In 1983, Israeli dancer and choreographer Igal Perry opened the doors to his brand-new Peridance Center in downtown New York City. Two students attended his first class. “That was a bit frightening,” he admits, laughing. “But now, I have little to worry about.” Peridance has since grown into an irreplaceable fixture in the local dance community. Now, it’s gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary later this month.
April 17 to 24, the Peridance Center and its affiliate Peridance Contemporary Dance Company (PCDC) present the Legacy Festival. Filled with dance classes offered in a variety of skill levels, workshops, open rehearsals, performances, and more, the Center’s 40th-anniversary festival is open to the public and will be hosted at the company’s KnJTheater.
“It’s really been a nostalgic experience,” says Perry, who is also PCDC’s artistic director, reflecting on the year of preparation that he and his team took to put the festival together. “There’s also a kind of developmental feeling—that all these things that we did in the past have led us to this.”
Indeed, Peridance has grown immensely since Perry’s first two pupils christened it in 1983. The Peridance Center is now home to a variety of training, workshop, intensive, and certificate programs, including a slew of opportunities open to international students with F-1 visas. Hundreds of students and local dancers now walk through the Center’s doors daily, making Peridance a staple of the city’s dance education community. PCDC has also risen as a primary player in the New York City dance performance scene over the decades, having become what Perry describes as a uniquely “eclectic” repertory company offering a vibrant and diverse array of work.
“This ability to transform lies at the core of the Peridance company,” says Perry. It is also, he explains, at the core of the Center’s educational goals: “One of the things that I do believe in is that we have to move forward with the times, and at the same time teach and adhere to forms that were traditional or historically part of our development.”
This rooted yet open-eyed approach to dance education has perhaps been what has allowed Peridance to thrive and continually expand over time. In the mid-1980s, The School at Peridance became one of the first schools to offer hip hop, a genre which at the time was not commonly offered in the classroom. “We really push students to learn as much as possible in different styles and different genres,” says Perry. “We’ve really grown from that.”
So when it came to programming the Legacy Festival, honoring both Peridance’s history and future was at the top of the team’s agenda. Featured in every performance will be one of PCDC’s inaugural works: Perry’s masterpiece, Boléro, with music by Maurice Ravel. The ballet is particularly meaningful to Perry, who debuted it with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company just before setting it on PCDC for its 1984 inaugural performance. The program lineup also includes a slew of new and restaged pieces by choreographers who have worked with Peridance throughout the years, including Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Johannes Wieland, Nicholas Palmquist, Gregory Dolbashian, and Jessica Lang—one of Perry’s former pupils at Juilliard and a member of PCDC in 1999. Boston Ballet principals Jeffrey Cirio and John Lam, another former student of Perry’s, will also appear as guest performers at the festival’s Legacy Ball gala on April 24.
“It’s all connected,” says Perry, explaining that the festival’s events, classes, and performances are powered by school and company alumni. “I have not seen many of them in many years. I’m looking forward to it very much.”