We had the good fortune of connecting with Karesia Batan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karesia, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think taking risks, calculated ones, is instrumental when building your own career and pursuing your life dreams and goals. I had to plan, envision how I would execute things, and go through the scenarios of “what ifs.” When you have dreams where the outcomes are not guaranteed, I had to rely on your own resilience and skill set– whether it’s a competitive dance career or starting a non-profit. When I started brainstorming about how to create the Queensboro Dance Festival, I didn’t really know any other dance festivals that were exclusively dedicated to a specific geographical area like the borough of Queens. It was a risk yet essential to our mission to remain dedicated to what some people thought was pigeon-holing myself. But I see our mission as filling a gap in the Queens dance landscape. It was a type of community building and outreach that had to be completely customized to Queens and the festival’s mission, and I had to figure out that approach for myself. It was a lot of learning by doing, trial and error, person-to-person relationships that took time and trust to cultivate. I learned risk was about being comfortable enough with failures, mistakes, conflict–and having the confidence to find solutions. I also learned you can’t really pursue something new or impactful without risk. You have to believe in your mission, be passionate about it, and make sure it is addressing an active need; taking risks toward this is worth it!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started the Queensboro Dance Festival (QDF) in 2014 simply as a dancer who was trying to find her local dance community in Queens, because I kept finding myself going to other boroughs to find a dance community. I live in the most diverse place in the country, so its dance landscape had to be just as vibrant and I wanted to learn more about it. Queens is home to dancers of so many cultures and styles, and I’m proud the festival is a platform where the cultural, classical, contemporary, commercial dance styles can meet. A highly skilled or professional dancer takes many forms and purposes here. QDF is a unique program where we encourage cultural exchange, where our common thread is the shared place we live. It was not easy building this program and it still isn’t, but it’s the continual discovery of our Queens dance community and the connections we make among dancers and audiences that make it worth it. The festival’s mission is to strengthen the dance community in Queens and inspire a greater appreciation of Queens dance. We present only Queens-based professional dance companies and provide career building resources in Queens. We tour performances and classes throughout public spaces across Queens. It’s specific to our NYC area but I hope we are an example of community building through dance. I hope our existence demonstrates to our city and state that Queens dancers are a highly active community deserving of more accessible and equitable funding.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Queens is called the World’s Borough for a reason– you can travel the world across the neighborhoods here! In a week, I’d say enjoy the waterfront Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City, as well as one of our Michelin-starred restaurants Casa Enrique, Fifth Hammer Brewery, and CultureLab gallery and event space for free live music. Then continue further into Queens; eat in the Little Manila area for Filipino food in Woodside. Wander around Jackson Heights for the amazing variety of Latin, Indian, and Himalayan food. Enjoy the Latin Jazz bar Terraza 7 in Elmhurst. Visit the Louie Armstrong House in Corona (and also the Corona Ice King, best Italian ice in the city). Stroll around the historic Forest Hills gardens that have amazing Victorian style houses as though you’re walking around some old European village. See a concert at Forest Hills Stadium, the original spot of the U.S. tennis open. Go to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the U.S. Open is now, as well as Queens Museum (which houses the 1964 World’s Fair panorama of NYC). In the summer on Saturday nights there’s the Queens Night Market in the park, where you can try all the amazing diverse foods of Queens and beyond. See a Mets baseball game at Citifield, across the street from the park. Then head down to Rockaway Beach– you pass by Brooklyn but interestingly, the Rockaways is part of Queens!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I will always be grateful to the arts leaders in my community who believed in me from the start, and saw what I wanted to achieve for the local dance field. I thank Richard Mazda of the Secret Theatre, the person who gave me the first venue to launch the festival when it was just an idea on paper. I thank Taryn Sacramone of Queens Theatre, who sees my vision and continues to uplift the impact and visibility of our grassroots-grown festival toward an institutional level. I am so thankful for their support and it continues to be a reminder that working together in a shared community with those who see your vision is truly the way to go in being an impactful program.
Facebook: The Physical Plant
Photo credits: Josef Pinlac, Reiko Yanagi