Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared by Fran Ianacone for the March 9, 2005

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Choreographing Their Careers

When Christine Colosimo, director of the dance department at the YWCA

Princeton, heard other dancers, who teach and train with her at

various local dance studios, commiserate that there were no nearby

outlets for their modern dance talents, she conceived an innovative

solution. To celebrate Women’s History Month, and its mission to

empower women and eliminate racism, Colosimo spearheaded the YWCA

Princeton’s "I’ll Have What SHE’s Having!!!" dance project, which

holds its second annual performances on Saturday and Sunday, March 12

and 13, at the Yvonne Theater at Rider University.

The program celebrates the creative and imaginative works of seasoned

and vibrant women dance-makers. Ten different women choreographers

will create the type of personal performances that you might see in

New York City venues, like those in Greenwich Village or St. Mark’s

Church, that showcase the work of up-and-coming choreographers.

The dancer-choreographers Colosimo spoke with bemoaned the fact that

now that they had moved from the city to the suburbs – for the green

spaces and soccer practice – it was difficult if not impossible to

keep their craft going. The only dance venues in the area, explains

Colosimo, are typically ensconced on college and university campuses,

with nothing open to independent artists. Colosimo and her colleagues

wondered, where do women go once they reach their creative prime, but

whose bodies are older, to keep creating art?

"Most just teach," says Colosimo. "So, I wanted to create an outlet

that empowered women to continue creating, developing, and expressing

themselves through dance. Typically, dancers have to retire after they

reach 28 or 30 years of age. And, especially after they have babies –

forget it. You have to go to New York, and once you have children –

that’s impossible."

Colosimo lives in Princeton with her husband, Michael Humes – owner/

director of a family-owned sleepaway summer camp called Camp Regis

Applejack near Lake Placid, New York – and three children, Emily, 12,

Sierra, 7, and Earl, 6. She earned a BFA in dance from Mason Gross

School of the Arts at Rutgers in 1988 and a masters in dance education

from Teachers College at Columbia in 1997.

‘The mission of our little group is to empower local New Jersey women

to choreograph and perform works of art. These are professional

dancers who may just live next door to you. We want to reach other

dancers in the greater Princeton community who, like us, are

frustrated by the lack of local venues to perform and expose their

art. We welcome any and all dance professionals to join our

performance next year." For more information, contact Colosimo at

609-497-2100, ext 332.

‘I’ll Have What SHE’s Having" is a quote from the movie, "When Harry

Met Sally," in which an older woman spies a young woman in a deli, who

seems to be enjoying herself immensely and tells the waiter, "I’ll

have what she’s having." As the dance project’s founders sat down to

lunch last year, this scene came to mind.

Colosimo says: "It’s light and funny and captures what we’re feeling.

We all want to continue to be young, to have our bodies be able to do

the things they did when we were 20-something, when we were at the

height of our careers. We want to still be able to jump high, and have

the flexibility and mbility that we had then."

In a piece entitled "Satori," Colosimo, in collaboration with Lisa

Naugle from the University of California, will present a combination

of live electronic music and dance. Working with her university

students, Naugle produced a video dance that has been animated with

special computerized effects by her husband, John Crawford. The video

will be projected onto a scrim while live dancers, choreographed by

Colosimo, and musicians perform onstage.

"I’m very nervous and excited," admits Colosimo. "Video dance is

really popular now. Lisa and John have been doing it for years. In

fact, they are going to Berlin the day after our performances to

attend a conference on video dance."

The group of dancers and choreographers who make up "I’ll Have What

SHE’s Having" is as diverse as the art forms they create. A very mixed

crowd of women will perform in multimedia, dance, and even text.

Mikyung Song, a Korean who attends the YWCA’s ESL program while her

husband is working in the United States, and Kiran Na Paek, also

Korean and a resident of Lawrenceville, will perform a duet, "Choom,"

meaning dance in Korean, which will feature Korean drumming.

Liliana Attar, a native of Argentina who now lives in Lawrenceville,

will dance with her daughter, Nicole, in "The Make Over," a story of

domestic violence in which a mother rationalizes, but cannot disguise,

the facts of family life to her daughter.

