CUNY Dance Initiative Announces Spring 2024 Performances

March 19, 2024

The CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI), is an expansive program providing NYC choreographers and dance companies with creative residencies on 13 CUNY college campuses.

This includes three partner organizations, and announces public events from April through June 2024.

The CUNY Dance Initiative is known for supporting choreographers working in all genres of dance. This spring, CDI is co-presenting performances by an extraordinary group of artists whose work spans Bharatanatyam, flamenco, hip-hop, jazz, tap, and contemporary ballet: Sloka Iyengar, Sekou McMiller & Friends, TweetBoogie/Boogie Gang, and Queer the Ballet, plus a studio showing by Kyle Marshall Choreography. All of the artists/companies have been developing their work during a CDI residency this season. On April 27, Kupferberg Center for the Arts, the administrative headquarters for the CUNY Dance Initiative, will celebrate CDI’s 10th anniversary with an evening of percussive dance by two alums: live dance and music company Music From The Sole and flamenco artists Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernández.

In addition to the residencies culminating in public performances this spring, many artists are still working in CUNY studios, rehearsing and creating new projects, including Nora Alami, Les Ballet Afrik, CocoMotion/NuTribe Dance Company, Gotham Dance Theater, Orlando Hernández, Camille J., Enya Kalia Creations/Enya-Kalia Jordan, LayeRhythm, onCUE Chronicles/Quilan Arnold, and Hussein Smko. Overall, CDI is underwriting 23 residencies this cycle, which began in July 2023 and runs through June 2024.

Spring 2024 Performance & Public Events

Sloka Iyengar

Saṃbhūya: Understanding the Brain Through Dance: A Bharatanatyam Recital

City College Center for the Arts (Harlem, Manhattan), Friday, April 19, at 7pm, Free,

Sloka Iyengar, a Bharatanatyam artist and neuroscientist, brings together her two passions in Saṃbhūya. A Sanskrit word that means “through joint effort,” Saṃbhūya is both a performance and a demonstration that articulates how the sciences and the arts are complementary ways of appreciating the world around us.

Sekou McMiller & Friends

Afro Latin Soul

LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (Long Island City, Queens), Friday, April 26, at 7:30pm, $25,

An evening of dance and live music celebrating the past, present, and future intersections of communities that share a rich ancestry from the African continent. Afro Latin Soul highlights the jazz and African roots of salsa dance and music, and explores the connection between the Black and brown communities through ritual, sound, and movement. Sekou McMiller & Friends have performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Bryant Park, Little Island NYC, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Jacob’s Pillow Creative Lab, and Guggenheim: Works & Process.

Music From The Sole and Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernández

Celebrating 10 Years of the CUNY Dance Initiative

Kupferberg Center for the Arts: LeFrak Concert Hall at Queens College (Flushing, Queens)
Saturday, April 27, at 8pm, $30,

Kupferberg Center for the Arts—administrative headquarters for the CUNY Dance Initiative—marks the program’s 10th anniversary with an evening of percussive dance by two alums. Music From The Sole is a tap dance and live music company that celebrates tap’s Afro-diasporic roots, particularly its connections to Afro-Brazilian dance and music and its lineage to forms like house dance and passinho (Brazilian funk). Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernández are known for bridging the culture of traditional flamenco dance with contemporary global influences. Their work has graced the stages of flamenco festivals around the world, as well as on tours with pop icons Ricky Martin and Madonna. Both companies will present excerpts of work created during their CDI residencies. Music From The Sole will share sections from Partido (developed in a 2021 residency at City College Center for the Arts), and Sonia Olla & Ismael Fernández will reprise the “palmas” section from ELLA (created during a 2018 residency at Queens College).

