Dancers respond to exhibits at Art Omi in Ghent

For dance artists, whose bodies are their medium, the first requirement for creative exploration is a safe space to push their edges. Providing this space is the primary goal for Christopher Morgan, director of the annual summer dance center at Art Omi in Ghent since 2006.

“These are unique circumstances for a residency program,” Morgan said in a recent interview. “These artists come together without knowing each other, out of a common desire to meet new colleagues, experiment and support each other. It’s a rare opportunity to step out of your box and change your process in new ways, in a low-risk, high-support environment.”

The seven artists of the 2022 cohort will share their new work and works in progress on Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Art Omi, the grounds of the sculpture park and the studios of the residence. The screening is free and open to the public.

The first four days of the residency program, which lasts just under three weeks, are structured as an in-depth process of getting to know each other, as the dancers share information about their creative process. From that foundation, “they build a relationship of trust from which they can dive into artistic risk-taking,” said Morgan, who is spending the rest of his year in Makawao, Hawaii, where he is vice president of programming at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. .

Lavy, a queer dance artist based in New York, recalls working with another resident, Maya Billig, on the group’s first collaborative exercise.

“I locked eyes with her and we got up in unison and went straight to this beautiful hollow silo in the field,” Lavy recalls. “We didn’t do much talking – we just walked into this area of ​​dirt and wood and just started. There was this initial surge of trust and excitement and care, this kinesthetic understanding between us. I was rolling around in the dirt with a person I didn’t really know, but I felt so held by it.”

That kind of curiosity and openness is what Morgan and the selection committee, which includes Omi board members and residency alumni in curating each year’s cohort, are specifically looking for.

Art Omi Dance 2022

When: Saturday 5-7 p.m

Where: Art Omi, 1405 County Rt. 22, Ghent

Tickets: Free, online booking


“When you’re in the hustle and bustle of making art, your curiosity drives you to research and research and create, but then you get into the engine of creation and it’s hard to keep feeding it,” Morgan mused. “There’s a retreat-like aspect to the residency—they can recharge and explore in a very spacious way with other curious artists.”

Along with this commonality, the panel aims for diversity within the team – in terms of age, experience, geography and culture, as well as training and approach. Lavy’s work connects a queer discourse with physical dance theater, exploring issues of identity and community building. Billig integrates dance, film and photography to create surreal worlds inspired by sources ranging from Edgar Allen Poe to Old Hollywood Westerns. Raymond Pinto, a 2013 Juilliard graduate, makes performance art using the African and Latino diaspora as a starting point. Ntege Moses, originally from Uganda, specializes in traditional Ugandan dance forms, contemporary dance and Afro dance.

Aime Irasema is from Mexico City, where she performed with the Center of Contemporary Dance Production. Cat Mahari brings a background in hip hop and house. She is a former member of the Krump Gool family and a student of Princess Lockeroo (known for reviving the disco-era Waacking dance style). Miriam Hermina began studying ballet at the age of 9 in her hometown of Fulton, Maryland, and recently graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in dance.

“We’re fascinated by our differences and we all want to learn, to take a look at each other’s processes and see how that informs our practice, to take time to question where we’re coming from artistically,” Mahari said. “One of the advantages of the residency is that we don’t focus on a product – this isn’t about a product, it’s about artists collaborating and questioning what that collaboration means.”

In recent weeks, the projects have sparked, come to natural conclusions, expanded and folded into each other, Morgan said. Attendees on Saturday will see works made in response to four different sculptures in the park, along with works displayed in Omi’s giant barn, and also get a look at the behind-the-scenes process.

While the dancers may not remove the finished pieces, they plant seeds that will grow their own work—and the dance world as a whole, Morgan says. After shepherding more than 160 residents from 41 countries over the past 16 years, he believes the program has a strong ripple effect.

“I’m interested in changing the hierarchies and power dynamics that have sometimes made dance an unhealthy environment for artists to manifest this beautiful work – unequal pay structures, lack of support, short schedules,” she said. “It’s a big vision, but it’s at the heart of how to cultivate an environment where artists can have a rich and meaningful experience and feel deeply supported, valued and appreciated, so that they in turn go out and let it affect the work in the communities they live in worldwide’.

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