For the past three years, New York City Ballet dancers Emily Kikta and Peter Walker have created a series of site-specific dance films promoting the company's annual summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Although this summer's installment looks different due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kikta and Walker continue the tradition into its fourth year with SPAC Reimagined.
With quarantine restrictions in place and the company's SPAC residency cancelled due to the onset of COVID-19, Kikta and Walker decided to expand the series and shift its focus to the effects of the pandemic on the arts industry. As Walker describes, they hope to use the series to provide "a small offering of what could have been" for audiences who had been looking forward to seeing this summer's performances. The first of the five videos was released today, July 14, in recognition of what would have been NYCB's opening night at SPAC.
Each of this year's videos was filmed solely within the SPAC grounds, and showcases the lush acreage surrounding the gorgeous outdoor amphitheater. This departs from the past few years, where we've seen dancers frolicking through local hotels, whirling around industrial buildings, and plunging into pools around Saratoga. SPAC Reimagined incorporates original choreography from Kikta, Walker and their NYCB colleagues Devin Alberda and Christina Clark, and integrates new recorded performances from both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber of Music Society of Lincoln Center. As a result, the videos themselves will be longer, ranging three to four minutes each to encompass a full movement of music.
In addition to Kikta, Walker and Alberda, the series features NYCB dancers Uma Deming, Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara and Anthony Huxley. To ensure safety, the group quarantined together in Saratoga for two weeks prior to filming. To avoid public transportation, casting was limited to dancers who were already in the New York area, and each participant was tested for COVID-19 before the project began.
When asked about her hopes for the series, Kikta explains, "We want to be able to uplift the communities that are so loyal to the arts without undermining the tragedy that this is. What we're dealing with is finding the line to express the time that we're in." The duo encourages viewers to tune into the fifth and final video on July 25th for a full scope of the project's message.
Stay tuned for the next four videos, released July 16, 21, 23 and 25. They'll be available on all SPAC media channels, the NYCB Facebook page, and Kikta and Walker's shared Instagram page @kw_creative.