Welcome to Your Stories

We want to hear from you. Share your BAX stories, memories, impressions with us.

Write your story in the “Leave a Reply” field. These comments are moderated, so it may take some time to go live. Thank you.

While you’re here, take a look around, read the all stories we are collecting on this page, in the Featured Stories page and in Marya’s Blog.

17 Comments

  1. Marya wrote:

    Reading Nami’s story is great. When I interviewed her this summer for the research I’m conducting, she was questioning how she would re-enter the studio – try to feel out being an artist and a mother. She’s doing it!!! The other day luciana achugar and Shannon Hummel had a similar conversation in my office, just a few years down the road in the challenges and joys of finding some kind of balance in mothering and creating work. And in finding time for the “business” of being an artist as well. Having an office, having some help, daycare solutions, etc. etc. Would love to hear other people’s experiences as well.

  2. Nasrene wrote:

    Graduating from high school meant leaving the place where I felt the most comfortable – a place hard to find in your adolescence. Only three years later, I am able to look back on my many experiences at BAX and recognize how extremely important this type of community means to my personal development, both when I spent four days there a week, or now when I spend part of everyday either feeling nostalgic about my experience or using my memories productively to encourage myself to continue to create safe, comfortable and engaging environments for myself and others.

    In my freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College, directly following my departure from BAX, I had a hard time adapting to their dance program that I believed would be the best transition for myself as a dancer and choreographer. Maybe as a dancer and choreographer it was, but it wasn’t until only a few weeks ago that I came to the conclusion that dance wasn’t what I wanted to hold onto for the rest of my life – it was BAX. Dance was still very important to me and even more so choreography, being that it was my main outlet of creativity and through this creativity; personal expression. But when I took a few composition classes and choreographed a piece during my first year at Sarah Lawrence, I was not inspired to create anymore. I thought for the past two years that my loss of interest in dancing and choreographing stemmed from being forced to dance in an environment where I did not feel comfortable and while that might have contributed, I am now 100% sure that the main reason I wasn’t interested in dance the way I had been in high school was for its association with BAX.

    This revelation came to me when I started receiving emails about the upcoming alumni/faculty concert at BAX taking place in January in honor of BAX’s twenty year anniversary. In one email, I was asked to begin to create some phrases that reflect my time spent at BAX and immediately, a million ideas came to my head and all I wanted to do was stand in the middle of my room and begin to create, a feeling I have truly missed. Only a home and community like BAX can generate these types of life-changing moments. Until my second year of college, I wanted to be a professional choreographer and dancer and without BAX in my life, I lost interest very quickly. But in preparation for this performance, all I want to do is dance and create.

    BAX is in my thoughts everyday and the most important thing I can do with my life to honor my appreciation is to create a community to support others the way that BAX has supported me. I can’t wait to be back!

  3. Marya wrote:

    we can’t wait to welcome you back. Look who else is participating: Amy Beth Schneider, Andrew Jannetti, Pene Mc Courty, Maya Visco, Catey Ott, Diane Tomasi, Ellynne Skove, Emma Skove-Epes, Jesse Phillips-Fein, Kate Lieberman, Rachel Lane, Kelly Healy Amores, Nicki Marshall, Helen Tocci, Adria Robin, Dawn Mazzeo, Becky Pearl, Jeremy Phiefer, Donna Costello, Nadia Tykulsker……………………………………

  4. Diane wrote:

    I didn’t grow up in New York so I didn’t have BAX when I was younger… but I did have something similar and those outlets, those ‘creative families’ helped me to define myself and also got me through many confusing moments in my teenage years. I was nurtured by my peers and inspired by my leaders. I was able to develop confidence and was encouraged to do what my heart was whispering for me to do… Those moments are so pivotal to who I am today and where I am as an artist now.
    I moved away from my small town and now live here… and you have no idea how important finding BAX was for me.. Not only do I get to keep that loving and encouraging atmosphere around me, but I also get the privilege, hopefully, to pass that outlet and confidence on to my students. That is so important for me…

  5. Karen Bernard wrote:

    Fernando Maneca made me aware that we first met at BAX 20 years ago. I remember at that time you needed to audition to be presented. That’s when I also first met Marya Warshaw. Needless to say in my early years, Marya was an intimidating figure to me and the audition was nerve raking. I remember standing in the wings with Tere O’Connor. He was very relaxed and not jumping up and down like I was trying to warm up. There may be a moral to that story. Since then I have performed many a developing work at BAX. I presented a 20 minute version of Ouette in December 2010. I had to edit down from 40 minutes. WOW did I learn a lot – and as always, Marya, Fernando and the staff were so supportive. BAX’s support has gone beyond my artistry. In 2006 I was awarded a BAX 10 Award for founding and developing New Dance Alliance’s Performance Mix Festival. I have served as a panelist, making a full circle from the day I auditioned. I am also honored to have Fernando Maneca as Chairman of NDA’s Board of Directors. But the most important end to this story is the true friends I have made.

