Starting a Dance, Dance Revolution

FDU student Kaitlyn Esposito’s dance troupe is dedicated to social issues

Dancer and FDU junior Kaitlyn Esposito. (Photo: Jordan Schneider)
By Kenna Caprio

Standing in the renovated dance studio at the Florham Campus back in August, junior Kaitlyn Esposito breathed a sigh of relief. The new sprung floor would absorb shocks, making it better for dancers, easier on the knees and other joints. The place was ready for a new year of rehearsal and performance by the Fairleigh Dance Project (FDP). And Esposito was ready to lead with inclusivity, intention and imagination.

(Photos: Jordan Schneider)

“Dance can be used for something more than just entertainment,” says Esposito, a communication studies major. “We’re dancing to move people and make them think. We’re using it as a form of art. Art is intention.”

In her freshman year, Esposito started FDP — a serious, socially conscious dance company, open to dancers of all levels. “Dance can convey messages, bring awareness and spread ideas,” she says. “I want to do my senior honors thesis on how dance can be a form of communication.”

The 40-member ensemble gives voice to social issues — bullying, sexual assault, police misconduct, mental health advocacy and racism. FDP performs choreographed pieces at campus events and puts on a showcase at the end of each semester. Together with club vice president Sam Gee, Esposito spearheads choreography for most of the group performances, using techniques she learned in high school as a dance major at Morris County School of Technology. “I’m the girl who basically lives in the dance studio, choreographing, stretching and improving,” she says.

In rehearsals, which clock in at two hours apiece twice a week, the student leaders teach the choreography, tightening and “cleaning” the piece as they go. Using a blend of contemporary and hip-hop styles, Esposito and Gee incorporate simple, expressive gestures and movements in the routines. Elements of ballet, tap, jazz, modern and lyrical dance round out performances.

Individual dancers can also pitch choreography. “People tend to pick personal issues to portray,” says Esposito. One choreographer focused on bipolar disorder — Esposito describes half of the movements in the piece as “very linear” and the rest as loose. “Seeing how that feels in the choreographer’s mind is interesting. I love seeing how much the dances have touched the dancers. It makes me want to be raw and true in performance.”

“Dancing is such a good stress reliever for college students. The moment you step into the studio, you can just let it all go.” —Kaitlyn Esposito, junior, communication studies major

Connections run deep in the group, a safe place for dancers of all backgrounds and interests to master movement, express themselves and find camaraderie. Though earnest in approach, Esposito and the other club leaders foster a light-hearted environment so students can just relax and practice. That’s something she treasures, too, and finds in the classes she takes at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She is considering auditioning for a few dance companies after she graduates from FDU.

On stage, Esposito says, her mind goes mostly blank as she concentrates on the moment and movement. “A lot of times I do think, ‘Don’t fall’ and ‘Where are my parents sitting?’”

At her current job with New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble, Esposito combines movement with marketing. She manages social media accounts, conducts intern outreach, writes the company blog, updates the website, sells program advertisements and engages with the local community in and around Summit, N.J. It’s just another way for her to stay connected to dance.

“When you dance, you feel more in touch with your body, and you feel more in touch with the other people in the room,” says Esposito. “Once you’re more aware of yourself, you can be more aware of everything else around you.”

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2019 edition of FDU Magazine.