Kyle Marshall Choreography

Gay (work-in-progress showing)

Snug Harbor’s Performing Arts Salon Series, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (Staten Island), Saturday, June 1, at 2 pm, $10 suggested donation,

Kyle Marshall Choreography (KMC) is a dance company that sees the dancing body as a container of history, an igniter of social reform, and a site of celebration. The company concludes its monthlong residency at Snug Harbor, CDI’s host partner in Staten Island, with a work-in-progress studio showing of its new project. Gay is a duet on eternal love set to Julius Eastman’s “Gay Guerrilla” (1979), a brooding song of undulating pulses that surround the listener. Julius Eastman (1940-1990) was a proudly gay, Black American composer, pianist, vocalist, and dancer who died in relative obscurity, and has gained recognition posthumously for his pioneering contributions to the classical avant-garde.

TweetBoogie / Boogie Gang

The TweetBoogie Experience (world premiere)

Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture (Bronx), Wednesday, June 5, at 7:30pm, $12 general / $10 senior / $5 student & youth,

Always representing the South Bronx, TweetBoogieis devoted to the street styles of hip-hop. ‪She has worked with icons Jay-Z, ‪LL Cool J, Shakira, Kanye West, Jasmine Sullivan, Nicki Minaj, and Janet Jackson, while keeping roots to the underground dance community. The TweetBoogie Experience, an ensemble of stellar dancers dives deep into Tweet’s connection to Black music, dance, history, and true hip-hop culture. It takes the audience on an imaginative journey from the streets of the South Bronx to all over the world and back again. Each piece tells a story from different chapters of Tweet’s life as a Black woman, creative artist, world traveler, and—best of all—a mother.

Queer the Ballet

Dream of a Common Language (world premiere)

Baruch Performing Arts Center (Murray Hill, Manhattan), Friday, June 21, at 7:30 pm, Saturday, June 22, at 2 pm & 7:30 pm, Sunday, June 23, at 2 pm, $40 / $24 students with ID,

Choreographer Adriana Pierce created Queer the Ballet to broaden the scope of classical ballet to authentically include LGBTQ+ voices and narratives, focusing on queer cis women, trans people of all genders, and nonbinary dancers. Dream of a Common Language is a new evening-length ballet inspired by lesbian writer and activist Adrienne Rich’s 1978 poetry collection of the same name. Directed by Adriana Pierce, the program includes choreography by Pierce, Minnie Lane, Rosie Elliott, and Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. The story follows six dancers’ journeys through community, friendship, romance, and heartbreak, bringing to light the similarities between Adrienne Rich’s yearning for queer community in the ‘70s and queer ballet dancers’ current struggles to find each other. From mountaintops to dimly lit bars, this new ballet illuminates the struggles and joys of LGBTQ+ people through history and queer dancers today: all dreaming of a common language to connect them.

The CUNY Dance Initiative

The CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI) is a transformative incubator that secures two vital yet scarce resources—rehearsal time and performance space—for New York City choreographers and dance companies. Housed within the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest public urban university system, CDI is a residency program that supports local artists, enhances the cultural life and education of college students, and builds new dance audiences at CUNY performing arts centers.

CDI was developed in response to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s 2010 report, “We Make Do,” which cited how destabilizing the shortage of affordable rehearsal space in New York City is to the dance sector. Since its launch in 2014, CDI has facilitated 220 residencies at 13 CUNY colleges in all five boroughs, granted more than 11,000 hours of studio and stage time to artists; sponsored workshops and master classes for more than 5,000 students; and attracted more than 20,000 New Yorkers to performances and showings at CUNY performing arts centers.

In addition to working with 13 CUNY colleges, CDI also partners with three arts organizations in the boroughs: Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (Staten Island); Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (Queens); and Brooklyn Arts Exchange (Brooklyn).

The program is spearheaded by the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College. Alyssa Alpine has been the director of the CUNY Dance Initiative since its founding in 2014.

The CUNY Dance Initiative receives major support from the Howard Gilman Foundation and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation. Additional support is provided by the SHS Foundation, Harkness Foundation for Dance, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

More information about the CUNY Dance Initiative is available at 

Photo credit: 1) Gotham Dance Theater (PC_ Mike Esperanza). 2) Sloka Iyengar. 3) Sekou McMiller & Friends. 4) TweetBoogie. By CUNY Dance.

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