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Jul 24, 2016 11:01 AM ET

Archived: Welcome Home: A new site-specific dance installation by Colleen Thomas, chronicling her evolving relationship with Governors Island

iCrowdNewswire - Jul 24, 2016

Welcome Home

WELCOME HOME is a new site-specific dance installation by Colleen Thomas, chronicling her evolving relationship with Governors Island.

About this project


Hi, I’m Colleen Thomas and I’m the artistic director of Colleen Thomas Dance and this is the launch of our first ever Kickstarter campaign. We are raising money for our newest dance project entitled Welcome Home. It’s a site-specific work that will premiere on Governors Island in New York City. Performances will be held at the top of every hour on Friday, September 16th from 2:00pm – 5:00pm as well as Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, the 18th from 3:00pm – 6:00pm. All performances will be held in Nolan Park, Building 10A. 


As a choreographer and dance artist, I have been dancing and making work in the city for over 20 years now, but this piece is different. Part installation, part performance art, and part dance piece, Welcome Home takes place in my childhood home on Governors Island. 

In the 1970’s, I was a young child living in a unique island oasis in New York Bay, just off the southern tip of Manhattan. Governors Island was a special place to grow up with both its small-town feel – only 172 acres small – and its location only 800 yards offshore from the bustling city. On the island we had a McDonald’s, a public pool, a theater and a public school. It was a groovy place to be living at 6 years old.

My father was a photographer for the Coast Guard, so I have tons of rich imagery to draw upon as I recount memories and develop movement and structure for this work. My team and I are having an absolute blast revisiting the 70’s culture and recreating the feeling of the time, as well as examining the enduring, universal nature of family interactions.

Our research has explored iconic household items, music, fashion, and art from this vibrant time period. The dancers and I are also working with our own personal memories and recurring dreams. It’s going to be far out, baby!


This project is especially exciting because I’m working with my dream team of collaborators, all of whom are incredible artists:

Rebecca Makus is designing the space – the entire apartment: all 8 rooms, the porch, and hallways.

Jason Somma, the video designer, is using a variety of techniques and screens – from old TV sets and Super 8 films to closet floors – to expand and intensify the visual experience.

Rachel Jones Bellas, the costume designer, is bringing the funky fashion – seriously, why were yellow and brown so popular then?

Adrian Silver, the dramaturge, is forging a critical link between all the artists involved in this project and is helping to hone our vision and infuse a bit of drama into our movement.

And John Mcgrew is creating the sound design by re-imagining some of my favorite music from the time – Marvin Gaye, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Prince, Queen…there’s too many to mention. Did your mom also break into song if you said one word from a popular hit?

Words can’t do justice to how lucky I feel to be able to create with this special group of people. We are having tons of fun designing the many experiences the audience will encounter in different parts of this special home.

I’m also very fortunate to be able to work with some of the most amazing dancers I know. This work features Samantha Allen, Oluwadamilare Ayorinde,  Keith Johnson, Sadi Mosko, Pedro Osorio, Jessica Stroh, Darrin Wright, and… my family – some of who are dancers and some of who are not.

Samantha Allen is a dancer and maker. As part of the Institut IDGAF, she makes live works and films with collaborators Devika Wickremesinghe and Chris Cascarano. She’s also worked with choreographers in NYC and Chicago including Katie Workum, Julie Mayo, Yanira Castro, Buck Wanner, Jessie Young and others. 

Oluwadamilare Ayorinde is a recent graduate of Rutgers University. He has had the opportunity to work with artists such as Pam Tanowitz, LeeSaar, Keith Thompson, Stefanie Batten-Bland, Sam Potts, Nick Bruder and most recently, Jessica Lang. He is currently dancing with Kyle Marshall as well as Colleen Thomas.

Keith Johnson is the director of Keith Johnson Dancers. He has danced with Terry Creach and Steve Koester, Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company, and Doug Varone and Dancers among others. He is a Professor at California State University, Long Beach.

Saradiane (Sadi) Mosko is a senior at Columbia University where she is pursuing a B.A. in Dance and Sustainable Development. Through the Barnard College Department of Dance, she has trained with several dance artists including Twyla Tharp, Andrea Miller, Colleen Thomas, Jodi Melnick, Alexandra Beller, Loni Landon, Silas Reiner, Melissa Toogood, and Donna Uchizono.

Pedro Osorio is from the green, blue and warming planet Earth. He makes dance, art and film work. 

Jessica Stroh is a New York City based dancer and choreographer with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Psychology. Jessica has worked with Colleen Thomas since 2014 and is thrilled to be working on this groovy, totally far out project. Jessica also works with Bryce Dance Company and collaborates with other artists (dancers, choreographers, photographers, painters, singers, actors, gamers, and musicians) in NYC, North Carolina, and Florida.

Darrin Wright is a Brooklyn based artist, and originally a native of Los Angeles, California. His training includes tap, jazz and post-modern dance. In 1997, Darrin joined The Bella Lewitzky Dance Company as part of its farewell tour. He received his BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2002. Since graduation, Darrin has had the pleasure of working with The METopera, Susan Marshall, Terry Creach, Jane Comfort, Bill Young/Colleen Thomas, Yanira Castro, Jack Ferver, Tami Stronach, Antonio Ramos, Leslie Cuyjet, Doug Varone, Laura Peterson, Amber Sloan, Nancy Bannon, Linsey Bostwick, Nina Winthrop, Linsday and Jason Dietz Marchant. Darrin teaches master classes in technique, composition and improvisation throughout the country. In 2009, he received a Bessie Award for his work with A Canary Torsi’s Dark Horse/Black Forest.

