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Jersey Arts


October 25, 2016

By Patricia K. Johnson

By now, my loyal readers will know that I love a good arts partnership – when two arts organizations, especially those in different genres, collaborate on an artistic venture. So get ready: I have another great one for you, involving some of my favorite genres: dance, visual arts and film.

The Outlet Dance Project is about to present its two-day festival at Grounds For Sculpture(located in Hamilton) this weekend. On Friday, October 28 at 7:00 p.m. is the Dance on Film Festival, which will be an evening of stunning dance films from around the globe produced and created by women filmmakers and choreographers. On Sunday, October 30 at 2:00 p.m. is the Day of Dance, which has taken place annual at Grounds For Sculpture each year of the Outlet Dance Project’s 12-year history. The Day of Dance is an afternoon of gorgeous live performance, a dynamic, family-friendly journey through the Grounds For Sculpture, enabling visitors to see both dance and sculpture in a whole new way.

The Outlet Dance Project is an annual festival that focuses on the work of women, as choreographers and/or as filmmakers. Weaving together memory, place, history and movement, these site-specific works offer a unique and memorable viewing experience. You’ve got questions? Well, they’ll have answers! Following the screening, there is a brief Q&A with the artists, giving you a chance to learn even more about the work, and the process of creating dance for film.

Although the Outlet Dance Project itself is in its 12th year, the film festival portion was added only five years ago, I’m told by Project co-director Donia Salem. Salem told me that they wanted to add another dimension to the Outlet Dance Project, add more and different art forms and increase the diversity of presentations and collaborators, which led to the addition of the Film Festival portion. Filmmakers submit their finished films to the Festival for possible sections – a process that Salem says is getting more and more excruciating each year because the number and quality of works is dramatically increasing each year.

And I find this all rather fascinating. I mean, I knew that filmmaking is getting more prolific, as good equipment and editing tools become more affordable and prolific, and as more and more (ahem) outlets exist online for people to see this kind of work. But who knew that so many high-quality filmmakers are collaborating with choreographers and dancers to make site-specific work? And by site-specific, I mean that the choreography doesn’t just take place on a stage, but that the piece takes place in a specific location (often outdoors) and that the movement and the location depend on each other for meaning – that the dance interacts with the location in a way that contributes to the meaning of the work and the audience’s understanding of it.

For those of you who follow the arts closely, you may know that some arts leaders are a bit ambivalent towards the increase of work on video, especially those that are staged works that are now being seen on computers or at home or something. The big concern is that people are seeing these works in isolation, that there’s no magic to the evening.


But the really great thing about The Dance Project’s Film Festival, is that it combines the best of all worlds: you will still feel some of that magical camaraderie that comes from experiencing these works with fellow audience members in a public space. Not only that, but you’ll get a chance to converse with some of the creators during the Q&A at the Film Festival’s conclusion. And the works being presented are created for film, meaning that you aren’t seeing a watered-down version of a work intended for a different setting – no, you are seeing it exactly as the creators intended, which is really exciting.

Salem tells me that dance films are a really growing genre and more festivals are popping up each year, thanks especially to the internet which allows more filmmakers to distribute their works and more dance lovers to experience the genre.

And there are a LOT of works to get excited about: you’ll see about 13 films as part of the Festival – most ranging between two and 15 minutes (though one is only one minute long). All of the films are site-specific, tying in quite nicely to the Day of Dance performances on Sunday, which also interacts with the indoor and outdoor exhibits at Grounds For Sculpture. In fact, it would be really cool to see both days’ works to experience site-specific work on film as well as in person.

Visit to learn more about these films that you’ll see at the Festival:


The Star Ledger

Living sculpture: the Outlet Dance Project brings artists together

October 1, 2013

By Robert Johnson
Staff Writer, The Star Ledger



Women who make dances have an ally in the Outlet Dance Project.


Every year since 2005, this organization has presented a showcase of women’s choreography at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton. The latest installment will take place on Saturday.

Contemporary dance is not known for its glass ceiling, but Donia Salem, a classical Indian dancer who co-directs the Outlet Dance Project, says the event empowers women and helps to build community. "We’re interested in creating spaces for artists to connect with one another, and trying to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion," Salem adds.

Several of the artists chosen to participate this year have created new dances inspired by the giant sculptures installed throughout the park. Salem emphasizes that the Outlet Dance Project is a family-friendly event, and part of the fun involves traipsing from one sculpture to the next, encouraged by a band of wandering musicians.

Some of the performances will take place indoors, however, in the East Gallery, which is dripping with an installation of sculpted fruit by artist Ming Fay. The event begins with a screening of site-specific dance films, also indoors and including "These Worlds in Us," an intimate study created by Blakely White-McGuire, a star of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Out on the campus, the dances and the sculptures may relate to each other in different ways. Some pieces are formal and abstract, while others seem more suggestive.