  6. Lee Gargagliano wrote:

    I guess part of what has taken me so long to write about my experience at BAX is that I am sad about where the story sits right now. While dance will be important to me for the rest of my life, it doesn’t currently play the role that it once did. But thinking about my time at BAX helps me to remember that my love for dance is genuine and that the value of my participation is based on what it means to me.

    BAX has played a huge role in my life. I took classes from about 4th grade until I graduated from high school. Dance became my primary artistic and creative outlet. The kind of creative thinking fostered by my many different wonderful teachers (Andrew, Marya, Shannon, Jessie, Donna, Susan and Fernando–to name a few) at BAX shaped the way I think about art and education. BAX also helped me to develop and maintain a positive body-image which was important to me well beyond the classes I took. BAX fostered me as a developing young person, and not only as a dancer. My teachers at BAX valued my creative input and opinion and presented opportunities for me to develop it.

    Dance at BAX was warm and welcoming and was an experience that has been hard for me to replicate in other facets of my life. Unfortunately after having overwhelmingly supportive and positive experiences with dance at BAX, I had several negative experiences in college. The strength of vision that BAX has as an organization and the inclusiveness it practices gave me the tools to see my negative experiences as coming from people with a narrow-minded conception of dance and led me to create one of the dance pieces that I am most proud of and to seek out a performance opportunity outside of the formal settings to show it.

    Even though I have not taken any classes, nor performed or created any work in many years dance continues to be important to me. I find myself discovering interesting series’ of gestures as I wait for a train or conceptualizing a dance piece as I cook dinner in my kitchen. I hope to find ways to incorporate dance into my life going forward because my dance teachers and the environment at BAX had such a profound effect on me. Unfortunately I did not get it together to develop anything for the alumni show, but hopefully reconnecting with this community will inspire me to bring some of my ideas to fruition sooner rather than later.

  7. Kate JFL wrote:

    I was a quiet kid. A shy kid. All of my elementary school teachers would say, “she’s very quiet, she should speak up more.” At BAX (Gowanus Arts Exchange at the time), that wasn’t important. I learned that not only could I express myself with my body and without words if I didn’t want them (though in a comfortable environment, I had plenty!), but I could do it beautifully, and I could do it safely. As I grew up, and the “shyness” slowly fell away, BAX remained a safe place, the place where I could move and dance in any way I wanted to, the place where everything was supported, where we as teen dancers were treated as professionals with true and valid visions. When I went to college and became part of the dance community there, I saw that most people that had grown up dancing had not been part of such an amazing, unique, supportive and mature environment. I feel beyond grateful that I grew up dancing, choreographing, creating at BAX. Some of my closest friends to this day are amazing people I met at BAX, and coming back to perform feels like coming home.

  8. Kelly Healy wrote:

    I was first introduced to BAX when I was 12 years old and left when I was 18. It was the first dance class I had ever been put in and was immensely shy. I remember I was in the 8th grade and I was auditioning to get into LaGuardia High School. Both, Tessa [Nebrida] and Andrew Janetti helped me with my auditioning process. Andrew let me attend his classes and try to keep up with the rest of the Dance Performance Workshop 1 (DPW) class. Shortly after, I was invited to be part of his class. As my years grew at BAX so did I and was later placed into DPW 2 and 3. At the time, I didn’t know BAX would introduce me to a love for dance that I didn’t know I had. My years at BAX were during High School which as most of us know is not such an easy time, and luckily, some of us had BAX and to me it was a place where I was allowed to be myself and I knew I wouldn’t be judged – BAX taught me how to accept things, how to try new things, take risks and not to be afraid. When I received e-mails about this show, I was both nervous and excited. When I came to BAX after not dancing for years and not stepping in BAX for roughly two years, not only was I extra nervous but I was slightly overwhelmed. I was so happy to be back and at the end, I felt calm and almost at peace. In a weird way, BAX resparked my interest to pursue dance that I had put on hold for so long. It feels amazing to create and I just want to continue creating and be inspired by so many things. What is BAX to me? BAX is and will always be home.

