Company SBB/Stefanie Batten Bland, an intercontinental dance-theater company, performs “Welcome” at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 6, at 7 pm. The production echoes the graffiti-decorated walls of cities as communal, visual canvases on which people in a neighborhood can have an interactive, outspoken communication. In her fascination with shared space, Batten Bland also allows the audience into the exploration between separation and communal celebration. “I wanted to subvert this conversation into the things we all make together,” she says.
Batten Bland said that “Welcome” is one of her favorites to perform because the subject matter happens to be relevant to audience participation. Batten Bland said she feels the piece is extremely timely, with such a focus on walls and borders and all its accompanying negative connotations, but she notes the piece was actually inspired by the changes in her New York City neighborhood. When she was growing up, she said her neighborhood was full of “wacky artists, and all of the wall space was this huge place where all my brothers and friends would just express themselves. So, walls to me were just a place of gathering of people.”
Children and adults from the Yard’s Making It program will create a rough-hewn stage out of cardboard during a free workshop held the Tuesday before the performance. “This piece really affords us the opportunity to collect materials every place we go. With ‘Welcome,’ we like working with cardboard. And since the conversation revolves around murals, we make our own mural together, specific to the place and locality where we’re performing,” Battan Bland explained. “And then we do things on top of this box that we’re all making, which is great. It can bring up questions about how we use materials in performing spaces. I like to ask, What do we consider a high-value interactive set? Can we upcycle things? We all have to acknowledge that Amazon is in our lives, and they leave us with something — a lot of something.”
The company’s website says that it creates work that “aims to impact local and global communities.”
“I just love this word ‘welcome,’” Batten Bland says. “I can’t help but notice that the young ones in our lives have zero problem with welcoming people in our world. It’s very interesting at what point that starts to shift and decide when we no longer want to welcome people. I hope this piece reminds us that actually the act of sharing space with each other is really valuable and beautiful and full of pleasure.”
“Welcome,” Saturday, April 6, at 7 pm at the Performing Arts Center.