The “I ♥ Dance” logo seems to appear everywhere. Union County, for example, has a large population of young dance enthusiasts, and casual observers will be able to share their excitement this weekend as the first Dance Union festival opens, March 16-18 at Hamilton. Stage of the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway.
A 3 p.m. performance on Sunday afternoon will feature a mix of professional, semi-professional and student dancers, all locally based. Perhaps more importantly, the festival will set up a welcome mat inviting the audience to experience the joy of movement for themselves. Anyone can try a modern dance or ballet class, while the curious will have the opportunity to watch the pros rehearse. These dance classes are open to everyone from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The rehearsals, which are open to schools and community organizations in Union County, will take place at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, followed by a reception for local politicians and supporters.
Carolyn Dorfman Dance, who has been based in Union Township since 1986, was instrumental in organizing the event and will be the featured artist during Friday’s rehearsals.
“I consider myself a locavore, and I think we should always do things locally,” says Anita Thomas, the troupe’s general manager. “We’re going to be 35 this year, so Carolyn continues to try to develop the different types of things that we do. It’s our way of giving back to the support people have given us over the years. “
Describing Friday’s public rehearsals, Thomas says attendees will have “the opportunity to meet the dancers and talk to Carolyn, and see the inner workings of preparing for the show we’ll be doing this Sunday.”
Five student groups and up to 80 young dancers will be attending the festival this year, but there are so many dance programs in Union County that Thomas says she hopes the event grows.
The list of institutions sending dancers this year includes Linden, Plainfield and Cranford High Schools; Union County Vo-Tech Performing Arts Academy; as well as the Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy and the Thomas Jefferson Academy of the Arts, in Elizabeth. Carolyn Dorfman Dance will also perform, along with aspiring pre-professional dancers from Nancy Turano’s New Jersey Dance Theater Ensemble; Jay Skeete Lee’s Rahway Dance Theater; and Well Performance Project by Dawud Jackson of Somerville.
Thomas says one of the festival’s goals is to bring together professional and pre-professional dancers, giving students a sense of what a career in dance looks like.
According to Thomas and choreographer Carolyn Dorfman, they’ve been trying to forge a partnership with Union County Performing Arts Center for some time. Praising the backstage and state-of-the-art studio at Hamilton Stage, Dorfman says, “They have very good facilities… so this will be a space where I think you will see us more.
“It’s like a trial launch,” explains Thomas, explaining that in the coming years, the organizers would like to coordinate the festival with the celebration of National Dance Week. “If we continue on this path, we hope it will be a way to recognize our county as the place where you can come and experience a great dance.”
Pre-registration is required to attend rehearsals on Friday. To register, send an email to [email protected] For more information on the $ 15 Saturday classes, visit ucpac.org/events. Tickets for Sunday’s show cost $ 20 for general admission and $ 10 for seniors and students. Visit ucpac.org/events to purchase tickets for this event.
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