Dance Festivals Bloom in New Jersey!

April 13, 2012

Dance performances, galas, workshops, and two dance festivals – “Jersey Moves! A Festival of Dance” presented by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and “Dance Week” presented by the Centenary Stage Company – bloomed  throughout New Jersey last month.

From the first rhythms of the dance and drums of Umoja Dance Company to the final sweet, loving Romeo and Juliet duet of American Repertory Ballet, the performances of “Jersey Moves!”  were thrilling to watch.  Each company performed exciting, moving choreography with brilliant technique.

One of my favorite auxiliary events of the festival was the series of talkback discussions after the performances.   Independent Producer/Consultant Baraka Sele led conversations with the artistic directors of the companies and the curators of the festival.  The panelists explored the inspirations for the choreographic works, the processes of creating dance, and the idea that dance is not only a form of art, but also a form of communication.  If, as an audience member, you ever have the chance to attend a post-performance discussion, you owe it to yourself to go.  Some of my friends say these types of discussions intimidate them, as if they have to have the answers; however, these discussions are where you often have the opportunity to ask the questions.

Where the New Jersey Performing Arts Center had eleven companies perform in two evenings, Centenary Stage Company took a different approach, as four New Jersey dance companies, lustigdancetheatre, moe-tion dance theatre, Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, and Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, each performed a full evening of works.

Pulcinella peformed by Lustig Dance Theatre (Photo by Martin O'Connor)

Centenary Stage also presented another way to gain insight into dance: the opportunity for audiences to attend a pre-show discussion.  After an unfortunate technological glitch spoiled LDT’s pre-show insight video, Graham Lustig, LDT’s artistic director, took the stage and eloquently introduced the audience to the works we were to see that evening.  LDT danced gracefully, and the highlight of the evening was the extremely enjoyable Commedia dell’arte piece Pulcinella.  About the opportunity Mr. Lustig explained, “I greatly value Centenary’s dedication to presenting dance in NJ and LDT was honored to be part of ‘Dance Week.’  As a newer company, it was a great opportunity to reach new audiences and we are always challenged with developing new relationships with presenters.  I hope ‘Dance Week’ becomes an annual destination for NJ dance artists and audiences.”

Robert Johnson, Star-Ledger dance critic, enjoyed  Dance Week as well.  Here is his review of the performances by moe-tion dance theatre and Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company.

I have two wishes resulting from these wonderful festivals:  That New Jersey presenters will look at these festivals as models and begin to present more New Jersey dance companies, and that New Jersey dance companies will begin to grow their audiences right here in their home state.  There is exquisite dance in New Jersey.

Macada Brandl is the Executive Director of Dance New Jersey, the premier organization serving dance companies, dancers and choreographers in New Jersey. She is a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.

Image: Pulcinella peformed by Lustig Dance Theatre (Photo by Martin O’Connor)