The years of hoping and speculation for PS/21 are over.
Chatham’s performing arts venue that has offered a world-class line-up of dancers, actors and musicians has moved out of its tent and into a fully-equipped and beautiful outdoor amphitheater that matches its artists’ prestige.
The step up, which took 13 years to accomplish, was formally celebrated Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and speeches with officials taking credit for the feat. But no one deserves more accolades than its President Judy Grunberg who had the vision to create a home for the arts in an abandoned apple orchard. Her grit, perseverance and enthusiasm for the project in Columbia County got it done.
Grunberg’s accomplishment was recognized by performances by some of the venue’s most faithful and favorite artists. Among them was Parsons Dance, the company, from which the beginning Grunberg said she wanted to host at PS/21 every summer. So far, it’s worked out that way. And at every appearance, the company has staged “Caught.”
Performed by Henry Steele, the dance in which a strobe captures a jumping dancer at the peak of his airborne acrobatics, never gets old. This was a dance that choreographer David Parsons owned. No one ever did it as well as he. But Steele came close.
Steele had the upper body flexibility in the first moments of the dance in which the soloist moves from spotlight to spotlight. Those first gestures, which likened him to a strange or ancient creature of the air, snares the imagination. His undulating rib cage, fluid neck and arms and claw like fingers set up for the eye-popping, heart-stopping round of jumps that the audience only sees at the top of the flight in a flash of light. It’s a stunner.
Also amazing was TAKE Dance’s “The Game.” An excerpt from choreographer Takehiro Ueyama’s “Salaryman,” the dance for four was an aggressive play for dominance. In suits and ties, Brynt Beitman, Alex Cottone, John Durbin and John Eirich race, crash into and topple each other in an exhausting battle to the top. The snippet makes one long to see the full “Salaryman,” a portrait of Japanese businessmen.
The Vanaver Caravan also joined the festivities. The preservationist of world dance and music gave audience a small slice of their expansive repertory with traditions from Quebec, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Turkey. With its artistic directors Bill and Livia Vanaver performing with the band, the ensemble of young dancers warmed up the evening with synchronized clogging and hamboning that inspired smiles all around.
The grand opening also included comedian Hilary Chaplain and accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Needless to say, I wanted to see more dance, but the range of performers also demonstrated PS/21 commitment to all the arts. And for that, Grunberg deserves endless gratitude.