Visitors to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton on
Sunday, October 8. might be surprised to find moving
bodies among the stationery works of art.
The Outlet Dance Project, a New Jersey-based showcase for
emerging women choreographers, is staging its second
annual concert at several locations in the park starting
at 2 p.m. The sculpture park’s Maple Alley and large,
grassy field are among the settings for original works by
11 choreographers, some of whom appeared last October when
the Outlet Project debuted at Rider University’s Yvonne
Theater. Half of the works will be performed outside; the
others on a stage platform inside the new Seward Johnson
Center for the Arts.
Among those assigned to the interior space is Kathie
Kececi, whose company, In Motion Dance Company, will
perform her ensemble piece, "Are We Happy or What?" A
native of Mendham who returned to her hometown after
several years in New York, the 43-year-old mother of two
boys says the piece sprang from her feelings of
disconnectedness after moving from the city to the
suburbs. Kececi’s husband, Erol Kececi, is a financial
planner with AXA Financial in Morristown.
"The piece is a comic look at something that’s actually
very sad," she says. "It’s about people trying to be
perfect and what happens to them as they go through life.
It’s quirky and it’s funny and pedestrian."
Kececi acknowledges that her piece has a similar theme to
the cult favorite film "The Stepford Wives" but says she
hadn’t seen the movie when she came up with the work.
"People have suggested that to me after seeing it, and
it’s a valid comparison. But I wasn’t aware of it at the
time I made the piece."
Kececi grew up in Livingston and Mendham, in an artistic
family. Her father is a retired art teacher; her mother
was a dancer, who still runs the Dorothy Delguercio School
of Dance in Chester. Kececi studied ballet, jazz, and tap
there and teaches at the studio today.
She can’t remember a time when she didn’t dance. But it
wasn’t until she entered Moravian College that she
discovered modern dance, which has dominated her creative
energies since. "They didn’t have a dance major or minor
program at Moravian at the time but they had wonderful
modern classes," Kececi says. She earned her bachelors in
psychology but says, "I spent a lot of time in dance
classes. It was the freedom, I think, that got me. Ballet
is so rigid. It doesn’t allow for any personal
differentiation or expression. So coming from that very
codified background to getting the ability to interpret
ideas was just wonderful. It was the first time I was able
to take my skills and my talent and actually make meaning.
Now, I’m able to actually express an idea and create
something that’s just mine."
Kececi entered the corporate world after graduating –
first as a recruiter for Merrill Lynch and then Norstar
Brokerage. She became a fundraiser for Columbia University
and Loyala High School, then worked on a merchandising
catalogue for Amnesty Internaitonal, all in new York. But
never stopped studying and teaching dance. Eventually, she
decided to go back to school, earning a master’s degree in
dance and education at Columbia University. "It was
absolutely amazing, theoretically and practically and in
terms of performance," she says. "That’s when I really
started choreographing. I always had made dances but just
for classes I was teaching. I’d put together shows in the
summertime but I don’t know that I would call that
choreography. After Columbia, it was different." Once she
earned her masters she focused full-time on dance.
Kececi counts choreographer Twyla Tharp as a major
influence and inspiration in her work. "Of course, she was
and still is my huge idol," she says. "Back in my day, she
was cutting edge and kind of broke the mold. But there was
also, for me, Claire Porter, who was hugely instrumental
in terms of my choreography. And I love David Dorfman. His
stuff is so different. In terms of tap, there is my
teacher Margaret Morrison. And Brenda Bufalino has always
been an inspiration to me. I can’t leave out my mom, who
was my inspiration growing up. She was wonderful."
Watching her mother instilled a love of teaching in
Kececi. In addition to her busy schedule at the Delguercio
studio, teaching modern, jazz, and rhythm tap, Kececi is
also a teaching artist for the New York City Ballet,
working in the company’s program that brings ballet to
public school children. In nearly every class she leads,
Kececi leaves time for the students to create steps of
their own. "I always include this at the end of a
technique class," she says. "I might give them a theme,
and some counts. And they love it. What they make really
becomes theirs, and I think that’s really empowering."
While embracing modern dance, Kececi never abandoned her
love of tap. She realized, a few years ago, that hers is a
unique combination of skills. "On Fridays I teach
beginning modern, beginning tap, advanced modern, and then
work with my company. I can never find a substitute to do
it all. I finally realized that nobody does this
combination," she says. "I guess I’m different that way."
While Kececi has never combined the two styles of dance,
she’d like to. "Sometimes when I’m doing a tap piece I’ll
throw in some modern dance movement or some things with
our voices," she says. So it’s not always just straight
Kececi and her dancers have performed at Seton Hall
University, at her alma mater, Moravian College, and at
New York’s Cunningham Studio. They will dance at the
Series Art Gallery in Manhattan next month. She is a board
member of Dance New Jersey, a support organization. She
wants dance to be accessible to audiences and spoke about
that recently at a forum. "I want them to get it," she
says. "I don’t want people walking away from my work and
being intimidated, saying `Oh it must be so hard to do. I
want to please them, I really do."
The Outlet Dance Project, Sunday, October 8, 2 p.m.
Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton.
Showcase for emerging female choreographers from New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Mary Barton, Tanya
Calamoneri, Keila Cordova, Alie Vidich, Nicole Mahncke,
Maureen Glennon, and Andrea Kramer will perform outside,
and Donna Scro Gentile, Lisa Marten, Kimberley Pinto,
Kelly Ann Sloan, and Kathie Kececi on the indoor stage.
$12 includes admission to the park. 609-689-1089.