In the Community
OluShola A. Cole
It’s happening, folks. Dance, a discipline that has long been at the heart of community expression and discussion here in New Haven, is announcing its presence anew. Dance has always been a rich part of the city’s creative landscape. Events such as the Freddie Fixer Parade, with its drill squads, and the Rebound Dance Festival contribute to the pulse of this community.
At the beginning of the new year, I was fortunate to be part of a dance showcase event for Future Project student Carole Richardson. The Future Project creates ways for New Haven’s youth to actualize and manifest their dreams so they may positively impact their community. Richardson put together a project that used dance as a way to bring awareness to an all too familiar issue in New Haven – youth violence. With a lot of love, support from friends and family – including Future Project coach Sarah Tankoos – and plenty of attention to detail, Richardson was able to bring together dance companies, musicians, and performers in the spirit of raising awareness of gun violence. The event, “New Haven’s Movement: A Dance Showcase to End Youth Violence,” was held at James Hillhouse High School. It was a brilliant way to bring together a highly talented pool of artists while raising funds for Save Our Sons, an innovative youth mentoring program and outreach center.
As far as other dance events in New Haven are concerned, there was an incredible installation (of which I was a part) at the Elm City Dance Collective’s performance gala held at The Grove. The site was completely transformed from an office setting into an enlivened space with performance and video installations viewed inside and through storefront windows. An installation called Beauty Culture explored feelings and perceptions related to the concept of beauty. Another innovative work, Contemporanea, explored the martial art of capoeira at the intersection of contemporary dance, music and culture. This piece was also presented at the dance showcase at James Hillhouse High School and at the Arts Council’s annual Arts Awards luncheon.
It still amazes me how much local and national dance talent can be found in New Haven. Locally based Judie Clark and her company Clark Dance Theatre has not only been presenting work all over Connecticut but has consistently produced work all over the country. Her most recent piece – r U Positive? – which examines concepts of happiness and herd behavior, was presented at New York’s Movement Research and Waxworks at Triskelion Arts. What fascinates me most about her work is how she presents material in a group dynamic. It’s as if she has figured out a way to pinpoint and identify socially manifested quirks within the human condition that are relatable to the observer. Another group I’ve been following is the Classical Contemporary Ballet Theatre, which is based in New York City and New Haven. Watching the ensemble perform blows my mind and makes my feet hurt. The work the group presents is edgy, provocative, and spellbinding.
Here are some dance-related facts about New Haven:
• There is a New Havener who dances with Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company.
• The Connecticut-based company Adele Myers and Dancers is on the national dance roster of the New England Foundation for the Arts.
• There is a sudden influx of dancers coming to New Haven from New York (Brooklyn, especially), Washington, D.C., and Canada.
New Haven is also a place where dance can help inspire conversations about social justice. “Just Moves” is a collaboration of talented and committed local artists, mental-health professionals, the Connecticut Mental Health Center, and the Urban Bush Women. New Haven is the place to bring about social change through dance, especially when the Urban Bush Women and their social justice component, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, are involved.
Hopefully all this momentum will continue to build as dance artists continue to create work in New Haven.
OluShola A. Cole is the Arts Council’s community programs coordinator. This is her opinion.