Dance on the lawn: for Ayorinde, fall and feel free
COURTESY TONY TURNER PHOTOGRAPHY
Dance on the Lawn
Saturday, Sept. 7, 3-5 p.m.
Ten New York/New Jersey dance
companies and schools:
New Jersey schools: Linda D’Amico’s Academy of Dance (Pompton Plains); Lisa Bachelor’s Unique Performance Arts Center (West Orange); Kathy Costa’s Danceworks & Company (Montclair); Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts’ Performance Workshop Ensemble (Montclair).
New Jersey Companies: Mignolo Dance (Carhly & Eriel Santagado/Metuchen); Freespace Dance (Donna Scro/Montclair); Maurice Chestnut/Dance Therapy (Maurice Chestnut/Newark); 10 Hairy Legs (Randy James/Highland Park).
New York Companies: Sofia Forero; The Heraclitus Project.
New choreographic work by Oludamamilare “Dare” Ayorinde
The lawn in front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
73 South Fullerton Ave.
By GWEN OREL
Falling was the best thing.
Falling when he danced meant he was trying something, and it was even encouraged.
When Oluwadamilare “Dare” Ayorinde, called Dare (pronounced Da-ray), the winner of this year’s Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer award from Dance on the Lawn, began taking dance in high school, he loved that falling was considered a good thing.
“I could act up in class. I would go for things and fall, and it would be OK,” he said. “Messing up would be OK, not anything to be embarrassed about. It was what was supposed to happen. I’d fall, and try again. In no other class I’d taken that was allowed. It made me feel like I was a full human. So I felt free. I got addicted.”
He was not one of those little boys who went to ballet class with his sister, and then kept going on his own. Ayorinde did not begin dancing until high school, when he had to take an arts course to graduate from Teaneck High School, where he was in an accelerated math and science program.
Today he dances full time, making his own work, finding his way.
As part of his award, he’ll premiere part of a new work, “Home. Here,” during Dance on the Lawn on Saturday, Sept. 7, in front of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
“I came to it eager. I think that helped,” he said. “I remember being in class, feeling like it was a productive way to use all my energy. I fell in love with [dance] really quickly,” said the Jersey City resident. Ayorinde, who is 25, is a first-generation Nigerian American.
Not long after he began taking dance in high school, he started taking classes in a dance school in Englewood.
He applied to the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and graduated four years later with a B.F.A. in dance.
In his first two years he was often frustrated at how much he really didn’t know. “I was overwhelmed by the skill, and level of work ethic, I had to learn to maintain. I had never had to work that hard in my life.
“At the end of sophomore year it dawned on me that this was the longest I had consistently ever worked at one thing, and I still wanted to work harder. I had done sports, and other extracurriculars, and never stuck with it that long. I never pushed myself that way.”
DANCE IN THE COMMUNITY
Warren founded Dance on the Lawn in 2014. “Sometimes we think that dance is the stepchild of the arts,” Warren said. “Why not bring dance to New Jersey? Our dance lives are still so very active. I’m still performing, and Laura and I are both teaching and bringing dance to communities elsewhere, but we live here. Folks know about us now. I feel it’s like a family reunion kind of thing,” Warren said. She and Managing Director Laura Marchese work hard to put the festival together. When Warren gets home from her new job as producer of Dance Africa at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, she finds pages of emails, and many voicemails from her co-producer. It’s all worth it, she said. “When it began, I wanted support from the community and excitement from the community. We’ve survived over the years because of that support.”
The marley floor (a soft roll-out dance floor) is lent to the festival by Jedediah Wheeler of Peak Performances at Montclair State University. Posters and graphics are donated by Studio 042. And Tony Turner, Warren’s husband, who does the photography and graphics, built a tap floor.
Ayorinde is the fifth emerging New Jersey choreographer chosen by Dance on the Lawn. The emerging choreographer is chosen by a panel of New Jersey professionals, including choreographers, dancers and producers. Ten New Jersey and New York companies and schools are on the bill, and this year, for the first time, there will be ballet on the program. Warren’s daughter, Ashé, is studying ballet at Boston Conservatory (but since school has started, she’ll miss the festival).
“Over the years we keep growing, and I’m very happy about that. To quote a parent of one of my daughter’s friends, ‘This is so much fun. It’s so different, and I’m so glad it’s free.’
“[Laura and I] are there at 8 in the morning on the site. By 12 when we look at the crowd gathering we pinch ourselves and smile and say what? We’re doing it! And we’re so happy!”
Ayorinde loves seeing the crowd gather too.
“I love that it’s a family event, and not just for performers. It’s great to meet people who love dance who interact with it differently than I do. It’s exciting to have a broad audience. I think children should be around dance all the time.”
His piece, “Home. Here,” is a duet with his friend Morgan Bryant. It’s modern dance, and uses the music of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti, and some singing by the performers themselves.
“I really wanted the music to feel like it was coming from a personal place,” Ayorinde said. “I think Morgan was a singer first. I love to sing. It’s a different kind of emotionality, a different kind of memory. I sing in choir, and church, for my siblings’ baby showers. There’s a lot of emotion and memories. We’ll be improvising some text and coming up with a melody to riff off of.”
He likes his movement to be tied to nostalgia and memory. “I like the movement to feel a tad bit unknown and awkward.”
Ayorinde says he’s still developing his style. “I will find out as I continue.”