Dance  – 

Romance & Reality

Partnering Place

Creating site-specific dance performance is a love affair, beginning with a profound connection to the heart of a particular place. Whether it be dancing throughout a historic coal processing plant turned UNESCO World Heritage Site in Essen, Germany, on the grounds of a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, or in rowboats in New York City’s Central Park, the first date, the first step in our creative process is to listen deeply in stillness.

What history and poetry resonate within the site’s architecture? What unique attributes of light and color and sound break our habitual ways of seeing? For us, creating choreography in any setting is our response to, and a duet with, the essence of that particular place.

The first three days of rehearsals are the romance. We fall in love with a particular stairway or beech tree, or the way the light creates shadows along a particular hallway. Our dancers and musicians—always our creative collaborators—begin improvising and choreographing intimate moments of relationship. An exquisite, rarefied atmosphere permeates the space, and there is nowhere we would prefer to be than right here, right now.

On the fourth day the world’s realities set in: it rains and we lose a precious week of work; or the bees or mosquitos or gnats arrive; or it’s so hot the dancers are in danger of getting sunstroke; or the powers that be decree that half of our fabulous ideas are not allowed; or days of dancing on decades-old concrete takes its toll on the body and spirit.

So we must listen to these things as well: how to respect and honor whatever the present moment gifts us? If we are fortunate, we make it through that dark night of the soul. As the dancers find their way back, bonding more deeply with each other and the space, our new work is realized shortly before the first performance. We—and hopefully the audience—enter a state of kansha (a Japanese expression for simultaneous appreciation and gratitude). And, as C. S. Lewis once said, we become surprised by joy.


A number of people in bright, flowing clothes curl between and within the branches of a tree.
Graham Brown, Mirah Kellc Esteva, Rodrigo Esteva, Sebastian Esteva, Tzveta Kassabova, and Connecticut College students (clockwise, from top) in A Curious Invasion / Connecticut College. Connecticut College campus, New London, Connecticut, May 2011. Photograph by Patrik Widrig.


Two dancers fit themselves into two adjacent windows in a red building, one squatting upright, the other upside down.
Dancers Nicole Turchi and Bethany Disque (left to right) in A Curious Invasion / Chatham. Community Bank, N. A., Downtown Chatham, New York, August 2013. Photograph by Jonathan Hsu.


Two people dance before a stone wall, a man in red shirt and green pants falls back and a woman in yellow shirt and red skirt jumps forwards, looking away.
Patrik Widrig and Tzveta Kassabova (left to right) in A Curious Invasion/Connecticut College. Photograph by Sara Pearson.


A dancer dressed in flowing red pants and skirt flips over bales of hay, upside down and legs spread.
Jason Akira Somma in A Curious Invasion / Wave Hill. Photographs by James Murphy.


Two women in green shorts and shirt bend over, touching the ground in profile, on a field of grass.
Breezy Berryman and Katherine Helen Fisher (left to right) in A Curious Invasion / Wave Hill. Wave Hill Estate, Riverdale, New York, July 2011.


Dancers in yellow lean against pillars in a large concrete space, hands up and facing away from the camera, arching their bodies to the left.
Tzveta Kassabova, Stephanie Miracle, Candace Scarborough, and Connor Voss (left to right) in A Curious Invasion / Zollverein. Zeche Zollverein, Essen, Germany, June 2017. Photograph by Jonathan Hsu.


Three women dressed in yellow lay on a grand slatted staircase, holding the banister and leaning towards the camera.
Tzveta Kassabova, Stephanie Miracle, and Candace Scarborough (left to right) in A Curious Invasion / Zollverein. Photograph by Jonathan Hsu.


Two dancers in yellow appear in a warehouse at night. One jumps, lifting her feet, over the other, who is lying down.
Nejma Larichi and Stephanie Miracle (left to right) in A Curious Invasion / Zollverein. Photograph by Jonathan Hsu.