By Karen Hildebrand
28 October 2020
Who could have predicted that in August 2020 it would be a singularly unique experience to attend a live dance performance? But after more than four months of complete shutdown of live arts and entertainment throughout New York State, the Hudson Valley had entered stage four of reopening, and outdoor gatherings of 50 or fewer were now allowed. When Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli announced its festival of free outdoor performances, the nine weekends “sold out” immediately.
With stringent social-distancing protocols in place, and contactless admission instructions and program brochure delivered via email, guests entered a rustic barn to a light-and-sound installation of poetry and images. From there, the barn door opened to a majestic sweep of lush greenery—153 acres that were once a horse farm where Eleanor Roosevelt spent her childhood summers. On a newly built raised stage in the meadow on the third weekend of the series, Robbie Fairchild and Claudia Rahardjanoto tap danced together, Tamisha Guy & Lloyd Knight and Emily Kikta & Peter Walker performed duets, and Christopher Wheeldon, the host, presented a lyrical pas de deux for Fairchild and Chris Jarosz. It was a perfect antidote for the long months of anxious uncertainty.
The Summer Festival was the brainchild of the new generation of leadership at Kaatsbaan. Hired in December 2018, Sonja Kostich is the organization’s first fully dedicated executive director after 30 years of operation under the original founders. Former ABT star Stella Abrera joined her at the helm as artistic director in January 2020. Together they are committed to putting Kaatsbaan on the cultural map as the year-round arts center its founders envisioned long ago.
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