Joy Sayen will present "Skeleton Woman," with two dancers and a

storyteller, based on an Intuit fable. Other performers include Gloria

McLean from New York City, Joanna Hopkins of Ewing, Laurie Abramson of

Westfield, Susan Tenney of Princeton, and Marie Alonzo of West


Alonzo and her husband, Kirk Snyder, a computer programmer, have two

children, Greg, 8, and Jonathan, 12. She teaches Pilates in her home

studio. She practices dance at Princeton Dance Theater and Studio in

Forrestal Village, and is a repeat performer from last year’s "I’ll

Have What SHE’s Having."

"This project creates a venue for more seasoned dancers who want to

keep performing and showcasing their choreography," Alonzo says. "Out

in the suburbs, there are not that many opportunities to show your

art. Last year, Christine got us all involved, but we did it for only

one day. It was very, very well received. But, there were not as many

choreographers involved last year, because it can be very daunting.

Maybe people have not performed their programs in a while and they shy

away. This year, more women wanted to show their work."

Alonzo’s quartet for three women and one man, "Sacred Paths," is a

choreographic tribute to the many unknown and faceless individuals who

have served their country with honor and courage – and the families

they have left behind.

"I wanted to do something to pay tribute to my grandfather, Juan

Alonzo, who survived the March of Death in the Philippines during

World War II. The only thing I knew about my grandfather was that he

was a survivor. So, the piece is a tribute to the people that we

didn’t really know. My pieces from last year were very different from

the piece I’m doing this year. You have to keep experimenting, taking

risks with your art."

Alonzo’s parents still live in the Philippines, but Alonzo grew up in

Rome, where her father was a statistician for the United Nations, and

her mother was a chemical engineer who taught physics in a private

American high school.

Alonzo, who has an MFA in dance from NYU’s School of the Arts and a

doctorate in education from Columbia University, says: "I was a very

good kid. Dance was the only way I could rebel. It’s the only place I

felt not safe – but not shy. Remember, in the 1960s and ’70s, there

were not that many Filipinos in Rome. I was always the only one in an

Italian school. When I move to a new place, I always look for the

dance community. That’s where I find my own identity. There are no

colors, no accents – just movement. I feel you don’t really know me

until you’ve seen me onstage. That’s the way I express myself."

Some of the dancers involved have their own studios, others practice

at the YWCA on Thursdays afternoons. They really only come together

the day they go onstage. "We all do our own thing," says Alonzo. "This

project presents a great opportunity for anyone to show their work.

And there are many women dancers in this area. After last’s year

performance, they came out of the woodwork. Here, it’s safe. We’re

always supportive of each other. When I created ‘Sacred Paths,’ I was

very aware that two of the women are no longer in their 20s, unlike

the male dancer in the piece. So, it is challenging to find the

language in movements that would say the same things, without being

too technically-demanding."

Most of the women performing in the project are in their mid-40s.

Alonzo says: "We can’t take classes every day, anymore. We cannot

rehearse three hours a day like we used to because it’s not our

full-time job. But we have become more efficient in our method of

dancing and understanding that we’re not going to injure ourselves,

because we don’t recover as fast. So, you adapt. I stopped for seven

years while I raised my children, and I went back in 2002. It’s

daunting at first. But you want to see if you can still do it. Can I

still express myself through movement?"

Who should come to see "I’ll Have What SHE’s Having?" Colosimo says:

"Anyone who loves modern dance, which is nothing like classical

ballet." Adds Alonzo: "Anybody and everybody. First of all it’s local.

You’re supporting local artists – it could be your neighbor, your

son’s friend’s mother out there. Just to see what modern dance is all

about. And to celebrate dance."

– Fran Ianacone

"I’ll Have What SHE’s Having!", Saturday and Sunday,

March 12 and 13, at 8 p.m., at the Yvonne Theater, Rider University,

2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville. Tickets $15; $5 for students

and seniors. For reservations call the YWCA at 609-497-2100 ext. 332.

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