Fred Moranti’s imposing statue "Relative" is like a dance itself. Two men, apparently defying gravity, stand parallel to the ground connected by their feet to a common wall. This piece will be juxtaposed with a dance called "knock knock? who’s scared" by Joya Powell, a choreographer and political activist whose new work addresses the racial issues excluded from the trial of George Zimmerman, the killer of young Trayvon Martin.

The architectural forms of Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas’ piece "Arch II Set II" frame the movement of choreographer Maureen Glennon’s still untitled new work for her moe-tion dance company. "It’s a super dreamy spot," says Salem. "It has three gigantic steel arches that the dancers can move in and out of."

Adding poetry to the interdisciplinary mix will be "Bridge Suite: Bearing Witness," an "operatic" dance-theater piece featuring the voices of women from the African Diaspora. "Bridge Suite" involves a collaboration among poet Gale Jackson, Afro-Haitian choreographer Sheila Anozier and vocalist Marguerite Hamden.

Other dance offerings range from the dynamic partnering of choreographer Carolyn Dorfman’s duet "Keystone" to the sharp, percussive movements of "Angels’ Breath," a piece that Heidi Cruz-Austin choreographed for her contemporary ballet company DanceSpora, based in Trenton. The founder of the Outlet Dance Project—Jamuna Chiarini, who has relocated to Portland, Ore.—returns this year to present a dance about the challenges of family life, featuring her 6-year-old son.

Dancing and sculpture share center stage at the Outlet Dance Project, but Salem says visitors to the Grounds for Sculpture immerse themselves in a total, sensory experience. "One of the amazing things about the Grounds for Sculpture are the beautiful flora—how the trees are sculptures themselves, and how water moves throughout the space," she says. "To explore that is very exciting."


Robert Johnson:



The Trenton Times

The Outlet is a showcase with passion and promise
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Staff Writer, The Trenton Times


Opportunities for fledgling choreographers to show their work don't come up often, especially in locations other than large cities and cultural centers. But a new showcase called The Outlet, which debuted at Rider University's Yvonne Theater in Lawrence on Oct. 1, gave a group of emerging female choreographers from the region a chance to show some of their works.

Solos and ensemble works dominated this concert, which also included a curious bit of filmmaking. Most of the dancing was of high quality. And more than a few of the 10 pieces shown were impressive in their professionalism.

The concert began on a high note with Kelly Sortino's "Family Portrait," a quartet about family dynamics. To music by Nelly Furtado, Sortino has constructed a tight little drama that begins with a series of camera poses, struck to the sound of a loud shutter.

After solemnly crossing themselves at the dinner table and beginning to eat, Mom, Dad and the kids start to argue. A brawl develops before the family returns, tempers intact, to the table. Princeton University students Silas Riener, Margaret Furher, Trisha Snyder and Zach McKinney, all accomplished dancers, put forth this slice of life with conviction.

A stilted kick was a recurring motif in "Control . . .," Susan Bienczycka's solo to music of Yann Tiersen. Bienczycka, who also danced the piece, knows how to vary steps and repeat certain themes without growing monotonous.

In another solo titled "Strong, Lost . . .," created and danced by Jean Lee to music of Ani DiFranco, the most effective moments were when Lee responded directly to the pulsating beat of the music. She began and ended the piece sitting, frustrated, in front of a computer screen.

The best solo was that of Mary Barton's "Minuet," to Beethoven's Opus 2 No. 1 "Menuetto." As one member of the audience was heard to say, this brief piece of magnificent dancing alone was worth the $20 price of admission.

Barton, a longstanding member of New Jersey's American Repertory Ballet, teaches at the Princeton Ballet School. At a stage of her career where many ballet dancers consider calling it quits, Barton has instead turned to dancing that is more about artistic maturity than demanding technique. Barton was exuberant and eloquent in this piece of intelligently constructed choreography, conveying as much with her facial expressions as with her gestures and leaps.

Jamuna Dasi is the central force behind The Outlet and her solo "Don't Cry," sung by Etta James, showed her to be a choreographer of considerable merit. Her full-bodied, lush style suited the music as she sank into deep knee-bends and stretched her supple back.

Another impressive solo, "Facade," was danced and choreographed by Kristin McClintock-LeBeau to music of Yann Tiersen. The solo explored different levels and timings as well as the roles of coquette, soldier and mother.

Dasi and her colleagues are planning additional "Outlet" choreography showcases in the future. Judging from the Oct. 1 performance, the program's future is worth pursuing.

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