The Young Artists Festival returns to SPAC

The performers won’t be the only ones choreographed on Saturday at the Young Artists Festival at the Saratoga Performing Art Center.

The public will be too.

“Everyone has to move at the same time, even if they’re in different groups and watching different things,” said Renée Jaworski, co-artistic director of Pilobolus.

The famous dance company will lead this year’s festival and instead of the traditional concert setting, 200 musicians, dancers and other locals will be set up on six different stages on the SPAC campus and members of the public will visit each one during the event. ‘a one-kilometer tour.

“We have to choreograph the audience, which is fun. . . There will be this signal for each group to move on to the next station. This ensures that things happen in a timely manner and that you are not going to run into another group, ”Jaworski said.

Pilobolus used the “traveling art safari” format for another festival he participated in near the start of the pandemic.

“We created this experience last year [and] he sold himself. We had a waiting list for people who wanted to get involved and experience it. . . We realized how hungry people were for live experiences, ”Jaworski said.

This hunger does not seem to have increased until the following year. Saturday will mark the first live and in-person performances for many of the students involved. It will also be the first for PSPC.

“The Adirondack Trust Company Young Artists Festival is always one of our happiest events of the year,” said Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of PSPC. “The fact that this year marks PSPC’s true return to the scene after a year of dark scenes only adds to the intensity and significance of the moment.

Many groups involved

Several different performing arts companies are involved in the festival this year, including the Empire State Youth Orchestra, the Capital District Youth Chorale, the Schenectady High School Dance Connection, the Capital District Youth Pipe Band and the Northeast Ballet Company.

For 14 young dancers from the Northeast Ballet Company, the festival will be a test of endurance. They will perform two pieces, “Adiemus” and “Hibernation, Light, Exhale”, nine times throughout the event.

For much of the past year, they were only allowed to teach virtually and started returning to the studio several months ago. As company founder Darlene Myers says, going from 0 to 2,000 has been a challenge. Yet it also had a positive impact on the mental health of the dancers.

“Right now they’re so much happier and luckier than a lot of kids their age, they’ve got this. They tell me that they are very grateful for it and I believe them because I can see it in them. I can see the joy they found again, but they didn’t have it when they came back, ”Myers said.

The company’s two pieces are not traditional ballet but modern dance and will perform outside the Hall of Springs in collaboration with the Capital District Youth Chorale.

Nearby, Pilobolus will perform with the students of the Schenectady High School Dance Connection. The Pilobolus dancers worked virtually with the students to create a piece that reflected the festival’s theme “metamorphosis”.

“All the material came from the students. I would say when we teach we act as facilitators to help the group we are teaching pull from the material and then help them put it together, ”Jaworski said.

For Isabella Grevely, a sophomore at Schenectady High School, collaborating and creating a dance with Pilobolus stretched creative muscles.

“We take normal, everyday things and create an abstract dance, something that you wouldn’t normally see. So it is very interesting for all of us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new because we are all used to [being given] choreography, ”said Grevely.

Leah Rajwant, a junior at Schenectady High School, said working with the company has broadened her vision of dance and performing at the Young Artists Festival will be the perfect way to wrap it up.

“I think it’s a great way to end the school year, especially for our dance students who are on this project because of all this online situation, being in person, I think [will] be an amazing way to end the school year, ”Rajwant said.

“It’s kind of the start of an end, with COVID and us going through everything we’ve been through and now we’re in a position to do performances like this again. It’s super awesome, ”said Grevely.

A dress rehearsal scheduled for Friday marks the first time they will be able to meet in person. While there were many technical challenges along the way, Sheila Los, a dance teacher at Schenectady High School, said the collaboration kept the students engaged.

“[Pilobolus] found the best way to get our students to test the limits, but also to involve them in the creative process when they asked students to translate ideas into motion and make them authentic to their life and preferences. . . I’m so excited to be able to put everything in place on Friday, ”Los said.

From Jaworski’s perspective, events like the Young Artists Festival are particularly important right now.

“You have these young students and artists for whom I am really concerned about their mental health. They’re isolated at a time when you already feel isolated so now, especially with social media and all that these kids have to navigate,… So for the Young Artists Festival [gives] their a platform to create and express whatever is going on in their head and get it out of them and process it because… if anything helps you deal with trauma, it’s the arts, ”Jaworski said.

The festival also offers artists the opportunity to collaborate in new ways and showcase their talents on a bigger stage than they are used to.

“It’s a great opportunity for them. It always has been. This party [is] one of the best things I think has happened in a long time for young artists in our area, ”Myers said.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, with a rainy date on Sunday. Participants can select the time of arrival and will be placed in groups limited to 75 people. Social distancing and masks are mandatory regardless of the status of the vaccinator or the test. For more information, visit

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