Past Performance
Baryshnikov Arts Center + Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) Present

Rachel Tess


Jun 19-28, 2015

Souvenir is co-commissioned and presented by BAC and LMCC, with generous support from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, as part of the River To River Festival 2015.

"What are the ideal conditions for dance? Souvenir forces us to confront this question—and offers a space in which to imagine the possibilities.” – Lydia Bell, 2013 BAC Story contributor

Souvenir Undone
Jun 19-20, 22, + 24-25 at 1PM + 4PM
Jun 27-28 at 1PM

Developed during a 2013 Princess Grace Foundation-USA Works-in-Progress Residency at BAC, and LMCC's Process Space residency in 2014, Souvenir Undone is Rachel Tess's ongoing dance project that explores the relationship between architecture and choreography, and choreographer and audience. The work delves into the concept of pre-existing institutional structures and how this design may impact the making and viewing of performance. As part of LMCC's River To River Festival 2015, Rachel Tess further investigates the relationships between surrounding environments and people occupying the space, in a site-specific work created in Fort Jay Magazine on Governors Island. Performers Rachel Tess and Luis Rodriguez move to the sounds of the island and adapt the choreography to the Magazine using constructed modules to move the existing architecture. Audiences will shift their vantage point throughout the performance.


These are bodies, These are motions, This is the place
Jun 21 at 1PM + 4PM

In a landscape of palpable textures, performers Rachel Tess and Benoît Lachambre navigate the link between inner body and tangible object and animating the inanimate through an exploration of the senses in These are bodies, These are motions, This is the place. Skin becomes canvas, bodies become abstracted, glimpses of the recognizable are sometimes present, and the byproduct of contact with the outer environment is an acoustic/rhythmic transmission of the sensuous. Letting be, being with, and sensing the profundity of silence allows the performers to refer unobtrusively to the complexities of human relationships.


Souvenir Undone is supported in part by The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and Howard Gilman Foundation.

Souvenir Undone was developed, in part, during a Princess Grace Foundation-USA Works-in-Progress Residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center and during a LMCC Process Space residency. Souvenir at LMCC in September, 2014 was made possible with a stipend for International projects from the Swedish Arts Council. Souvenir is also made possible by the generous supporters of Rachel Tess Dance (501c3 non-profit).

These are bodies, These are motions, This is the place is co-presented by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Baryshnikov Arts Center as part of the River to River Festival 2015. 

These are bodies, These are motions, This is the place is produced by Rachel Tess Dance (Oregon, United States) with support from Par B.L.eux (Montreal, Canada). It was developed during a one month residency at Milvus Artistic Research Center (MARC) in Skåne, Sweden with support from Skåne Region, Simrishamn’s Kommun, and The Swedish Arts Grants Committee.

"Review: ‘Souvenir Undone’ Beckons Its Audience Through Historic Fort Jay"

Rachel Tess
Artist Bio

Rachel Tess

Choreographer/dancer Rachel Tess was educated at the Oregon Ballet Theater School 1985-1998, and the Juilliard School 2000-2002 under the artistic direction of Benjamin Harkarvy and Lawrence Rhodes. She has performed with Oregon Ballet Theatre, The Juilliard Dance Ensemble, Lar Lubovich Dance Company, Gothenburg Opera Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. 

She currently holds a permanent position with the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm. Tess received a Princess Grace Award for Modern Dance in 2003, and a Martha Hill Award in 2004. She was named among Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” (2010) for her work as co-director of Rumpus Room Dance in Portland.

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Rachel Tess

BAC Story by Lydia Bell

Rachel Tess

Jul 1, 2013

If you went into Baryshnikov Arts Center’s Studio 6A today, you would find a small house. Upon further inspection, you might think of it more as a variation on a house. It has four walls, yes. It offers sanctuary, intimacy, and an ordering of space. But its primary purpose is as a container for dance.

Rachel Tess is the artist behind the container—she is a choreographer who splits her time between Portland, Oregon and Stockholm, Sweden, and a dancer trained in ballet who has worked with major ballet companies and contemporary European choreographers. She started to work site-specifically in Portland starting in 2007, making and producing works in large forgotten urban spaces under the auspices of Rumpus Room Dance. The experience of working in warehouses and other large-scale environments, she told me when I visited her at BAC recently, drove her to crave intimacy in the performance environment. How does the audience read architecture and texture? How does the audience experience the vibrations of the dancing body? These are the questions driving Tess’ newest project.

Souvenir, what I’m calling a container for dance, is “designed for mobility,” Tess wrote to me recently. It’s also “modular,” so that the pieces of the structure can be reconfigured in a multitude of ways. It was constructed in Sweden, with the help of a two carpenter uncles and Swedish/Chilean designer Gian Monti, and then shipped to New York for Tess’ month-long residency. It took almost three days to erect in the BAC studio, during which time Tess taught the dancers she is working with—Anna Pehrsson and Luis Rodriguez—how to put it together. The intimacy between Tess, the dancers, and the structure is palpable. The walls of the structure Tess lovingly refers to as “skin.” The frame of the house contains cubbies for sitting in and a ledge for perching on. Eventually each cubby will have hooks, for audiences to arrange their belongings on, and a “survival kit,” of some kind, perhaps a blanket, Tess told me.

In a recent run-through, several test audience members were encouraged to walk around the structure and then choose a cubby to inhabit. In my walk around the structure I felt my gaze drawn in many different directions—to the skyline, the buildings outside, to the studio door. Once inside, my gaze became more focused. I no longer had a sense of the space as portable. Instead, the hard edges and clean lines of the structure seemed permanent, as if they had always been there, and watching the dancers negotiate the harshness of raw wood was both stimulating and strangely exhausting. Toward the end of the run through, both dancers left the structure, running their hands along the outside walls and emitting a low, meditative hum. The container seemed to vibrate with possibility and I found myself imagining it in a grassy meadow, as a respite from the sun, perhaps after a long hike. What are the ideal conditions for dance? Souvenir forces us to confront this question—and offers a space in which to imagine the possibilities.

Visit Rachel's Residency Page

Lydia Bell is a dance researcher, curator and administrator based in New York City. She is Development and Curatorial Associate at Danspace Project, where she serves as Managing Editor of the PLATFORM catalogue series. Lydia has contributed to publications such as Judson Now (Danspace Project, 2012), Museum and Curatorial Studies Review (University of California, Santa Cruz), and Movement Research Performance Journal. Lydia is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP).

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Slide photos: Michael Mazzola / Bio photo: Luis Rodriguez