LIT carries on torch of loft performances in New York


By Mathew Sandoval

Once upon a time, a collection of dancers could meet at a loft in Lower Manhattan and spark each other’s imagination in challenging new ways. Free from the pressure to stoke the fiery furnace of commerce, the reckless abandon of choreographers fueled the experimentation of form and content. But even amidst the untouchable real estate that characterizes Soho today, there is one hold-out from Downtown dance’s golden age of affordable work/living space. Acquired by choreographer Bill Young in the mid 80s, his loft at the corner of Mercer and Grand provides a communal place for choreographers to rehearse and perform risky, new work.

Since 2002, Bill Young and his wife and dance partner, Colleen Thomas, have been presenting a series of raw, experimental works in their loft at 100 Grand St. known as LIT (Loft Into Theater). The annual event showcases an evening of artists willing to explore the germs of their ideas in an intimate atmosphere that allows for more opportunities and possibilities for performance. “With dancers in the downtown scene relying almost exclusively on three or four main venues within Manhattan to present their work, most choreographers end up playing a game of musical chairs,” says Young, who also uses his loft year-round as a rehearsal space his dance company, Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Dancers. Yet the kind of dance seen at LIT, or Hundred Grand’s weeklong festival in the spring, gorillaFEST, may not necessarily be what you’d see at the main venues. “To begin with,” he says, “there is an honesty and transparency about these performances. The artists are more naked.” Unconstrained by the pressures of having to satisfy the expectations of producers, presenters, and audiences, the informal loft setting is the perfect environment for an artist to simply “reveal.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that LIT’s latest show is being presented this week during the annual New York APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) conference, where hungry and well-funded concert dance presenters search for high-profile and new-profile companies and choreographers who will fill the seats of their theatres. In its honorable intentions to be little more than “dance for dancers,” LIT has cleverly positioned itself as Anti-APAP. In fact, LIT’s modus operandi is to deliver a counterpoint to dance’s preoccupation with the business of art — a difficult task given that the economics of performance now take precedence over the actual work produced. “I run into an artist or choreographer and instead of talking about what they’re working on, we talk about what grant they’re writing,” says Young.

Time was when spontaneous community erupted into generational movements, and performance was the conversation. For Bill Young and the artists presented at LIT, that time is still now.