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Garth Fagan Dance to be part of New York pop-up arts events

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing plans to help the performing arts get a boost in New York state after so many live performances and other activities have been canceled or delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Cuomo said that more than 300 "pop-up" events are planned throughout the state in the next 100 days, including a performance by Garth Fagan Dance at the Magic Spell Studios at RIT.

Plans tentatively call for two to three 30-minute performances on the soundstage at those studios, on Sunday, Feb. 21.

Bill Ferguson, executive artistic liaison for Garth Fagan Dance, said the initial plan is to have some essential RIT employees, who are chosen by lottery, to be at that performance. They'll be spaced apart with COVID-19 guidelines in mind.

“We’re finding out things as we go,” said Ferguson. “I know we’re looking to record it, and hopefully find some way to put parts of it out there virtually. The governor said today that they were planning on putting it out there virtually.”

The show will include “Talking Drums,” which shows how drums were used in Africa to communicate, and an excerpt from “The North Star,” Fagan’s tribute to Frederick Douglass.

Another performance will be a dance, “In Memoriam,” originally created in memory of the victims of the 9/11 terror attack, but it is relevant today with Americans dying of COVID-19, as well as Black Americans, such as George Floyd and Daniel Prude, dying at the hands of police.

" 'Memoriam,’ on a larger scale, speaks to our loved ones who have passed, and how we survived that, and honor(s) their lives also," Ferguson said.

In a statement, Fagan said, "I remember with great pride and pleasure receiving a NYS Governor's Arts Award from then Governor Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda in 1986. It is fitting that during our 50th anniversary season, we work with their son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the State of New York to revive the magic of live performance in Rochester, NY, simultaneously honoring our unheralded RIT essential workers. We look forward to NY PopsUp creating more opportunities for artists in New York State in the months to come!"

David Long, director at Magic Spell Studios, said that the collaboration is a great mix of mediums.

"The soundstage (and) the film production studio at Magic Spell Studios is great, in support of television and film production, and as part of the state effort to grow those sectors here in western New York and the Rochester region," Long said. "It’s kind of a fun mash-up with Garth Fagan Dance for live performance, so we’re excited to bring the prerecorded nature of making a film together with the live activity of the dance on the stage.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.