While hoping to be a positive environmental force in her neighborhood, one Rockaway-based curator decided to bring an extraordinary dance experience to the beach.
Established in 2015 by a Rockaway resident Sasha Okshteyn, Beach Sessions is a dance series that uses the sandy Rockaway peninsula as the stage and the ocean as the backdrop. This Saturday, Aug. 20, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the series will bring this year’s first outdoor performance titled “The Mineralogy of Objects,” created by choreographer Laurie Berg. The performances will be held on a stage on sand at Beach 86th Street.
The following Saturday, Aug. 27, Beach Sessions will feature a work by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, “Horizon Event No. 4.”
“[Our] goal is to explore the creative capacity of dance, in its myriad of forms, and its potential to encourage environmental change in the area,” Okshteyn said.
The series fuses site-responsive dance performances with environmental actions such as beach cleanups. After each of the weekly dances, Beach Sessions, in partnership with Surfrider Foundation NYC Chapter, cleans up the beach, encouraging the spectators to join in.
“After the performance, we encourage the audience members to go grab garbage bags and gloves from the Surfrider volunteers and clean around the vicinity of the stage, from Beach 84th [to] Beach 90th streets,” Okshteyn explained.
The incentives to take part in the post-performance cleanup include free drinks at newly open Rockaway Brewery + Co. Okshteyn says that people gladly take part in the cleanup because the beach is really dirty after a long weekend day.
“By experiencing something beautiful in the space, hopefully people will want to keep it beautiful for more engagement to flourish there,” she added.
Beach Sessions received support from local organizations and residents. Okshteyn said that the Parks Department has given them “amazing support”; among supporters are also Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, organizations such as Rockaway Artists Alliance and Rockaway Rising, and many local businesses. The project also received support from Queens Council on the Arts and the Queens Art Fund as well as the Partnership for Parks Capacity Fund Grant.
“After the success and enthusiasm from last year, I knew this was a program that could have a long life in Rockaway and become an annual summer community event,” Okshteyn said.