  9. Marya wrote:

    Reading the last couple of posts from Kelly, Lee, Kate and others I am struck by some similar themes, responses. HOME seems to be a big one. It’s a complete pleasure, a part of my life like no other, that we have all been at this table of learning and sharing and building this home we can all count on. It’s also interesting to me that it’s the same feature that our resident artists refer to in “artistic home” and they are also talking about developing all parts of themselves, trying and failing – trying and moving forwards “succeeding”. So I am moved by these stories, keep them coming!

  10. I was the technical director and resident lighting designer at BAX (then the Gowanus Arts Exchange) from—I think—1989 to 1996, then a board member for seven years after that. While I designed at BAX—far too many shows to count, literally hundreds of pieces—I also performed there, dancing several of my own works, a solo made by Christopher Beck, and a duo with Fernando Maneca created by Paul Gargagliano in the first student-choreographers-make-work-on-professionals program (I can’t remember what the program was called). In the traditional everyone-does-many-things manner of BAX, I also taught as a substitute teacher at every level from the three-year-olds (fun but exhausting) to YYPW II, the most advanced student dancers (inspiring), and I created dances for both YYPW I and YYPW II (the advanced performing workshops have different names now).

    During one of my rehearsals for the dance I made for YYPW II—for the first graduating class, which included future BAX luminaries Jessie Phillips-Fein, Rachel Lane, and Kate Lieberman—when the girls were taking their rehearsal break in the dressing room (sharing an order of garlic knots, which I thought a truly bizarre choice of dance rehearsal snack), I overheard one of them telling the others about some guy, who liked some girl—I forget the details. It was one of those teenage social problems whose subtleties are perennially beyond adult comprehension. Problem was, this guy was to-o-o-o old for this girl. “Not re-e-e-eally old—like, thirty, or something,” our narrator hastened to add. Stung a little, I leaned my head in the door and took them all by surprise when I announced, “Listen, thirty is NOT OLD. Thirty is FABULOUS.” I was thirty at the time. Now that all those women are in their thirties, and I no longer in mine, this little anecdote takes on a certain poignancy for me.

    To recall so much time and so much work after such a long interval inevitably means that a sort of memory blur in which many incidents stand out, like shiny pebbles in a stream. Mostly, I remember BAX as always a place with a good spirit—for which there is no substitute.

  11. Asking me what BAX has been to me is kind of like asking a river what it would be without the ground. If the ground weren’t there, the river would have nothing to push against, nothing to contain it and nothing to give way when you just need to feel the sense that you are barreling through. BAX has affected me in so many ways, but mostly by teaching me that I am in charge of shaping myself. BAX teaches that through the way its supports art, but it translates into so much more than just dance-making.

    And back to that river analogy… if I look out over a valley and I see a river, the ground is there, but I don’t really notice it. It’s the river I see and remember… and that is BAX too. BAX holds up artists and let’s them be looked at first for who they are and the individualized, crazy, winding, branching completely unique paths they carve. BAX never tells me where to go. BAX asks me where I am, where I think I might go next and how they can help me to get there if they can. That takes true generosity and is incredible faith… especially when working with someone like myself who generally takes a lot of side trips along the way. It sounds selfish as I’m thinking it, but BAX is an organization that is about me more than about BAX. They let it be about me, whoever I am at that time.

    I realize this probably all sounds very general but I have been so many things at BAX, it’s hard to be specific. Artist-in-residence, teacher, curator, production coordinator, toilet scrubber, wall painter, stage manager, parent…. I think I hold the record. BAX has been so many things to me as it has to so many people, but mostly it’s been a place to plant things and see if they grow when a part of me – artistic or otherwise – needs trying out. They’re like soil. Unbelievably trusting soil :) Like, when I say: “So, I have this seed, I have no idea what this seed is or what it will grow, how long it takes to grow, what kind of food it needs, how expensive that food is or if I am ultimately going to be enriching or completely depleting the soil I will have to put it it. Can you help me?” Most of the time, BAX says: “Well…OK. Let’s see what happens. I bet at least some part of what comes out along the way will be meaningful. Let’s go for it.” And then they do.

    And man, do I appreciate that.

