Celebrating Peridance

Peridance celebrates its 32nd year as a pillar of the New York dance scene at a gala performance on June 6. The show will feature the Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and students from Peridance’s myriad training programs, as well as performances by The Limón Dance Company, the Djoniba Dance Centre, and BAILA Society. The diversity of the gala’s program is representative of the breadth and depth of the Peridance mission. The World Dances recently spoke with founder Igal Perry about his vision, his role in the NY dance community, and more. Tickets for the gala are available here

How does it feel to reflect on over 30 years of dance making in New York?

You know, when I reflect is not when I have a gala. I reflected, for example, yesterday. Yesterday we had a little showing of our students who were graduating. They’d each been assigned to select a professional choreographer and get solo works from him or her. I was thinking, as I was watching them show their final pieces, about how far we’ve come, both in terms of training dancers and how we influence dancers in their development. I never think about it as a personal accomplishment. I always think of it as just a part of what I love to do, and how it fits into what I will be doing. When I see good results it makes me happy, but it always feels like an ongoing process. It’s never finished.

The Peridance Capezio Center is now home to so many interrelated programs. Was it always your vision to create such a comprehensive institution? 

Absolutely, right from the start! If you found the proposals from when I first started, you would probably find a description of what we’re doing now. It’s always been my goal to create something that’s cohesive and has all the elements in it. There has to be a good school, good professional programs in the school, and a professional dance company. And more, actually. We have a pre-professional company for teens as well and they do a lot of work! Also we’re quite pioneering in terms of being at the forefront of what’s really happening now in the dance world, rather than just maintaining what’s traditional.

How do you select the dancers for your company?

We hold an open audition at least once a year, sometimes twice. We also have private auditions. Sometimes dancers will take my class as an audition and, if I think it looks like it will work out, they’ll have sort of a call back to work with the company for a rehearsal or something like that. We also have a certificate program in the school. It’s a 3-year professional training program. Out of that program, we take students into the company as apprentices. If they work out, they’ll continue into the company as full members. 

What do you look for in the dancers with whom you work?

Fist of all, dancers have to have good basic technique—good lines, quality of movement, and classical foundations. But also the dancers I look for need to be very open minded, eclectic, and able to move in other ways as well. Anything from classical to modern to jazz and to hip hop. We do a lot of styles of work. We’re a repertory company and we bring in outside choreographers as well. A choreographer might come in whose style is totally different, and we love that. I need the kind of dancers who will not see something new and become intimidated.

Could you please discuss Peridance’s relation to partner companies housed at the Peridance Capezio Center, The Limón Dance Company, Djoniba Dance Centre, and BAILA Society?

We’re very interested in the school being diverse. We’d been working with the Limón School for a long time. When they lost their space and needed a home it was a natural solution to offer them space within our school. It was the same with Djoniba and BAILA Society. They’ve become part of our landscape. They’re independent but in some ways it’s like Peridance is an umbrella.

Has it always been important to you to support the New York dance scene?

Yes, it became important to me and came out of the kind of work I do and my goals as an educator. It feels like a dream come true, what we have now, but it’s not therefore done. People ask me, “Why New York?’ New York is where it’s happening. To be part of that and to be a supporter of that world is definitely something I cherish.

What exactly do you mean by “it?”

Things really concentrate in New York.  A lot of young people come here to study or start their careers. There’s a lot of energy and new things come out of it.  And New York is never shy to bring in influences from outside. It really is like a melting pot and it’s very exciting to be here. 

What would you like readers to know about the upcoming gala?

I would say that every time we do this gala, it represents another year in our development and the creation of opportunities for dancers. It would be wonderful for more people to know about it. A lot of times people move in just one direction. But part of why New York is a special place is the opportunity it affords for people to try different things. I encourage our students to try other things and go other places. I’m hoping more people find out about us as well and come here and try what we have to offer. It’s