Dancing on the Mountaintop

A scene from Byzantium to Pop, the first performance by Cold Spring Dance

A scene from Byzantium to Pop, the first performance by Cold Spring Dance (Photos by Jim Kordaris)

Cold Spring company to present its third performance

Pinch yourself, go ahead: Who are the dancers up on East Mountain, in the Philipstown woods?

They’re not tutu-clad ballet dancers and they’re not in a misty production of Brigadoon. Rather, they’re a group of professionals who dance with some of New York City’s top modern and contemporary companies, coming together under the direction of Artistic Director Cally Kordaris for the fall performance of Cold Spring Dance, a relatively new, but years in the making, nonprofit committed to making art history and nature come to life through movement. 

Cold Spring Dance uses a performance space on East Mountain in Philipstown.

At a practical level, they want to offer live performances in the Hudson Valley, with a focus on schools and museums, as well as create a scholarship program for boys and young men who want to train in ballet and contemporary dance.

On Nov. 19, at 3 p.m., Cold Spring Dance will present Protest, a multimedia work by Kordaris that addresses global human rights. It will be performed by Micah Bullard, Elias Re and David Wright of the Dance Theater of Harlem; Jennifer Buonamia of Ballet with a Twist; Nickemil Concepcion, formerly of Cedar Lake; Sarah Mack; and Kara Walsh of Armitage Dance.

Protest will be performed Nov. 19 by the Cold Spring Dance Company.

The 40-minute performance will include the words of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; music by Philip Glass and Stamatis Spanoudakis, a modern Greek classical composer; and artwork, including a backdrop, by Nicholas Kontaxis. 

“Threaded through the music you hear different groups protesting, across the world,” says Kordaris, who premiered parts of Protest 20 years ago at the Merce Cunningham Studios in New York City. “Many of the pieces have a woman’s perspective. It’s powerful without being didactic. It’s not the sugarplum fairy, and it’s relevant to where we’re at now.”

Cally Kordaris

Cally Kordaris

The plan is for the dancers to meet with the audience after the performance and answer questions. “The dancers love it,” Kordaris says. “They never get to talk. After you hear them talk, you just love them more.” 

The debut Cold Spring Dance performance took place in May 2022, when dancers from the Martha Graham Company presented Byzantium to Pop, a contemporary piece with documentary film footage based on the life of Andy Warhol. The second performance, in September 2022, was set to the music of Tom Waits and also included documentary footage.

This past June, Cold Spring Dance hosted a free Community Art Day, with projects, movement and nature exploration.

Kordaris graduated from the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. Her training focused on classical ballet but included modern, flamenco, tap, jazz and Greek folk dance. At 16, she joined Ronald Sequoio in his Dance Compass Company; she later graduated from Queens College with a degree in art history.

For 33 years she was artistic director and choreographer of Callina’s School of Dance in Long Island City. During the 1990s she directed the Odyssey Dance Company while also co-directing the Omeros Hellenic Dance Company. 

In 1999, after producing and choreographing an event which fused live music and production, she decided to merge her ballet and folk companies. In the decades since, she has worked with dancers from the New York City Ballet, Elliot Feld, Cedar Lake, the Korean National Ballet and other companies. 

The Cold Spring Dance Company’s associate artistic director, So Young An, is a lead dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

​Kordaris and her husband, Jim, became familiar with the Highlands through his work serving the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, where he is director of stewardship, outreach and evangelism. They were weekenders before moving full-time to Philipstown nine years ago.

They purchased their home with the idea they would eventually use the location for a company, bringing dancers from New York City — “the best from the best,” Kordaris says.

A view from a lookout at the Cold Spring Dance Company’s space

A view from a lookout at the Cold Spring Dance Company’s space

“We’re in our infancy stages,” she adds. “Space to perform is always so difficult to realize. We already had rehearsal studios and an indoor space [with 40 seats] but we created a 3-acre garden, an arboretum and outdoor space. We’re out there pouring gravel into the potholes. Outdoors we can seat 80. Our hope is that the more people support it, the more we can do.

“To present the same old thing is not worth it,” Kordaris says. “I want to blow people away. The way I choreograph is to imagine it is a wild garden. It uses ‘expressive movement,’ which is not about steps. It’s about being, and for each piece I create a specific movement vocabulary. The steps are the least important thing; what happens between them is character and feeling.

“We don’t work to entertain, we work to create this magical world that you can escape to,” she says. “We’re going to create a world and when you leave it we want you to visit it in your mind.”

Tickets for the Nov. 19 performance, which will be held at 82 Crest Road in Philipstown, are $100, which includes a Mediterranean lunch. See coldspringdance.org. Because it depicts moments of violence, Kordaris says the performance is not appropriate for children age 12 or younger.

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