The dancers respond to the exhibitions at the Art Omi in Gent

The dancers respond to the exhibitions at the Art Omi in Gent

For dance artists, whose body is their medium, the first condition for creative exploration is a safe space in which to push their limits. Providing that space is the main goal of Christopher Morgan, director of the annual dance summer residency at Art Omi in Gent since 2006.

“These are unique circumstances for a residency program,” Morgan said in a recent interview. “These artists come together without knowing each other, out of a shared desire to meet new colleagues, experiment and be supported. It’s a rare opportunity to step outside your box and change the process in new ways, in a low-risk, high-support environment. “

The seven artists of the 2022 cohort will share their new works and works in progress on Saturday from 17:00 to 19:00 at Art Omi, in the sculpture park and in the residence studios. The screening is free and open to the public.

The first four days of the residency program, which lasts just under three weeks, is structured as an in-depth process of mutual understanding, as the dancers each share insights into their creative process. Since that foundation, “they have built a relationship of trust from which to dive into artistic risk-taking,” said Morgan, who spends the rest of his year in Makawao, Hawaii, where he is vice president of programming at Maui Arts & Cultural. Center.

Lavy, a New York City-based queer dance artist, recalls working with another resident, Maya Billig, in the group’s first collaborative exercise.

“I made eye contact with her and we unanimously stood up and went straight to this beautiful hollow silo in the field,” Lavy recalled. “We didn’t have much conversation, we just walked into this area of ​​earth and wood and got started. There was this initial wave of trust, excitement and care, this kinesthetic understanding between us. I was rolling on the ground with someone I didn’t really know, but I felt so held back.

That kind of curiosity and openness is what Morgan and the jury, which includes Omi’s board members and former residency students, specifically look for when curating each year’s cohort.

Art Omi Dance 2022

When: Saturday from 5pm to 7pm

Where: Art Omi, 1405 County Rt. 22, Ghent

Tickets: free, bookable online


“When you’re in the hustle and bustle of art creation, your curiosity drives you to research, research and creation, but then you get into the machinery of making and it’s hard to keep feeding it,” Morgan mused. “There is a similar aspect to a retreat in the residence: they can recharge and investigate in a very broad way with other curious artists.”

Along with this commonality, the panel aims for diversity within the group, in terms of age, experience, geography and culture, as well as training and approach. Lavy’s work links queer discourse with physical dance theater, exploring issues of identity and community building. Billig integrates dance, film and photography to create surreal worlds inspired by sources ranging from Edgar Allen Poe to old Hollywood westerns. Raymond Pinto, who graduated from Juilliard in 2013, creates performance art works using African and Latin diasporas as a starting point. Ntege Moses, originally from Uganda, specializes in traditional Ugandan dance forms, contemporary dance and Afro dance.

Aime Irasema is from Mexico City, where she performed with the Center of Contemporary Dance Production. Cat Mahari brings a background in hip hop and house; she is a former member of the Krump Gool family and a student of Princess Lockeroo (known for revitalizing the dance style of the Waacking nightclub era). Miriam Hermina began studying ballet at the age of 9 in her hometown of Fulton, Maryland, and recently graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in dance.

“We are fascinated by our differences and we all want to learn, take a look at each other’s processes and see how this informs our practice, take the time to ask ourselves where we come from artistically,” said Mahari. “One of the advantages of the residency is that we are not focused on a product: it is not a product, it is about artists who collaborate and question the meaning of this collaboration”.

In recent weeks, projects have been underway, have come to natural conclusions, expanded and folded into each other, Morgan said. Attendees on Saturday will see the works made in response to four different sculptures in the park, along with the work displayed in Omi’s gigantic barn, and also get a peek at the process behind the scenes.

While dancers may not take the finished pieces away, they plant seeds that will fuel their work and the dance world as a whole, Morgan says. Having guided more than 160 residents from 41 countries over the past 16 years, she is confident the program is having a powerful ripple effect.

“I’m interested in shifting the hierarchies and power dynamics that have at times made dance an unhealthy environment for the artists who make this beautiful work manifest: unfair pay structures, lack of support, short deadlines,” he said. “It’s a great vision, but it’s at the heart of how to foster an environment where artists can have a rich and meaningful experience and feel deeply supported, appreciated and valued, so that they in turn can go out and let it affect the I work in the community they live in globally ”.

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