With New York City so close at hand, dance fans in the lower Hudson Valley have always had easy access to dance performances. Now, that sort of easy access is becoming more and more available to people in the mid- and upper-Hudson regions, as dance artists and aficionados take the plunge to establish dance centers and to include dance in seasonal festivals. The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre held its 35th annual dance gala at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie in early March, and Bard Summerscape, which runs this year from June 30th to August 20th, begins with a weekend of performances by the New York City Ballet. Later this year, PS21 in Chatham will devote weekends for the entire month of August to dance as part of its annual festival. In the city of Catskill, the performing arts institution Lumberyard (formerly American Dance Institute) is renovating a former lumberyard into a facility that, beginning in 2018, will host performances and offer space and living accommodations for visiting artists developing new projects. A little further south and across the river, in Tivoli, and already in full operation, one finds the flagship of all this activity: the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center.
The organization behind Kaatsbaan was founded in 1990 by four professional dancers and achieved 501(c)3 status in 1991. Land in Tivoli known as Tivoli Farms was selected in 1994 and purchased in 1997. Construction began in 1999. The dance center now consists of a studio complex with three dance studios, a 160-seat black-box dance theatre, roads, parking lots, and a dancers’ inn that can accommodate 36 dancers.
A gatehouse building offers two additional bedrooms and a kitchen. A “music barn”, designed by Stanford White and built in the 1890s, awaits refurbishment into a visitor reception center with shops and 10,000 square feet of art and exhibition galleries. Also planned are additional studios, a second dancers’ inn, and a lodge and dining room complex.
In addition to the built facilities they provide, the founders of Kaatsbaan emphasize the importance of an aesthetically inspirational and healthy work environment. Of the 153 acres that belong to Kaatsbaan, development plans include only 18 acres. The remaining 135 acres of hay fields and woodlands will remain open spaces, preserving the character of the site and the scenic views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.
From the Kaatsbaan website:
Kaatsbaan was designed to provide national and international dance companies, choreographers and all dance artists with an affordable year-round facility where they can interact as a diverse community, experiment, create, rehearse, perform, showcase new work, train, and develop new sets, costumes and productions. The project is designed to stimulate the development and growth of dance as an art form.
True to this statement of purpose, in 2015 Kaatsbaan hosted over 200 professional dancers performing with 18 dance companies in its black-box theater, and had 19 dance companies spend time in residence there and utilize 1250 hours of studio time. And true to the “International” part of its name, the dance center hosted resident dancers from Asia, Europe, and Latin America, in addition to the dancers there from North America.
Public performances are offered Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons during the spring, with a handful of performances in April and weekly performances in May and early June. Adult tickets cost $30, while tickets for students and children cost just $10.