flock for a Hubbard Street fan is like seeing an old friend after a long absence, only truly knowing who they are because you’ve seen where they have been and to be reminded that, while NYC gets a lot of the credit, when you dig down deep, you will often find a Chicago connection.
The new season of dance at 92Y begins with Flock's premiere of “Familiar,” which streams Friday through Sunday. “Counterpoint,” a collaboration between Caleb Teicher and Conrad Tao, streams Mar. 4-6. Online tickets are $15. Live and online tickets, and viewing instructions for all the 92Y’s in-person and streaming performances, can be found at 92Y.org