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

tapping."

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.

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