And restrictions on viewers measurement weren’t such a handicap, since a lot of what Siyanko needed to current was, in her phrases, “very niche.” The pandemic additionally accelerated a pattern: Audiences already interested in this sort of work — and the artists who make it — had been shifting to the space. (Chatham is a 20-minute drive from the cities of Hudson and Catskill.) Donors accrued and gave extra. The PS21 price range elevated by about 50 p.c, Siyanko mentioned, with a big surplus in 2021.
This would possibly sound like cultural gentrification, however Siyanko can also be dedicated to low ticket costs and accessibility with out pandering. The Pathways occasions, particularly, are designed as factors of entry, main into PS21’s campus and its extra adventurous programming.
Pathways started in 2020 with unconventional dance courses and with the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound scattered throughout the grounds performing John Luther Adams’s “Ten Thousand Birds.” “Kids loved it,” Siyanko mentioned, which was additionally true of the Montreal acrobats cavorting in the bushes of close by Crellin Park in 2021. Some Pathways occasions, like that one, occur off-campus, partaking with faculties and native arts organizations. Others have introduced native college students to PS21, in a single occasion to rehearse and carry out with the experimental flutist Claire Chase, and in one other to participate in theater camp with the Wooster Group.
Onikeku matches proper in with the Pathways challenge (all the way down to the theater-camp belief workouts he tucked into “Middle Ground.” In an interview earlier than “Middle Ground,” he defined how, whereas rising up in Nigeria, he gravitated to modern dance as a mode by which “you can have your own ideas,” and the way, whereas dancing in France, he ended up at École Nationale Supérieur des Arts du Cirque, learning modern circus that reminded him of the whole theater of Yoruba custom.
From the begin of his profession, he modeled himself on the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti as a consciousness-raising artist. In a collection of solos, Onikeku explored philosophical concepts: the isolation of exile, the distinction between historical past and the previous, the physique as a storehouse of generational reminiscence. Although he had success in Europe, showing at the prestigious Avignon Festival when nonetheless in his 20s, he grew “appalled by the dictatorship of the art market,” he mentioned, the cycle of producing and touring and producing once more.