Nurturing the Future of Dance in New Jersey
On Friday, June 15, NJPAC present an evening of world-premiere dance in a program called the Jersey (NEW) Moves! Festival of Dance. I bet the jaded among you are wondering, “Ho hum. Why should I care about more world-premiere dance?”
After I finish smacking you on the head, I reply, “This is why you should care! These works have been created by five up-and-coming New Jersey choreographers, who have been mentored through this creation process by some of the Garden State’s major modern dance choreographers. Duh….”
Produced in association with Dance New Jersey and part of the Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance, the Jersey (NEW) Moves! program is an open-submission process, which means that any New Jersey early-career choreographer can apply to be considered for this program. Fellows are then chosen and are paired with a mentor/choreographer who plays an active role throughout the fellowship, participating in the creation and rehearsal of performances as well as providing professional guidance.
This marks the fourth year of the Jersey (NEW) Moves! program. Each year, emerging choreographers are selected based on the how well their work demonstrates extraordinary promise and the potential for the choreographers to develop in both the creative and professional realms by working with the mentors.
But who are these choreographer/mentor pairings? I’m so glad you asked!
2017–2018 Jersey (New) Moves! Choreographer/Mentor pairings: Nijawwon Matthews (Newark) | Mentor: Nai-Ni Chen of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Joe Monteleone (Hazlet) | Mentor: Nai-Ni Chen of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Stephanie Nerbak (Parsippany) | Mentor: Carolyn Dorfman of Carolyn Dorfman Dance Daniel Padierna (Wallington) | Mentor: Randy James of 10 Hairy Legs Barkha Patel (Tenafly) | Mentor: Randy James of 10 Hairy Legs
(Bonus Culture Vultures Trivia! This marks at least the third time that I’ve written a post that includes Randy James of 10 Hairy Legs in it, which I’m pretty sure makes him my most-mentioned subject, aside from my kid, but stay tuned for that reference…. Points for Randy!)
Joe Monteleone’s work In Nomine Pan, performed by Monteleone and featuring music by various artists, opens the evening. Monteleone combines cutting-edge movement with multimedia to create cerebral dance theater. Monteleone Dance, his multimedia solo work and company, has been presented extensively in New York, nationally and internationally to great acclaim.
Stephanie Nerbak’s work, Feast, will also be performed by the choreographer, with music by DeVotchKa. Stephanie Nerbak is a choreographer, performer and founder of N-root Danceart.
Maula E Kull by Barkha Patel, who will also dance the work, features musical selections from Maula E Kull, which will be played by Abida Parveen. Barkha Patel is an Indian Classical Kathak dancer, trained in the Jaipur and Lucknow style of Kathak by her Guru, Rachna Sarang.
Nijawwon Matthews’s work, Revolt, features music by Lupe Fiasco (“Baba says Cool for thought”) and Nina Simone (“Strange Fruit”). Dancers for Revolt are David K. Bagley Mikaela Brandon, DeAndre Cousley, Paulo Gutierrez, Lyndsay Arorash, Harley Durbin, Evan Matthew Stewart, Giacomo Severini, Darnell Williams and Meghan McFerran. Nijawwon Matthews is founder and artistic director of XY DANCE PROJECT, in addition to being a dance educator.
Daniel Padierna’s work America, features music by Mistake and Someone Else (“Rip It Cookie Muenster”) and will be performed by Ashlynn Payne, Brianna Santigate, Chris Odoms, Diana Julcapoma, Emily Leddy, Isaiah K. Harvey, Kayla Post, Khalid Dunton, Malcolm Young, Mary Guerriero, Ruddy Frias, Tamir Rios and Tuli Marshall. Daniel Padierna, artistic director of Padierna Dance Project, is currently pursuing his MFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Learn more about the choreographers and their works (in their own words) with this video from NJPAC.
My longtime readers (and by that, I mostly mean my family), may recall that I’ve written several times about my fascination with the way dance is taught and passed down from one generation to the next. I love how – historically and even in our modern technological era – dancers and choreographers hone their craft and learn about prior works through in-person coachings and mentor relationships. And while the creation of dance is often a very personal endeavor for the choreographer, it’s also a very collaborative art, especially in modern dance, where choreographers work with their dancers to create their pieces. With Jersey (New) Moves!, that idea of passing the craft down from seasoned to aspiring choreographers is very much in evidence. It’s really a moving thing (pun sort-of-intended) to understand how Nai-Ni Chen, Carolyn Dorfman and Randy James have, earlier in their careers, benefitted from these relationships and pay it forward for the benefit of the next generation of choreographers.
Not only that, but the knowledge that all of these veteran and upcoming choreographers are New Jersey-based, with such a wide range of points-of-view, is really heartening for the current and future state of dance New Jersey.
For the dancers involved in these new works, they have the exciting opportunity to see both sides of this mentor/mentee choreographer relationship in action. And who knows? Perhaps in the years to come through Jersey (New) Moves!, these dancers may be inspired to take a leap (sorry: another pun sort-of-intended) to apply to be one of the emerging choreographers.
Whether you’re a dancer or choreographer, dance is about the process: Getting into the studio and perfecting your craft, often through collaboration with fellow dancers, mentors, musicians and other artists.
As audience members for Jersey (New) Moves!, we have the exciting chance to witness this process.
And I, for one, Trust the Process.
Jersey New Moves! takes place on Friday, June 15 at 8:00 p.m. at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater, located at 1 Center Street in Newark. Tickets ($34) can be purchased at njpac.org or by calling 888.466.5722.
Support for Jersey New Moves! is provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.