New Jersey Dance Companies Reach for the Stars at Rutgers!

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

On Thursday, July 21, 2016, the stars came out at Rutgers, The State University, in New Brunswick, NJ, as the Mason Gross Summer Stage concert series presented an outstanding evening of contemporary dance. In this inspiring production, Dance New Jersey — the state affiliate of the National Dance Education Organization — featured performances from four of its member dance companies: 10 Hairy Legs, Connolly & Co., Moe-tion Dance Theater, and Ariel Rivka Dance. The program took place at the lovely Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater, located on Rutgers University’s Douglass campus, before a packed house filled with dance-lovers of all ages.

The evening started off with a performance of a piece entitled St. Petersburg Waltz presented by 10 Hairy Legs, an all-male dance repertory company based in the NJ/NY region. Choreographed by Sean Curran, this solo piece was passionately and skillfully performed by dancer William Tomaskovic.

Curran originally created St. Petersberg Waltz in 2012 for a gala honoring American composer/choreographer Meredith Monk. The piece reflects Monk’s imaginings of her grandfather’s life as a devout cantor in Russia during the difficult years between World War I and II. According to Curran, the work is an attempt to show Monk’s grandfather’s “unshakeable faith despite overwhelming repression.”

Following St. Petersburg Waltz, Connolly & Co, a relatively new dance company founded in 2015, presented an energetic piece called A Mind Has Many. Choregraphed by artistic director, Lauren Connelly, the piece featured the work of talented dancers Nikki Albert and Molly Bowbeer.

According to Connolly, A Mind Has Many focuses on the “occasional obsession” over the need to “make certain” things that do not need to be made certain.

As such, Connelly contends that, in the piece, the dancers explore the undeniable realities that “overwhelm them and control them in the search for the ‘right’ answers.”

Through this exploration, asserts Connolly, the audience comes to realize “that every one of us is exactly in the same place, alone in our heads.”

The third presentation of the evening was performed by Moe-tion Dance Theater, a contemporary dance company based in New Jersey. Entitled Want, it featured accomplished dancers Bryan Matland, Hannah Rolfes, and Alexandra Williamson. This dynamic work was choreographed by Moe-tion Dance Theater artistic director Maureen Glennon.

Glennon explains that Want is a piece that explores all relationship possibilities.

States Glennon, “Throughout our lives we encounter many relationships,” and through the work, she attempts to answer the question, “How do we know — or do we even know — which relationship is the one that is truly intended for us?”

In addition to Want, Moe-tion Dance Theater also performed a second powerful piece, From This Day Forward.

This piece also featured unique choreography by Glennon, a dance educator who has been teaching dance since the age of sixteen.

From This Day Forward is a compelling work which portrays a couple struggling with the issue of domestic violence.

Filled with raw power and emotion, From This Day Forward featured expert performances by Moe-tion Dance Theater company members Bryan Matland and Danielle Ramon.

Together, they used powerful movement and gesture to tell this couple’s story of love, hate, remembrance, strength, and will. In so doing, they presented a forceful and thought-provoking piece of contemporary dance theater to this audience assembled at Rutgers University.

The final work of the evening was Ori, presented by Ariel Rivka Dance, an all-female dance company located in Jersey City, NJ.

Choreographed by Rivka Dance’s artistic director, Ariel Grossman, the piece was accompanied by a unique and vigorous original score composed by Grossman’s husband, David Homan.

Ori also featured the work of seven of Ariel Rivka’s gifted dancers: Allie Kronick, Caitlyn Casson, Kristin Licata, Casie O’Kane, Jackie Rea, Kyleigh Sackandy, and Danita Shaheen.

In four movements, these expert dancers graced the stage with their powerful and controlled movements.

According to Grossman, “Ori’s textured, energetic movement” is specifically designed to “transport the audience” as the dancers, wearing black and white, “form shifting patterns through space.”

As a group, all four Dance New Jersey member companies — 10 Hairy Legs, Connolly & Co., Moe-tion Dance Theater, and Ariel Rivka Dance — put on an imaginatively created, emotionally compelling, and visually stunning show of contemporary dance which transported the audience to another place and time. As a result, the audience members in the packed house came away from this program complete with a new paradigm for thinking about various aspects of the world. In addition, they came away with a thorough appreciation for the creativity, talent, and dedication required to put on a production of this caliber.

Based on what they witnessed on this radiant evening of modern dance, it’s safe to assume that for the overwhelming majority of members of this audience, their thoughts following this inspirational performance were for these amazing choreographers, dancers, and educators to continue to teach, dance, and create, all while striving to reach for the stars.

For further information on Dance New Jersey, please go to dancenj.org. For more on the Dance New Jersey member companies which participated in this special Mason Gross Summer Stage concert event, please see 10 Hairy Legs at 10hl.org, Connolly & Co. at Connelly & Co. on Facebook, Moe-tion Dance Theater at moetion dance theater.org, and Ariel Rivka Dance at arielrivkadance.com.