    BAX values artists, yes, but what is most special about BAX to me is that they don’t tell you what an artist is and THEN value you if you meet that criteria. They do not place the importance of one kind of artist over another. BAX lets artists define what it is to be an artist. Actually, they demand it. Whether you are a grant-getting-making-work-for-big-stages artist, a performing-edgy-solos-in-the-subway artist, a mopping-the-floor-to-make-ends-meet artist, a teaching-kids artist, a locked-in-the-studio-26-hours-a-day artist, an I-only-do-this-sometimes artist, a working-mom artist or a 3-year-old-learning-the-pleasure-of-jumping-in-the-air-with-a-red-scarf artist… ONE IS NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAT ANOTHER INSIDE THEIR DOORS. It is this philosophy that has brought so much good to my art-making and really, my whole life.

    So thank you BAX, for all you’ve given to me and my family. I wish you another wonderful 20 years and then some. I hope I am around for every one. :)

  12. Asma Feyijinmi wrote:

    I will not name years, but lets just say I have a twenty three year old son who spent many hours as a five year old getting into mischief while I was teaching African dance class on Saturdays at BAX. I was a young mother, who nervously had to accept that everything would be alright while I was teaching. The BAX family was warm, and accepting, and my son was adorable and charming of course, so he was well looked after.

    On a special day, filled with special events, and a visit from NYSCA, my son decided to do something extra special. He explored until he found scarlet paint… I don’t remember if it was oil paint, or if he mixed it somehow with vaseline, but he decided to paint the bathroom with it. He was of course proud of his accomplishment and after class ran up to me, covered in this intense red gooo. “Look, mommy look”, he said with pride.

    That day, after class, at BAX, I found myself on my hands and knees cleaning the bathroom floor, walls, toilet and all it’s surrounding parts. Nope, never forgot that. Nor have I forgotten all the support an arts community can supply. I taught African dance to children and adults, with live percussion. ( One of my percussionists, Ahmed Best, went on to be the voice and body behind the Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks. ) I taught modern dance as well. I received a space grant, held a Kwanzaa celebration, rehearsed with various choreographers, performed, created choreography for a one woman show that was presented at BAX . I taught at a wonderful school, PS 24, for several years as a teaching artist . I even performed as a storyteller at various schools thru BAX (The percussionist I worked with then, Ron McBee, went on to perform in the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage “Ruined”.) Let’s see, if I left anything out , it is probably the wealth of untold stories from students and their families as they have reflected back on the impact of those times… learning the gumbboot dance, or dances from Haiti and the stories these dances embodied.

    I remain grateful and blessed to have been welcomed into such an incredible community.

  13. Jessie Levey wrote:

    I grew up at BAX. I started teaching there right after college and stayed for 10 years. I worked there longer than anywhere else to this day. I watched Spoke the Hub grow into Gowanus Arts Exchange which then grew into BAX, from Douglass St to 5th Avenue. When I first began teaching, it was actually scary walking to work. Several years later, I bought a beautiful apartment just up the block. The center moved forward, the neighborhood changed and I grew up. I got married, had two children, went through other jobs- all the while teaching at BAX. Marya, many colleagues and my beautiful students actually threw a baby shower for me in the studio. (Izzy still has the beautiful quilt handmade by a BAX mommy).

    BAX was where I truly became the teacher that I still am today. It is where I developed a fierce belief that training young dancers to be choreographers as well as dancers is vital. It is where I realized that dance for little ones is necessary and dance for teenagers is a life-line.

    Eight years ago, I left Brooklyn to achieve a life-long goal of mine to found a modern dance center in the country. Recently, a new parent said of my dance studio’s schedule, “Wow, this looks so much like the schedule from my daughter’s old dance school.” I asked her what studio it was and she answered, “BAX.” She gave me the greatest compliment. Classes in my studio continue the work I began back in 1989 on Douglass St.

    One ending thought. Teaching YPPW for ten years was a gift. Working independently, with Dani Nikas and many wonderful guest choreographers was a teaching experience I hold dear. Dani and I both felt blessed to work in such a nurturing environment. We loved our students and felt incredibly lucky witnessing them grow as people, dancers and choreographers. It gives me immense joy to know that so many of those young dancers I taught so long ago (some for as many as ten years) are out there in the world dancing, making dances and teaching dance.

  14. Marya wrote:

    Reading Jessie’s story made me happy, sad, thoughtful. I miss Dani Nikas– and it bears repeating what an incredible influence she was on so many students, artists, friends and colleagues. I remain amazed that she is no longer alive. Jessie’s posting also made me thrilled that the work we share continues in so many places and ways and I love her story of the parent who’s child she now teaches. Thank you so much!