Kathy Stephens is the mother of Colleen Thomas Young and Dean Stephens. Kathy worked for 45 years as an Executive Assistant for various companies in New York, Washington, DC and Florida. She recently retired and enjoys traveling, exercising and spending time with her grandchildren. From 1973 to 1978, Kathy and her family were fortunate to live on Governors Island and have all the excitement of New York City just a short ferry ride away.

Jim Stephens is otherwise known as dad to Colleen and Dean and grandpa to Olivia, Pete, Piper and Dylan. Jim has a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University and served 20 years with the US Coast Guard as a Public Affairs Officer. Following his military career he has directed photography, graphic design and production of collateral materials for clients in the travel industry worldwide. We all should be so lucky to work in a profession that we truly love. Jim is certain that Welcome Home will bring back all the great memories of this amazing place where he worked, lived, played and enjoyed.

Olivia Young is 10 years old and enjoys playing the piano, adventure and fantasy books, singing, and swimming.

Dylan Young is 5 years old and enjoys, legos, ninjas (turtles or ninjago), fast cats, and swimming.

Bill Young, winner of the Guggenheim and NY Foundation for Arts Awards, discovered dance through contact improvisation while studying music at Oberlin College. At the beginning of his career, he danced with Margaret Jenkins, Douglas Dunn, Randy Warshaw, and Merce Cunningham. In 1988 he established Bill Young and Dancers, which has been presented all around New York City and on repeated international tours (in Germany, Italy, Russia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Peru, etc). Bill has created over 70 works. Bill and Colleen have been collaborating for 13 years. They now have two children and a company together.

My collaborators and I are exploring visual and other sensory memories,  including my own specific recollections of island life during the 70’s, as well as a more broad examination of how we all process memory. How do we understand and perceive the joy and trauma of our past experiences?


With this work, I am reliving the innocence and curiosity I once had as a child, noticing how intensely things change – whether it’s our perception, our relationships, fashion, or the skyline. I’m also struck by what stays the same. This work will invite the audience to reminisce about their own pasts, as I welcome them home to my re-imagined world of family, memory, and island life.

Welcome Home is in a great state of development. So far we not only have an all-star group of artists and collaborators, but we also have some exciting design ideas including projections, peep holes and various lenses to view the dance. We are working with interior design elements from the 70’s – get ready for some macrame! – to help liven up and transform our performance space so that we can get at the memories in the walls. In addition, we also have snippets of dance material, which we are currently editing, that serve to construct and deconstruct both personal and universal memories, as well as recurring dreams. We will begin rehearsing in the performance space – Nolan House 10A – at the end of July and will workshop our ideas on the island then. I anticipate that the choreography, movement, and design ideas will all undergo a good bit of change after this workshop takes place. I will make sure to keep you all updated on any and all developments!

Welcome Home is an obvious heart project for me and I am grateful to have generous support from The Trust for Governor’s Island, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and Barnard College – but we still need your help!

Please consider supporting us in any way you can – even $5 can help. Your contribution can help pay for an hour of rehearsal or an Easy Bake oven! And of course, we hope to see you at the show!

Governors Island is open to the public during the summer – it’s a fun ferry ride away and there is so much to do. There are exhibits, art fairs, playgrounds, food trucks and no traffic! So make a day of it and come see the show! … And please share this project with your friends – the more the merrier!

See you on the island!

Performances will be held at the top of every hour on Friday, September 16th from 2:00pm – 5:00pm as well as Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, the 18th from 3:00pm – 6:00pm. All performances will be held in Nolan Park, Building 10A.

Tickets can be purchased here: http://colleenthomasdance.bpt.me/

General Admission: $20

Students with valid ID: $15

Admission is limited – it’s a house! – so booking in advance is highly recommended!


Governors Island is accessible by ferry. Ferries depart from both Manhattan (every day) and Brooklyn terminals (Saturday & Sunday only). Please visit https://govisland.com/info/ferry for complete information.

From the Manhattan Ferry terminal, turn left onto Andes Road. Walk past Fort Jay (on your right) and continue on the walking path until you reach the southern point of Nolan Park. Building 10A will be on your left near the end of Nolan Park. 

From the Brooklyn Ferry terminal, turn right onto Craig Road South, which becomes Kimmel Road after about a block. From Kimmel Road, turn left onto Comfort Road. Turn right onto Barry Road to enter Nolan Park. Building 10A is on the left side of Barry Road. 

Accessibility Information: This is a mobile performance that moves throughout the rooms of an apartment. We regret that this venue is not wheelchair accessible. A limited number of seating options will be available at various points throughout the set. Advance notice of expected seating needs is very helpful to our planning. All questions regarding accessibility accommodations or concerns should be addressed to Katherine Bergstrom at katherine.m.bergstrom@gmail.com.

Risks and challenges

This is a very special project for me and others who lived on the island, as well as people who want to learn more about this amazing place. As heart projects go, they don’t come with a lot of monetary support. None of us are in the business to make money, but we do need your help to make this project come alive.

Being on such a wonderful island also comes with its own unique set of challenges. Performing on the island largely means that we are not in a theater. Meaning: I’m not getting any sort of commission, there’s no tech crew, no lights, no light grid, no marley floor and no sound operator. We have to do it all ourselves. That is why I have put together a group of experts from a variety of fields who are excited about this work and dedicated to creating a very special experience for our future audience. We have 8 rooms to design and a true dream team of artists. That being said, the only true risk I foresee is that if this project doesn’t get funded, I can’t pay my collaborators for all of their hard work, time, and pure genius. This is a big project for us and that’s why we are asking for your help. Your support will go directly to the dancers and designers for this project.

Contact Information:

Colleen Thomas

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