NJ Next is proud to be the exclusive media sponsor for SOPAC’s “Artists You Should Know” series. Read our interviews with other artists in the series, including Jose James, Alexis Morrast, Red Molly, and Oleta Adams.
Nine New Jersey-based choreographers will come together to present Artists Who Innovate: A Celebration of New Jersey Choreographers Dance Showcase over the course of two evenings, Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5 at 8 p.m. at South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC).
The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and SOPAC proudly present these spectacular performances featuring award-winning choreographers who were recently granted fellowships by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for their excellence in choreography.
“The State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Fellowships program is one of the many ways the Council seeks to help New Jersey artists strengthen their careers, concentrate on their craft and take pride in their commitment,” explained Allison Tratner, Interim Executive Director for the NJ State Council on the Arts. “These Fellowships are highly competitive awards, granted to artists in 12 rotating disciplines based on an independent, anonymous assessment process focused solely on artistic quality. The artists who come through this program are exceptional.”
The May 4 performance features the work of Claire Porter, Nancy Turano, Stephanie Nerbak and Kyle Marshall. On May 5, choreographers Hillary-Marie, Loretta DiBianca Fois, Lauren Connolly, Samuel Pott and Keith Thompson will be featured.
“Not only does the Council Fellowship provide financial resources for artists, but we work with key partners across the state to provide performance and promotional opportunities for the award winners as well. This year’s two-day celebration is going to be extraordinary. SOPAC is the perfect place to bring together this impressive, diverse line-up of choreographers for an eclectic, inspiring and entertaining experience, and the Council is proud to help make it possible,” noted Tratner.
NJ Next had an opportunity to interview Connolly, Artistic Director of Connolly & Co., who shared her thoughts on receiving the fellowship and being part of this exciting event.
“I am beyond honored and thankful to be present work alongside my fellow colleagues, mentors, and friends on such a night as this one,” said Connolly. “This is an occasion to celebrate dance and all of its participants. I am proud to be a New Jersey artist and excited to share this new work on a night that brings such diverse parties together as one. Receiving the grant made a world of difference in my choreographic process and provided my company with richer experiences and greater opportunities, which ultimately lead to new relationships with other artists.”
As a child, Connolly enjoyed a range of activities in the performing arts, dance, and sports worlds and is delighted to have an opportunity to share that passion with others.
“As I got older, dance became a natural synthesis of all the things that I loved,” she said. “I was fascinated by the power of movement and its influence not only on the human body, but its impact on various communities. As an adult, that fascination still remains at the forefront of my belief in the power of dance. I see dance as a way to escape, but yet bring about an awareness and understanding to our realities and experiences. Challenging the physicality of the human body while building physical structures within the space and body has been a driving force behind my passion for choreography.”
It’s Connolly’s wish that the audience goes into the performance with “an open mind and leaves with a greater appreciation for the art form.”
“They are actively participating in the night as much as the performers. I value the time and the energy they have chosen to give us and want to provide them with an experience that is memorable and thought-provoking. I am not as concerned about them getting the ‘right’ answers as I am pushing them out of their comfort zones and engaging in content matter that might be different from that of their daily routines and everyday lives,” said Connolly.
NJ State Council on the Arts Chair Elizabeth Mattson noted that the council is “extremely proud” of the artists and grateful for the opportunity to “help lift them up.”
“The Fellowship program is designed to make it just a little easier for artists of all kinds to focus on their work; to contribute to communities, families and individuals in immeasurable ways,” she added.
As Secretary of State Tahesha Way pointed out, it’s no surprise to find this level of talent in the Garden State.
“Whether it’s sculpture, poetry, or theater, New Jersey has long been a forerunner in the arts. Our arts history is incredibly rich and its pages are thick with distinguished emissaries like William Carlos Williams and Alice Barber Stephens. I have full faith and confidence that our newest generations of artists, like those supported through this excellent program, will not disappoint,” she noted.