  15. Maya Gonzalez wrote:

    I am currently a Senior in HS at LaGuardia HS, and we were assigned a creative project in my AP Lit class to create a portrait of ourselves as young artists, in any creative form we desire. So i decided to write a poem about my growth and life as a dancer thus far, and I have so much to thank BAX for in terms of the role dance has played in my life. So here I will post the poem I wrote, and dedicate it to this beautiful place that I will miss with all of my heart:

    Buried in a sea of multicolored tutus that itched and scratched and squeezed and poked but oh it was so worth it she thought as she pulled tugged at the rough stiff fabric that hadn’t been touched in years. The thrill she got parading her proud 4 year-old self around mommy’s dance studio showing off her razzle-dazzle to the grown-ups who could touch the clouds and shake hands with the constellations was like nothing she had ever experienced before. In photos I see her gripping a ballet bar too tight and arching her little back much too far and pointing those toes like there’s no tomorrow. This was the birth of a whisper that would soon become a sigh that would soon become an inaudible word_____an audible word_____a coversation_____a theory_____an inspiration_____and that is still becoming a voice. A lifestyle. K 1 2 3 4 5 twirling jumping traveling lead & following rolling skipping in blue pink green striped long-sleeved shirts that had sparkly lines too that would leave itty bitty sparkles on your arms and tummy for days on end. She didn’t know then and there that in this utopia of movement and no movement the sparkly stuff never actually goes away. It sinks into your skin and your soul and accumulates over time and ever once in a while it’ll explode out of you in a kind of perfectly poignant elaboration of silent and deafening passion.

    4 nine years old. Monologues becoming dialogues. She begins to create her own moving pictures and to speak the most foreign language of all: her own. Through this discovery of her own personal language, she begins to open doors that she didn’t know existed until after she had opened them. She finds herself immersed in a world that she does not know. Yet. This World is Hers. Is Mine. World becomes meaningful, significant.

    5
    Heavy
    Tangible
    Real

    6
    World tugs on her fingers and nudges her elbows and kicks her feet out from under her while she watches with wide, seeing eyes. World mocks her, isolates her, challenges her, questions her every move. 7 World taunts her. 8 World grabs her. 9 World blinds her. World stops her and starts her. World talks to her World ignores her World embraces her World drops her World asks her World helps her. Her World.

    10 Breathe.
    One summer she breathed. She saw breath in motion and fell irreversibly in love with it. Breath caught her throat on a hook and tugged only it wasn’t painful. She woke up, sat up, inhaled, exhaled, and repeated. This was her religion. But then it became more than a religion it became more than a language it became a style and it became her style. This new mentality
    This new physicality
    This new ideality
    This new actuality
    This new reality spoke through her. Spoke to her. Spoke for her within her without her.
    Thank you, was all she could say to them. Because they taught her how to breathe.
    Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you

    11
    New phenomenons. Epiphanies. Continuously putting two and 2 together over and over again and again. Angles? 3-Dimensionality? Juxtaposition. Yes and. Atmosphere. Layers. Attempt, Fail, Practice. Attempt, Fail, Practice.
    __________________
    The people that lived in her little world alongside her changed her. They moved her mind and moved her body and moved her life. She believes in them and jostles them around and tests them and then believes in them even more. Together they reached a tipping point. They established limits and then pushed beyond them. They ran into walls and let themselves fall because some things will always defeat you. They defined themselves and defined each other and re-defined everything else. They painted their names on the floor and on the walls and on the ceiling and in the sky and filled every empty, colorless spot with the color of passion. This is their language.

    12
    It’s not good-bye because it is goodbye. She learned how to fly but then so did time. She won’t believe it because it’s true, but it’s true because she believed in it every moment that it existed.
    Waltzing zebras and faulty picture frames and sparkly face-painted stars and tacky over-sized dresses and X-Factor and cliché tears, you won’t be forgotten.
    ______________
    They threw crackers and broke crackers and crumbled crackers and stuffed crackers in their mouths and down their shirts and choked on crackers and sang ACDC until their voices were shot and their throats and lips were dry and chapped from all the crackers. Then they wiped their mouths and fixed their hair and cleaned each other up and cleared their throats and exchanged awkward glances and coughed in the silence and pulled and tugged at their clothes and stood there____in a straight, uniform line, sweating through their nude leotards and shrinking into their over-sized white button-down shirts. They stood there in their boxers, stock still and out of breath, and stared blindly forward at a darkened audience until the lights went out. And they all smiled_____and bowed_____and exited the stage.

  16. BAXarts wrote:

    Here is a video of Maya’s solo. Thanks Maya!

  17. [...] YOUR BAX story? Click HERE to share your [...]