Our Mission and Story

Crux, by Jonathan Howard Katz and Leigh Schanfein, April 2012. Still from video by Tom Levin.

Periapsis Music and Dance believes in the artists of today and in the body of work that they are creating.  The extraordinary choreographers and composers of our time have the vision, voice, and skill to create collaborative works of intrinsic artistic value worthy of performance, study, and preservation.  Our mission is to cultivate this new concert repertoire at the intersection of dance and music by actively contributing to it with our ensemble and by facilitating and encouraging such collaborations in the community.

This is an exciting time for music/dance collaborations!  Individuals throughout the arts world are discovering the invigorating creative energy that comes when choreographers and composers collaborate, and when dancers can perform with live music.  And artists and audiences alike are reveling in the new visual, musical, and theatrical possibilities that come with such combinations.  But beyond discrete performance projects, a handful of grantmakers, and the mission of some individual artists, no organization has stepped forward to treat this burgeoning genre in a comprehensive way, both as a laboratory for artistic exploration and as a community resource.  This is the role we envision for ourselves as Periapsis grows and develops.

Periapsis Music and Dance was founded in the fall of 2012 by composer/pianist Jonathan Howard Katz and dancer/choreographer Leigh Schanfein in response to the growing gap between dance performance and live musical performance in the NYC arts scene.  Inspired by our own experiences creating art together, we wanted to give others in the dance and music communities opportunities to collaborate on new performance pieces.  Jonathan and Leigh created several new repertoire works together, including two that they had first developed pre-Periapsis, as well as some pieces with other collaborators.

As we began our third season, we welcomed choreographers Erin Dillon and Hannah Weber to our company.  Erin had been a guest choreographer in our first season, and Hannah started with us as a featured dancer in Laid upon the children.  Both participate in the ensemble as dancers, too, and the contrast between their unique artistic styles have enriched our repertoire.  Leigh departed from the ensemble in the winter of 2015, and our core company coalesced into an ensemble of six dancers and six musicians.

In our early seasons, we shared our programs with numerous guest choreographers who would bring their own dancers but work with our musicians to set music by living, mostly emerging, composers.  For many of these choreographers it was a first time in the professional world to work with live music, or with a composer they could meet in person.  However, this format limited both our ability to develop our own company and its repertoire, and our capacity to serve a wide range of artists.  So in our third season we shifted our production resources to focus on our own work, but at the same time we found new ways to facilitate collaborations in the community.  First came the online resources for choreographers and composers, and as we grow we expect to create performance opportunities and other programs to serve the dance and music communities together.

Please explore our website to learn more, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter and connect on social media to stay informed!

trace 01

Jonathan Howard Katz and Leigh Schanfein perform Trace, by guest choreographer Hee Ra Yoo.

Periapsis Music and Dance is a partner of Inception to Exhibition (ITE) and a presenter partner of Composers Now.
Composers Now logo web

Have a look at our accomplishments to date:

We’ve performed at:

Symphony Space, GK ArtsCenter, Roulette, Kumble Theater, Spectrum, Peridance Capezio Center, ShapeShifter Lab, Steps on Broadway, Dixon Place, Elebash Hall, the Actors Fund Arts Center, the Secret Theatre, LeFrak Concert Hall (Queens College), Opperman Music Hall (Florida State University)

Our repertoire includes work by our resident choreographers:

Erin Dillon, Leigh Schanfein, Hannah Weber

And the following guests:

Joshua Beamish, Seán Curran, Miro Magloire, Helen Simoneau, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Manuel Vignoulle, and Hee Ra Yoo

Our repertoire includes music by our artistic director Jonathan Howard Katz, as well as:

Kati Agócs, Bach-Busoni, Richard Carrick, Elliott Carter, James Holt, Shawn Jaeger, and Mary Kouyoumdjian

About Twine:

“Like the other pieces on the program, yet completely unique to Vignoulle’s vision, Twine plays with the music, speaks to it, in lush suspensions and ultra quick, cat-like movements. The fluid quality of both the music and the dance is especially pleasing . . .”
—Cecly Placenti, Critical Dance

About Reflection:

“In Reflection by Katarzyna Skarpetowska, . . . [d]ancer and musician seamlessly switch roles and use the bench and each other as supports. [Michaela Catherine] McGowan is an intense and magnetic dancer. Technically strong and expressive, my eye is drawn to her over and over . . .”
—Cecly Placenti, Critical Dance

About The Unfinished Pattern:

“Schanfein’s choreography is gorgeous and lush. . . . There is lovely detail in unexpected places . . .”
—Karen Shapiro, Wet Paint

About Trust:

“[Trust] was a gorgeous piece of moving architecture that was made all the more impressive by [violinist Lauren] Cauley’s continued playing.”
—Cecly Placenti, Critical Dance

About Laid upon the children:

“Leigh Schanfein . . . created a work based on [Romeo and Juliet]’s party and tomb scene and her take on the tomb scene is truly breathtaking.”
—Alexandra Pinel, DIYdancer

“The crypt scene, Grace for grace, is heartbreaking and beautifully performed by Tucker Davis. A strong actor, Mr. Davis lets us feel his grief without any great displays of histrionics.”
—Karen Shapiro, Wet Paint

About Escape Velocity:

“Dancer Erin Dillon embodies the quirky intricacies of Curran’s choreography beautifully, at times sinuous and fluid, at others percussive and staccato.”
—Cecly Placenti, Critical Dance

About Marionettenfädendurcheinanderwalzer:

“The gorgeous music veers back and forth from dreamy abstract atmospheres to . . . lyrical melodies.”
—Karen Shapiro, Wet Paint

About our inaugural concert:

“From the last, Periapsis is urgent and wonderfully greedy with time and space. . . . Dance and music are often linked, and in Periapsis neither art form upstages the other . . . making no part of the evening unsatisfying.”
—Sofia Stempek, informal floor

Click here to read the feature story by Leah Gerstenlauer in Dance Informa magazine titled:
“Artistic Synergy: Periapsis Music and Dance Redefines Live Art”