Jonathan Hollander initiated the Downtown Dance Festival 30 years ago and directs it as well. He also directs Battery Dance Company, one of America’s most traveled dance troupes. And he does all of it from two large studios five stories above the street at 380 Broadway, where he and his family also live. “We were founded in the Financial District and had to find a way to reach people. I’m interested in expanding the audience for dance,”?he says. “In the early days, we performed on the pavement. We invited other companies to join us and got double-page spreads in every paper and audiences in the thousands every day.”
Battery will bring a rented stage and sound equipment to each festival performance. Nine diverse dance companies will perform and teach at four locations, free and outdoors — except when Poland’s Silesian Dance Theatre and Malaysia’s Sutra Dance Theatre share the grand finale on Saturday at Dance New Amsterdam near City Hall.
“We make dance accessible to people who wouldn’t have the means or curiosity to seek it out,”?Hollander explains. “Festival philosophy has been to cross every possible niche.” He cites Marilyn Klaus’ Ballets with a Twist because she “has a wicked sense of humor,” and touts how Lydia Johnson “celebrates ballet technique in an individual way.” Weekday lunch-hour shows take place at One New York Plaza; this afternoon features four South Asian groups doing Indian dance.
Funding is drying up, but the effort isn’t slowing down. “Normally you get paid for doing work, but Battery Dance Company supports the festival; it’s our biggest gift to the community every year,”?Hollander says. “If you find your way to us, you’ll be richly rewarded.”