At the Gate: Westbeth 2021
photo: Catherine Gallant
Escape from the House of Mercy - backstory Always chasing the next funding opportunity, we applied for money being given by NYC Parks and Recreation and the Partnership for Parks to projects related to a specific park, Inwood Hill Park, in Upper Manhattan, NYC. I imagined a choreographic response to an aspect of the park's history. In research before writing the grant proposal I learned about buildings that existed in the park around the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century. Workshouses, asylums and hospitals, mainly for women, were perched high on hills overlooking the Hudson River. There were beautiful vistas but without hope for most who gazed out from the bar covered windows. We were awarded the grant and began working on Escape from the House of Mercy in the Fall of 2017. Our April 2020 season at Danspace/St. Marks (Community Access) supported in part with funds from Creative Engagement/LMCC was cancelled. We eventually managed to keep working in small ways to maintain the work in outdoor settings and as dance for the camera. In December of 2021 we finally were ready to present the full work indoors at St. Michael's Church however, it was the beginning of the Omicron surge just as many shows were closing. Somehow the cast remained healthy and we presented the performances but to a very small audience.
Inspirations and resources: Books/Articles/Websites/Museums:
My Inwood- website archive maintained by local Inwood historian, Cole Thompson since 2008 Lost Inwood - photo history book by Cole Thompson and Don Rice (2019) Inwood’s old Magdalene Asylum - Cole Thompson Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York, Algonquin Books (2018) Ten Days in a Madhouse - Nellie Bly (1887) , Wildside Press American Prison - Shane Bauer, 2018 Penquin Press (A)dressing Our Hidden Truths - Alison Lowry, National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts and History An artistic response to the legacy of mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries by glass artist Alison Lowry
Catherine Gallant, (choreographer) has been creating work in NYC over the past 30 years. Catherine Gallant/DANCE brings dance to new audiences through direct interaction with the public. Ms. Gallant's work has been performed in Times Square, a pedestrian block of E. 91st Street in Manhattan, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Inwood Hill Park. She has also presented work at the 92Y Harkness Dance Center, City Center Studios, WestFest, Danspace St. Mark’s (Dance Access), American Dance Guild and Jacob's Pillow's Inside/Out Series. Ms. Gallant’s work has been supported by Jody and John Arnhold, LMCC, Chashama, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Foundation for Contemporary Arts and Partnerships for Parks/City Parks Foundation. Catherine is also the director of Dances by Isadora which, since 1989, performs, teaches and collaborates with dancers throughout the world. Catherine is the US performer of Jerome Bel’s recent work, Isadora Duncan. She began her study of the technique of Isadora Duncan in 1982 with Julia Levien and is a founding member of the Duncan Archive duncanarchive.org. Catherine has been the full-time NYCDOE dance educator at PS 89 in Manhattan since 1998. She and her students were featured in the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, PS DANCE! Catherine is on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory (DEL). Ms. Gallant is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and holds an MFA in Dance from Temple University.www.dancesbyisadora.comwww.catherinegallantdance.com