Up Late: A Conversation with Ani Taj of the Dance Cartel

On July 21, as part of Friends of the High Line's first-ever Up Late event on the High Line, we're inviting visitors to roam the park after-hours and be transported as dancers, musicians, and visual artists illuminate the park with participatory performances, installations, and a world of hidden surprises.

Leading up to the event, we'll be sitting down with each artist contributing to the Up Late line-up to discuss what makes this event so unique—and why people shouldn't miss it. Be sure to check out some of our Q&As with other Up Late artists.

The Dance Cartel is not your average performance company. The vibrant, energy-charged dancers can be found grooving almost anywhere. From galleries to parks and everywhere in between, the Dance Cartel is constantly adapting to any challenge that's thrown their way. The group is led by Ani Taj, a multi-talented choreographer who loves experimenting with the unexpected, turning every performance into a party.

Photo by Maddy Talias

We caught up with Ani to get the scoop on the Dance Cartel's upcoming performance:

Tell us a little bit about what you have planned for Up Late. What do you want attendees to take away from your work?

As is the Dance Cartel's tendency, we'll be doing a version of crashing the party. We won't tell you what to take away, but I think we're in the business of offering little bursts of joy and hopefully creating the conditions for some dancing to take place—not necessarily limited to our own. It's good to come at it with a sense of humor, because we'll probably be goofballs at some point. And then we'll sweat a lot, and hopefully visitors will too.

Photo by Maddy Talias.
What makes the High Line as a venue unique or challenging to your work?

The natural beauty of a cityscape is a special thing to have around a dance piece. Just being on the High Line is pleasurable, so that creates a nice environmental foundation for the experience we get to create. The outdoor challenge, always, is that you don't have the luxury of a true dance floor, which means adjusting certain kinds of movements—no big fancy turns!—but we like to be as rugged and adaptable as we can. Moving a dance piece along a vast axis through crowds of people should be a fun adventure, too.

Photo by Stephen Elledge

How does your work speak to the New York community?

We're all fairly long-time New Yorkers, and I grew up here, so the noise, the constant activity, and the breadth of cultural information are part of the fabric of all of our lives and aesthetics. It's important to us to represent as much of that breadth as we have access to. Each of the dancers is bringing a different set of skills and information to the table, - in the sense that there's a multiplicity of movement backgrounds, musical sensibilities, and of course day/night jobs reflected in the work we make.

Also, I think we all enjoy taking the piss out of certain aspects of New York snobbery, while knowing we probably also participate in it: Club outfits. Cliques. Team mentalities. Self-importance. It's funny if you step back from it, so we try to make some jokes in the work, too.

Come see the Dance Cartel among many other artists who will be lighting up the night, on Thursday, July 21 on the High Line from Gansevoort to West 18th Streets from 10:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

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