MY OMI - Reflections from Gerard Van Dyck
(pronounced 'my oh my')
Time tends to feel as though it goes slower when you’re absorbing constant new experiences, and add to that the fulfilment of a dance residency in what can best be described as an artist’s paradise, and days can extrude out to weeks! I recently experienced this bizarre sense of very pleasurable overload during my dance residency at Omi International Arts Center, in upstate New York.
It had been several years since I had left the shores of Australia and in mid July after landing at JFK airport, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm in the taxi on the way to my Hell’s Kitchen apartment. After a few days of seeing old friends and acclimatising to the heat and humidity, I then took a train from Penn Station to Hudson a few hours north of Manhattan, where I met half of my fellow residents for the first time. The excitement of anticipation in everyone that first day was palpable. From the very first movement improvisation out in an open field I couldn’t hide my smile - I felt at home and I felt gleefully indulgent. The residency was facilitated by the astute Christopher K. Morgan, who explained in our first group meeting that Omi’s mission is to provide freedom for artists to explore and exchange creatively and professionally with each other all the while housed in abundance. And boy was that true! Omi is a not-for-profit organisation, privately founded and funded on 300 acres surrounded by sculpture fields and permanent architectural constructions. It hosts residencies for visual artists, writers, musicians and dancers across summer and boasts a 150 year-old farmhouse and lodgings, and a massive two-storey barn which hosts all the artist and dance studios.
Upon being selected via an application process through the Australia Council for the Arts, I was to come to the party with no real projects in mind, save for the willingness to collaborate with artists I had never met. There were dance artists from Canada, Japan, Hungary, Turkey, South Korea, France, U.S., and for the first time in its history, Australia. There were 10 of us residents and we spent three weeks sharing, sweating, stamping, rolling, contacting, laughing, drawing, misbehaving, writing, photographing, improvising and discussing our dance. Not only was our research intense and deep, but the weather hovered around the low 30’s and the humidity was challengingly high. However, apart from it being easier to limber up in warmer weather, once you’re covered in sweat it’s kind of easier to keep going than to stop. You reach a veritable fever pitch of moving your body. And that pretty much sums up the exuberance that the residency elicits. I think I experienced the best contact improvisation in my entire life while I was there. And we did it at midnight during a party! There are too many stories to record them all here, but I hope to keep revealing them to you over the coming times.
Since being home I have kept in email conversation with many of my new friends, deepened my sense of belonging in this art form, and strangely been reminded of something that I never actually forgot.