“We’re at the 40th anniversary. It doesn’t seem possible.”
It’s been 40 years since Maude Baum was one of a group of enthusiastic young artists who helped create eba, and then went on to found the Maude Baum and Company Dance Theater. Both have become institutions and cultural mainstays of the Capital Region generally, and of the Lark Street area in particular. eba offers dance and exercise classes (and, beginning this fall, acting classes) for all ages and abilities; Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre present original choreography in memorable performances.
Ten years ago, on the occasion of eba’s 30th anniversary, Baum told Metroland’s Susan Mehalick that, “I thought this was something I’d do for maybe five years before moving on to something else. . . . All the information we had at the time told us that was about as long as a small arts organization would last.”
This reporter interviewed Baum (for another publication) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary. Reminded of this, Baum laughs and asks, “Where did those 20 years go, that’s my question.”
The dance troupe has a number of high-profile performances planned this fall to mark the occasion. The first will be during the first week of October, when eba becomes part of the regionwide MoHu (Mohawk Hudson) arts festival.
Part of MoHu is being celebrated city-by-city. Baum explains: “Troy’s getting a day, and Albany’s getting a day, and Schenectady’s getting a day. So, Albany’s day is October 3rd.”
Albany, Baum says, has organized the evening “like train stops, with different lines: There’s a downtown line, a Lark Street line, and an uptown line. And there’s going to be a trolley with a jazz band on it going from place to place along all three lines throughout the night.”
From 5:30 to 7:30 PM there will be all sorts of different kinds of activities around town, and at eba, Baum says, “we will be having flower arranging [offered by the Lark Street Flower Market, located on the first floor of the eba building] and culinary treats from a Lark Street restaurant. We’ll have a music group that will be playing here, and an art exhibit. At 7:30 PM we’ll have a performance.”
As Baum describes it, the evening is eclectic—and reminiscent of the programs eba offered when it was an integral part of Albany’s First Night celebrations. There will be a performance of the one-woman play about Emily Dickinson, The Belle of Amherst; a preview of the Baum Company’s Brave New Dances; and a group singing show tunes.
“The idea,” Baum says, “was to have some of us [eba] and some of other people, as a way of showcasing the various arts that we have in the neighborhood.”
Next up, in November (Nov. 2-4, specifically) is the Maude Baum and Company mainstay Brave New Dances, a showcase for choreography-in-progress. This fall, it’s been renamed “Brand New Ruby Dances.”
“That’s because,” Baum says, “the 40th [anniversary] jewel is the ruby, so everything we’re doing is ‘ruby.’ ”
“It’s still works-in-progress,” Baum says, “and the audience gets involved in the conversation after each of the pieces. There’s usually quite a dialogue that goes on between audience members and choreographers. It’s a very different way of experiencing dance.”
Baum is also launching a new project this fall that she first conceived 15 years ago: the Young and Old, Disabled and Abled Performance Ensemble.
“The idea is to shine the spotlight on what we can do, and dim the lights on what we can’t do as well,” Baum says. “My premise is that everybody has things they can do very well, and everybody has things that they don’t do very well. It’s just that some disabilities are labeled, and others aren’t.”
“I’m hoping,” Baum says, “that this whole group of people can really share some exciting and important information with each other about how we perceive the world and what makes us tick, and create a piece about that and perform it.”
Asked about the future, Baum says, “We’re going to keep going as long as we can.”
“The reality of the situation,” says Baum, “is that funding is terrible right now for small arts organizations. The big guys are really taking everything, and there’s very little left over for the small organizations. It’s a difficult chore right now.”
Is this economy the worst she’s ever seen?
“This is the hardest it’s been. There have been serious times before,” Baum says, “but it seemed that the recovery from those has been much sooner. This has been since 2009.”
Asked if this has affected the arts community, Baum says, “That’s the sad thing. It really does pit one organization against another for an audience base and for funding.”
“I hope that what will come out of this,” Baum says, “is that the organizations that survive this time period will get together and start planning for stability between organizations and helping each other out, instead of scrambling for audiences and hoping that people come to your show instead of somebody else’s.”
But even with the current hardships, Baum is upbeat: “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Fall Dance Preview
Bard Fisher Center
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
Oct. 5: American Ballet Theatre. Oct. 26-28: Moderation Dance Concert. Dec. 14-16: Senior Projects in Dance.
Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre/eba Dance Theatre
eba Theatre, 351 Hudson Ave., Albany, 465-9916.
Oct. 5: MoHo Arts Festival at the eba Theatre. Nov. 2-4: Brave New Ruby Dances.
Empire State Plaza, Albany, 473-1845.
Oct. 19: David Dorfman Dance Prophets of Funk. Nov. 16: Bellydance Superstars.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Campus, Troy, 276-3921.
Oct. 5-6: Nora Chipaumire Miriam. Nov. 3: Kurt Hentschlager: Cluster. Nov. 16-17: Ralph Lemon Four Walls. Dec. 8: Dimitris Papaioannou Primal Matter.
87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass., 664-4481.
Nov. 1: LeWitticisms. Nov. 16: Emily Johnson: Niicugni.
19 Clinton Ave., Albany, 465-4663.
Nov. 20: So You Think You Can Dance Tour 2012. Dec. 4: Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker.
Mainstage, 432 State St., Schenectady, 346-6204.
Sept. 23-25: Move to Move: Four Contemporary Ballets. Dec. 8-9: Northeast Ballet’s Annual Nutcracker.
Listings by Josh Potter