It's 79 degrees on a recent Thursday afternoon in Downtown Brooklyn, and Kristina Bermudez is on a mission.
Moving from bench to bench in the Metrotech commons, the choreographer and director is asking park-goers sheltering under the trees what they'd like to see in her next dance.
She's won a residency with the Downtown Brooklyn Rehearsal Initiative to perform and co-create in the square. But it's hot, and people are shy.
She asks a young man, in Spanish, if he has any ideas. She wants to crowdsource an object, a feeling and an element to craft into dance moves — and she's undeterred by the heat and the mid-afternoon apathy.
It's this friendly determination that Bermudez — a Brownsville homeowner — hopes to bring to her new non-profit, Project.KB.
Its mission statement? To use "radical methods of public participation" to be inclusive, accessible, and sustainable while creating innovative, collaborative work.
"I'm trying to find a sustainable way to be an artist and making art accessible at the same time," she said.
Bermudez launched Project.KB — a production organization with non-profit status — in October last year. With the project, she hopes to bring free movement, meditation, dance and creativity to her neighborhood in Brownsville, East New York and more widely in Brooklyn.
The idea was seeded last year, after Bermudez was forced to return from auditions in Europe to New York, due to the pandemic.
She moved upstate New York with her family to wait it out and suddenly found herself with a lot of time on her hands. As a trained dancer, she started thinking about how to make the work life of dancers more sustainable. She got right to work with an entrepreneurial spirit.
"My mom immigrated from Ecuador and my dad is Nuyorican," she said, adding that while she went to a school for the arts, she often thought about what job she could do that pays the bills and that allowed her to do the thing she loved.
"I still had the back of mind: How can I make a living? How can dancers make a living? That was the question."
After her aunt gifted her a t-shirt-making machine for Christmas, she starting making t-shirts with images from one of her immersive performances on them.
"I was like, I need to start finding some income. I immediately went out to parks and started talking to people and telling them, 'I'm a choreographer, I make and design clothes.'"
Soon after, Bermudez started her non-profit. She also moved into a house she bought with her parents in Brownsville, started to get to know her neighbors and asked the community how they wanted to interact with dance.
With Project.KB, she hopes to bring a local impact Brownsville and East New York. She's starting with a free movement and meditation session at Brownsville's Osborne Playground on July 18.
There, she hopes to engage her neighbors in the same way she's trying to engage parkgoers eating their lunch on a hot Thursday — with her pure enthusiasm. Bermudez already has been providing the sessions virtually on Fridays through Clubhouse.
"We use everyday ideas to explore ways we can find movement," she said. "One exercise I do is to ask the first five things you do when you wake up? Then we develop five movements, and turn it into choreography."
While Bermudez acknowledges the difficulties of being new in a community, she said she's been trying to connect with as many people as she can, and she is currently looking for partners to bring more dance to Brownsville.
Meanwhile, she has also been working as a director on the Instagram series In The Dressing Room, which features weekly episodes chatting with different New York City creatives, then streamed on BRIC TV.