Interviews: QNS+A

Karesia Batan


There was no palpable sense of dance community in Queens the way Manhattan or Brooklyn had. So I started the festival with the mission to strengthen our Queens dance community, to find fellow choreographers in all corners of the borough and bring us together to share our works.

Can you give us a little background on where you grew up and where you are now?

My parents immigrated here from the Philippines in the 70s, and lived with my uncle in Jamaica, Queens until I was born. So technically I’m from Flushing but raised in Connecticut. After college, I moved to NYC to pursue a career in dance, and growing up we often visited my cousins in Jamaica, so living in Queens felt more natural than any other borough. I’ve been living in Long Island City for almost 10 years now, and though I perform all throughout NYC, I’m enjoying more and more integrating my dance career with my neighborhood.

When did you start dancing?

I was one of those kids who had dance class as a toddler because that was just part of preschool, and then continued dance as a regular extra-curricular activity up though high school. I had a small dance scholarship with the Connecticut Ballet program in elementary school, which really exposed me to all kinds of dance– ballet, tap, West African, Capoeira. We performed and toured with the professional company; it was inspiring and exciting. I later trained at another dance school until I was 18–ballet, lyrical, jazz, tap.

Did you go to college for dance or take classes?

I loved dance, but when it came to college, I knew I wasn’t technically strong enough to go into a college dance major or a conservatory program.​ B​ut I was academically strong, and my parents emphasized the importance of a ​well-rounded education while figuring out a future career. So I attended Boston University as a communication major in public relations, and completed a dance minor. It was in college where I had the most exposure to modern dance, but among other styles like hip-hop and cultural/folk dance.

When I graduated, I had a choice: to work in a public relations office, or see where dance could take me. I figured the office could wait and promised myself to pursue dance for as long as I could sustain it.

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to be a freelance modern dancer/choreographer and also produce dance programming for artists, and I definitely attribute my production skills to my public relations studies in college.

Why did you start The Physical Plant dance group?

The Physical Plant is the name of my dance group, coined in 2010, primarily to house the dance works I was choreographing and showing at different theaters. When I started noticing a need in our dance community, that’s when I began to create and produce programs like the Queensboro Dance Festival, and so now The Physical Plant has expanded to be a dance group + production company. I’ve been learning more and more about what’s happening in the Queens dance world now, particularly since I started the Queensboro Dance Festival in 2014.

Micca Dance Group

What is the Queensboro Dance Festival? We love that you highlight dancers in Queens. Why did you feel it was important to keep the dancers and choreographers Queens-based?

The Queensboro Dance Festival is an annual celebration of performances that only feature work by Queens-based choreographers. This came out of noticing that as a Queens-based dancer myself, it was difficult for me to find out where other Queens dancers were, what they do, what they are choreographing– there was no common place for us to meet or share ideas. There was no palpable sense of dance community in Queens the way Manhattan or Brooklyn had. So I started the festival with the mission to strengthen our Queens dance community, to find fellow choreographers in all corners of the borough and bring us together to share our works.

Has it been difficult finding dancers, resources, or collaborators in Queens?

With Queens being so expansive and neighborhoods often feeling like their own separate worlds, it does take some digging to discover choreographers and dance groups, but that’s the exciting part. Researching, asking around, learning of other Queens dance programming, diving into the community– it’s how I’ve met unique Queens dancers and resources that have been around for a long time, and I just never knew about it.

The Queensboro Dance Festival provides a platform to exchange all of this, and hopefully to better unify our dance community here. I knew when I started the festival three years ago that Queens was already coming into the spotlight as a residential and tourist attraction; things have been happening here and the greater public was beginning to take notice. But now is an especially exciting time for Queens dance, with major companies like the Joffrey Ballet and Jessica Lang Dance opening spaces in Long Island City later this year– Queens dance is going to burst onto the scene, and I feel proud and fortunate that the Queensboro Dance Festival is a part of this movement.

Matheta Dance

What are some Queens dance groups that are currently involved in the Festival?

This October will be the 3rd year of the festival, and we have thus far presented over 30 different Queens-based choreographers and dance companies. Some groups have been American Bolero Dance Company, a Flamenco company from LIC; #Taplife, a tap group from Howard Beach; and Gotham Dance Theater, a modern dance company from Sunnyside.

Are you still looking for more dancers? If so, what requirements do you have and how do people apply?

The call for choreographers is now open until July 11th for this year’s festival, which runs October 17-23 at The Secret Theater in Long Island City. The main requirement is that you must be Queens-based with a resident mailing address. Dance pieces are selected based on merit, range of dances represented in the festival, and performance availability. More festival info and the application can be found at!