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 –
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
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
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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