Baryshnikov Arts Center announced on Thursday a new commissioning program that aims to encourage choreographers and other artists to continue creating while the performing arts remain largely shut down in New York City because of the pandemic. The inaugural group of commission recipients — including the dance-makers Kyle Marshall and Bijayini Satpathy, and the media designer and performer Tei Blow — will receive financial support, rehearsal space and assistance from the center’s production team to film and edit their projects, which will be shared online.
“We need art right now more than ever — otherwise, what will we have?” said Mikhail Baryshnikov, the organization’s founder and artistic director. Creating work that translates onscreen can be challenging, he added, though he expects that the chosen recipients will be motivated, not cowed, by the requirements.
“I think these limitations are wonderful for those artists who have maybe never prepared art projects for a digital space,” he said. “Choreographically, especially, you have to really figure out depth of field, where the camera goes.”
The artists’ work will debut after the arts center’s coming digital season, which is to begin on Oct. 1 with “Coming Together,” a musical film that features the Quodlibet Ensemble and Reginald Mobley, a countertenor, performing Frederic Rzewski’s Minimalist response to the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.
The season will include two other noncommissioned works devised for digital platforms, Igor Golyak’s live Zoom theater piece “State vs. Natasha Banina” (Oct. 12 and Oct. 14) and “SOS (The Song of Songs),” a film adaptation of Alexey Sysoev’s cantata created by the visual and performance artist Vera Martynov (Nov. 17-20). Archival performances will also be shared as a part of the season throughout the fall.
The Baryshnikov center is not alone in adding a commissioning element to its online programming. Last week, New York City Ballet announced that its fall season would conclude with a mini festival of new works that the company will film and share online. American Ballet Theater, too, has shared plans to isolate groups of its dancers in locations outside of New York so they can safely prepare new work.