The Kaatsbaan Fall Festival, over three weekends beginning September 17, presents a diverse program of dances outdoors—as well as poetry, music, sculpture, and the culinary arts—on their 153-acre grounds in Tivoli.
Philip Glass turned 85 in January, and Kaatsbaan will honor him, as part of a year-long series of tributes to the composer in England, Spain, New Zealand, and Japan. Pianists will play Glass's Études, with all-new dances by six choreographers, including Justin Peck, who created the dance numbers in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. Though Glass is known as a minimalist composer, his etudes are intimate, tender, melodic, and playful.
On Saturday, September 24, three major companies appear on one bill: the Tricia Brown Dance Company, Dorrance Dance, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. "It would cost five times as much to see these groups in New York City," remarks Sonja Kostich, Kaatsbaan's chief executive. Mark Morris is known for his witty, populist, intricate choreography. He will present "Gloria," a work set to the music of Vivaldi, which debuted in 1981. Elements of children's games and go-go dancing illustrate the elegant musical structures of the Baroque composer. Dorrance Dance is one of the foremost tap dancing ensembles in the country, led by MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance, who combines percussive intelligence with a visual style reminiscent of ballet. The Tricia Brown company will perform "In Plain Site," a dance with architectural references, that is adapted to each location in which it's performed. (The group will arrive a few days early to scope out the setting.)
The pandemic was difficult for the dance world. "For a good two years, dancers were dancing in their kitchens and living rooms," recounts Kostich. In fact, Kaatsbaan never closed. Instead they moved their festivals outside, seating audience members 20 feet apart to avoid any chance of infection. Only solo dances were featured (or couples who had quarantined together) so the performers couldn't get COVID from each other. Now, with advanced testing, near-normal programming can resume—but Kaatsbaan continues to hold performances en plein air.
All dance was originally outdoors. When you see dancing outside, everything merges with the moving bodies: a startled squirrel, the clouds above, an arcing airplane. You can watch a dancer being pursued by a breeze. Even small children—who would revolt during a Shakespeare play—are fascinated by dance.
Australian singer-songwriter Ry X will appear on Friday, September 30, as part of his first US tour. He's receiving a lot of attention; his dizzying ballad "Only" is a hit on TikTok ("Cut me like a rose/Turn me like a beast..."); his bearded face recently graced the cover of French Rolling Stone. Ry X is touring to promote his new album, Blood Moon. Because he performs with an elaborate light show, his concert will be indoors.
On the final night, Steven Spielberg's new West Side Story will be screened, followed by a performance choreographed by Adriana Pierce, one of the dancers in the film. Other performers from the classic musical will join her. After the screening and performance, the audience is invited to dance. On the dance floor, everyone becomes a choreographer.
Kaatsbaan's grounds reach from central Tivoli down to the Hudson River, and include a sculpture park with 19 works by Hudson Valley artists, including Portia Munson, Emil Alzamora, and Jared Handelsman. The gates open an hour before each show, so arrive early and saunter through the dancerly meadows. Check website for times.