An invitation to Tanz

The Goat Farm launches new season of contemporary dance Tanz Farm

There are a lot of places you could catch a show by Pierre Rigal. The much sought-after French dancer/choreographer and his compagnie dernière minute have performed in prestigious venues all around the world, from Australia's Sydney Opera House to New York's Baryshnikov Arts Center, from Frankfurt's state-of-the-art Künstlerhaus Mousonturm to Rome's sleek, ultra-modern Auditorium Parco della Musica. But it's fair to say that there's only one place in the world where a Rigal performance might be punctuated by the squawk of a turkey, the rumble of a passing train, or the bleat of baby goats.

Unique among venues, Atlanta's Goat Farm Arts Center has experienced a renaissance over the past three years, transforming from a sleepy, tucked-away urban artists' retreat into one of Atlanta's central arts institutions. This year the Goat Farm will host its first-ever full season of contemporary dance, Tanz Farm. Beginning with Rigal's performance on Oct. 29, Tanz Farm will draw cutting-edge performers from around the world to the former cotton gin, a home to artists and their studios, as well as goats, chickens, dogs, turkeys, and the occasional possum.

"I know it's a special space," says Rigal in a phone call from Toulouse, France, where his company is based. Rigal has never performed at the Goat Farm, but his solo work "Standing Man" will open the season in the spacious Goodson Yard warehouse. "I just know there is a very good, interesting energy not only because of the architecture, but also because of the people working in the space."

In addition to Rigal's work, Tanz Farm's four-part (fall, winter, spring, and summer) season also includes a three-week residency by Seattle-based multimedia performance duo zoe|juniper in December; Germany's Pretty Ugly Dance Company founder Amanda K. Miller will create a new work with Decatur's CORE Performance Company in May; and a world premiere collaboration between gloATL, visual artist Gyun Hur, Georgia Tech's Sonic Generator Music Ensemble, and the Atlanta Opera.

"All the activity happens at Goodson," says gloATL founder Lauri Stallings, Tanz Farm's creator and curator. "We have an inaugural season full of artists who will respond to Goodson Yard as the ultimate material. For a moving artist, the material is the space. I'm optimistic that each of these individuals will walk into Goodson and it will conjure new things out of them. The ends are open there, and it's full of electricity. I think this group of artists is going to get that."

Tanz Farm takes its first name from the German word for dance, especially as used in the term tanztheater to describe the boundary-blurring work of German choreographers such as the late Pina Bausch. Combining tanz with farm seemed an especially appropriate name, Stallings says. "We're all living on a farm, We all have to bend down and dig in the dirt, no matter what ... 'Tanz Farm' immediately felt like a wholesome garden."

As with January's Stallings-curated performance series at the Rialto Theatre, Off the EDGE, Tanz Farm will include a number of free initiatives — workshops, conversations, and works-in-progress performances — alongside the ticketed events. "Through dialogue and through action, the world is at our feet for all of us here in Atlanta," says Stallings. "We are all passionate about this city that is showing extraordinary signs of effort to be heard, to have an identity. Tanz Farm and its initiatives speak to that a lot."

The Goat Farm's transformation, including the addition of the Tanz Farm season, has happened under the stewardship of property owners Anthony Harper and Chris Melhouse, who purchased the 12-acre compound in 2008. "We want to develop a 'cultural badge' that Atlantans can boast of," says Harper. "The Tanz platform allows a multidisciplinary network of performers to explore new combinatory methods with one another."

Rigal's appearance in Atlanta is sponsored by the French Consulate, which will also present Rigal in more traditional settings during his visit, including the Rialto on Oct. 28 and at the public art event Elevate on Oct. 27, all under the umbrella of the annual France-Atlanta cultural conference. Rigal's "Standing Man" is a demanding solo involving lots of technically precise sound, video, and lighting effects that may be difficult to execute at the Goat Farm. "It's a challenge but I'm very happy to take this challenge," says Rigal. "Technically it will be quite difficult. But for me it's a good thing to perform in a place where there is artistic and creative desire, and also perhaps a special audience ... I know I will be able to meet people, and I like that. It's not always possible when I travel, but I know it will be possible in Atlanta, to meet dancers, to meet all the people creating there."

"The space continues to be inside the dialogue and ties it all together," agrees Stallings. "That's the hope. Not every artist wants their work to be presented in a space where their performance can be interrupted by a train every seven minutes. The tendencies there are encouraging artists who allow for those interruptions. Ultimately, Tanz Farm will have a dialogue that expresses that the first year."

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