“From coastal resiliency and sustainable green practices to the preservation of affordable housing, world-class public art, and vibrant, year-round programming in award-winning public spaces, Battery Park City leads the way in many of the measures that makes cities livable."

Raju Mann

President & CEO
  • 08/15
  • BPC People

BPC PEOPLE – Natalia Mesa


TITLE: U.S. Program Manager, Battery Dance



Battery Dance was founded in 1976 by Jonathan Hollander to bring dance to downtown Manhattan and integrate the arts into people’s everyday lives. It began by performing in open plazas and public places throughout lower Manhattan, giving free concerts in order to raise awareness for the Company and its work.

In 1982 the Company produced the first Downtown Dance Festival, the forerunner of today’s Battery Dance Festival, with the goal of bringing culture together and reflecting the great diversity of New York City through dance. The festival eventually settled in Historic Battery Park.

After Hurricane Sandy the festival found its new home in “the jewel that is Wagner Park” beginning in 2014, and changed its name to the Battery Dance Festival to match. With this year’s 36th annual event, Battery Dance Festival is now the longest running free public dance festival in New York City.

Natalia Mesa, Battery Dance’s U.S. Program Manager, is responsible for making it happen. Born in Colombia, where she started dancing at age 12, Natalia moved to the United States in 2008. She began at the Alvin Alley America Dance Theater and continued dancing in both New York and Washington, D.C. doing ballet, modern, and contemporary dance.

With her growing interest in the management side of the dance business, Natalia earned a master’s degree in Performing Arts Administration at New York University, and in 2014 joined Battery Dance as the Program Coordinator for Educational Programs.

She is now in her second year as U.S. Program Manager for the company, where one of her primary responsibilities is coordinating the Battery Dance Festival, one of the downtown community’s premier annual events. Natalia’s role also allows her to bring dance to New York City public school students, and she hopes in the future to integrate these school programs into the Battery Dance Festival by featuring some of the amazing dances these students create.

Now in its fourth year in Wagner Park, the 2017 Battery Park Dance Festival starts Sunday, August 13, and continues until Saturday, August 19, with six outdoor performances and one indoor performance (at Pace University’s Schimmel Center).

Last year’s festival  drew approximately 12,000 people over the course of its run, more than double the number in previous years, and Natalia and team are hoping for the same great turnout in 2017. There are 31 dance companies performing this year from as far abroad as Belgium, Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Sri Lanka.

An international scope requires a world-class stage, and to Natalia’s mind there’s no better setting than Battery Park City: “Once the festival starts and we have that beautiful backdrop with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, time just stops and you finally see the product of all the work that you have done and how the city is receiving that. So it’s very gratifying to see it every time, every year growing, since it’s been in Wagner Park.”

Dance – With a Soul

In keeping with its motto, Artistic Excellence, Social Relevance, Battery Dance is also in its 9th year of a partnership with the Erasing Boarders Festival of Indian Dance, which features artists “practicing, or inspired by, dance from the Indian subcontinent.” This special performance is scheduled for Tuesday, August 15.

Last year, the company also launched the Adel Euro Campaign for Dancers Seeking Refuge, opening the festival with a tribute to Adel Euro, one of the company’s students killed tragically by a bombing in Iraq. To sustain his legacy – and combat racism and Islamophobia – this year the festival will open with a performance from the first fellow from this campaign, Hussein Smko, who will perform a dance and spoken word poem in collaboration with Iraqi Journalist Riyadh Mohammed in tribute to Adel.

More than four decades since its founding, Battery Dance continues its pursuit of artistic excellence and the availability of the Arts to everyone. And it is as a backdrop for this noble pursuit that Battery Dance has found a home here in Battery Park City.

Concludes Natalia: “Just walking by the water or just passing through the park, it’s like being in the city but also away from the city. It’s a place where you can actually acknowledge that you are in New York. I feel like sometimes when you are in the middle of Manhattan you can’t appreciate where you are. Battery Park City lets you know that you are in the best city in the world with all the wonderful activities that happen around the park – and of course the views are fabulous!”

Read more about the 2017 Battery Dance Festival in The New York Times.

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