Dance FestivalsSeptember 05, 2017


Photo of young dancers by Tony Turner Photography

Dance on the Lawn? As I send my kid off to first grade this week, I feel like that could be the title of her “What I Did This Summer” school report.

But while that may be pretty accurate, I suspect that you’re far more interested in hearing about the Dance on the Lawn happening in Montclair. That festival, now in its fourth year, takes place this Saturday, September 9 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on the lawn of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Dance on the Lawn, which has taken place each year in Montclair since it was established in 2014, is a dance festival that celebrates dance in New Jersey – both by exposing the residents of our state to a wide variety of types of dance, but also by showcasing professional companies from our region as well as highly talented students from area schools. In addition, Dance on the Lawn’s annual “Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer” creates a new work just for Dance on the Lawn, which means that audiences get a chance to experience a new world premiere piece each year.

And guess what? It’s free!

Photo of dancers by Tony Turner Photography

And you know what else? “Dance on the Lawn” is not just a great name. It’s also the truth. Performances take place outdoors on the lawn of the church (OK, so dancers perform on a raised stage constructed on the lawn, but close enough). That means that audiences can bring their beach blankets, lawn chairs or whatever, and get comfortable while experiencing some great dance.

If you want to get an idea of what Dance on the Lawn looks like, see this video of highlights from the 2016 event: https://youtu.be/DqHnepAdSC0

What kind of dancers will you see this year? I’m so glad you asked! The two-hour festival features performances from the following professional companies, schools and special guests:

New Jersey Dance Schools

  • FutureSTEP Tap Company (Hillary-Marie: director and choreographer)
  • Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts (SMAPA. Sharron Miller: director)
  • DanceWorks & Co. (Kathy Costa: director)
  • New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble (NJDTE. Nancy Turano: director)

New Jersey Dance Companies

  • FreeSpace Dance (based in Montclair. Donna Scro: artistic director)
  • Dance Therapy (based in Newark. Maurice Chestnut: artistic director)
  • 10 Hairy Legs (based in Highland Park. Randy James: artistic director)

New York Dance Companies

  • Special choreography by Troy Powell (artistic director of Ailey II)
  • PROJECT 44 DANCE (Gierre J. Godley: director)
  • Stephen Petronio Company

Photo of two dancers by Tony Turner PhotographyThe Festival also features a world premiere choreographed by Lauren Connolly, Dance on the Lawn’s 2017 Emerging New Jersey Commissioned Choreographer. She is the first female choreographer chosen to be Dance on the Lawn’s Commissioned Choreographer and her work often features text and poetry, as well as dance.

Connolly’s work has been shown in cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia, and she graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Connolly describes the world premiere piece she will show at Dance on the Lawn this year as “Influenced by the writings of Virginia Woolf, this piece explores the nature of memory and how it threads in and out of our lives. The dancers investigate the ability to retain and to remove experiences from their minds that ultimately contribute to the root of their being.” (Get a peak at her work by watching this clip of rehearsal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEhTmsu7yQA&feature=youtu.be)

If you’ve been to the festival before (lucky you!), you’ll have an idea what to expect since the format of the festival is basically the same each year, and several companies and choreographers have participated in several of the years. But don’t think that you’ll see the same things, because the dance pieces change each year.

Dance on the Lawn really epitomizes the great variety that comes with a true festival. You’ll see a variety of dance styles – such as tap and modern – as well as see dancers with a range of experiences – seasoned professionals, excited and talented students – on the stage. And if that wasn’t enough, you even get a world premiere.

Photo of dancers by Tony Turner Photography

How does all this get performed in two hours, you wonder? Well, the dance schools will do pieces that are three- to five-minutes in length, while professional companies do pieces of five-to-eight minutes and the emerging choreographer does the longest piece.

The New Jersey State Arts Council has even given four awards this year to Dance on the Lawn (DOTL) artists: Nancy Turano, Artistic Director, NJ Dance Theatre Ensemble, DOTL artist since 2014; Kyle Marshall, DOTL 2016 Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer recipient; Lauren Connolly, DOTL 2017 Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer recipient; and Hillary-Marie, Choreographer/Director FutureSTEP Tap Company, who is participating in the Festival for the first time this year.

Dance on the Lawn was established by Montclair resident Charmaine Warren in 2014. Warren is the recipient Dance NJ’s JETÉ AWARD, in honor of founding the Dance on the Lawn Festival.

The Details

The fourth installment of Dance on the Lawn takes place Saturday, September 9 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 73 South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair. This event is free and open to all. For more information, visit danceonthelawn.org.

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About Author

Patricia K. Johnson
Patricia K. Johnson

Patricia, Jersey born and bred, is a lifelong arts lover, arts patron, performer and artist. One of the very few people who actually cheers when The Dreaded Opera Category shows up on Jeopardy, Patricia is also an avid Yankee fan (from birth) and is learning to become an Eagles fan (from marriage).