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INNOVATIVE DANCE CENTER FOUNDED IN NEW YORK.

TIVOLI, New York--In the face of funding cuts, folding dance companies, and a lack of affordable rehearsal space there may be a shining light at the end of the tunnel--called Kaatsbaan.

The brainchild of founders Martine van Hamel, Kevin McKenzie, Bentley Roton, and Gregory Cary, Kaatsbaan (which means "playing field" in Dutch) is a newly formed international dance center dedicated to providing a place to create new work in a beautiful, healthy environment. Located near Poughkeepsie, New York, in the sleepy town of Tivoli, Kaatsbaan is located on 153 acres of pastoral countryside that was originally a horse farm, with buildings designed by the famous architect Stanford White.

The inspiration for Kaatsbaan came seven years ago when van Hamel and McKenzie decided to look for a house in upstate New York. Their idea was to find a studio where work could be done away from the pressures of the city. They brought their idea to Roton, a former American Ballet Theatre and Broadway dancer turned producer. "I kept hearing of people losing their dance spaces," says Roton, "[such as the] Erick Hawkins company and Martha Graham company. We wanted to create a safe haven for dancers." Two years ago, after a few false starts, the four founders discovered the property that is now Kaatsbaan and raised money to purchase it.

"Kaatsbaan will primarily focus on the creative process," says Roton. "Dancers need creative, physical, and mental space," Space, in all directions, is what they will have at Kaatsbaan. Plans include a residence for visiting dancers and artists that will eventually be able to house up to 100 people. According to Roton, there will be seven working studios, the largest, fifty-five by sixty feet with seating for 120 people, for showcases and workshops. The arena, which used to be for horses, will be turned into a state-of-the-art theater with 450 to 500 seats. "Three or four small companies could be in residence at the same time," says Roton. "Ideas could be exchanged."

Most important, say the founders, is Kaatsbaan's emphasis on providing time and space for artists to create without the pressure of reviews and New York audiences. "We will show the results of the work choreographers do here, one step at a time, in stages," says van Hamel. "It is up to us to allow the work to grow without so much pressure on the result. We will have the luxury of being creative." The founders also hope to increase the public's awareness of the creative process. Visitors will be encouraged to watch rehearsals as works are being developed. "People have no idea of the weeks of rehearsal and refining involved to make something work," says Roton. "When they realize, they appreciate it so much more."

Plans are also underway for a reference library, a therapeutic center--to "bring energy, health, and vitality to the creative process," says Roton--and a conference center. Both van Hamel and Roton stress the importance of involving artists from other fields. They also envision a scenic design shop and the opportunity for dancers to work with sets, props, and lights before the move from rehearsal studio to stage. They also intend to have resident composers.

A star-studded gala was performed on December 6 at Poughkeepsie's Bardavon Opera House to raise awareness and money for Kaatsbaan. Dancers from companies such as New York City Ballet, ABT, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pilobolus, National Ballet of Canada, and many more took part. "We wanted to have a large overview of the creative aspects of dance," says van Hamel. The performance was an overwhelming success at the box office. "There has never been a dance event of that nature in this area," explains Roton. "People said they left feeling as if they had had a mystical experience. Dance should always provide that."

Kaatsbaan is scheduled to begin residencies in the summer of 1999. "There are places for writers, composers, musicians, and artists to create, but not for dancers," says Roton. "Now the dance world will own a place that will enhance and carry the dance process forward ... and create an audience."
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Title Annotation:Kaatsbaan
Author:Stenn, Rebecca
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Words:681
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