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An Interview With Jillian Petrie

By Gary Wien


Jillian Petrie is the choreographer for The Growing Stage. Her latest work is with And Then Came Tango. New Jersey Stage caught up with her to learn more about the role dance plays in the story.

How is dance woven into And Then Came Tango?
It is just that, "woven." Dance is an integral part of this play. This makes it quite an exciting production to not only be a part of the creative process, but to watch as well. The movement helps set the tone; without it the play would be very different.

All six male and female performers portraying penguins in our cast are highly trained dancers. They are onstage the majority of the production. They perform in fully choreographed dance numbers as well as perform shorter movement phrases throughout the play. In addition to the penguins, movement is used by our actors who portray Lily and Walter. Their daily routines become more fluid and choreographed throughout the play. This helps show the passing of time and highlight the unique friendship that bridges the generation gap between the two main characters.

The costumes are brilliant because they do not hinder the performers' movement at all, and help enhance the dancers' performances. The costumes allow the performers room to emote through movement and facial expression, while allowing the audience to fall into the suspension of disbelief and connect to these characters.

Dance is a universal language; it is showcased and utilized beautifully in this production. Not only are the dancers breathing life into these penguins, but the actors portraying Lily and Walter show their friendship grow with the use of choreographed movement throughout the production.

Is the dancing at Growing Stage based on any previous performances or completely new?
The movement at The Growing Stage is completely new for this world premiere! I am very excited about the opportunity to bring modern dance to this play. In my dance career, my experience choreographing concert dance and choreographing theatre have felt like two separate worlds. This piece will be the first that I have had the honor of bridging the gap between the two in a very rewarding way.

What was your inspiration?
I always start a new project from the ground up. My launch point for this was, of course, the chinstrap penguins. I spent a lot of time observing them and from that I pulled about ten literal movements from their behaviors. Be it a head shake or their posture. From there I go into the studio and build off of the movement to create a dance phrase... "yes and." The dance is modern, unpretentious, and has a very grounded nature to it.

I always pull inspiration from my time dancing in London. There is the constant balance of honoring technique and pushing movement forward in this art form. For this piece in particular, I am inspired by the narrative ballet structure where the music has to come first. I think in the same way that a composer has to find a musical language to describe each character, similarly I have to do that with the movement. Movement is the way these penguins communicate who they are and express their emotions without recourse to words at all.

Do you see the choreography as something that helps elevate Growing Stage to more of an art form rather than just theatre for children?
What makes The Growing Stage unique is that we view children's theatre as an art form. I believe adding dance and movement to any production will elevate a piece. However, I do not view theatre for young audiences as any less of an art form. There is a misconception that family appropriate theatre is a lesser version of theatre. When in reality, it is the perfect platform to produce pieces of real substance such as And Then Came Tango.




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New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble To Perform The Nutcracker On Sunday
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble, a pre-professional training and performing company for young dancers based in downtown Summit, will host a free community story time event of their holiday production The Nutcracker at NJDTE Studios at 315B Springfield Ave in Summit on Sunday, November 18, at 4:00pm.
New Jersey Ballet To Perform Its Annual Holiday Classic at Mayo
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) --  New Jersey Ballet's seasonal presentation of the holiday classic Nutcracker comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center for 14 performances beginning Friday, December 14 at 7:30pm and ending on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 1:00pm. New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will provide live orchestral accompaniment. Tickets range from $29-69.  
Rowan Percussionists and Dancers To Share The Stage
(GLASSBORO, NJ -- The Rowan Percussion Ensemble features an original dance piece as part of its fall semester concert on Monday, November 19 at 8:00pm in Pfleeger Concert Hall. Under the direction of Dr. Matthew Witten, the ensemble will present a collaboration with choreographer and performer Melanie Stewart, associate dean of the College of Performing Arts at Rowan, on a dance piece set to John Cage’s “Credo in Us.” The work, developed in collaboration with California-based performer, choreographer, and educator Lorelei Bayne, will feature 18 Rowan students.
Roxey Ballet Enters 25th Year Of Presenting The Nutcracker For The Holidays
(EWING, NJ) -- Roxey Ballet will present its 25th Annual American Holiday Classic "Nutcracker" from November 24-December 2 at The College of New Jersey's Kendall Main Stage Theater. This acclaimed annual holiday event has become a favorite tradition of area residents and visitors alike. Both adults and children marvel at the magical spectacle created by the collective vision of Mark and Melissa Roxey, founders of both The Roxey Contemporary Ballet and The Mill Ballet School. It's the perfect way to begin the holiday season.  
AC Ballet Kicks Off The 2018 Holiday Season With It’s A Shore Holiday
​​​​​​​(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- This Thanksgiving weekend the Atlantic City Ballet will be bringing back It’s A Shore Holiday to help kick off the holiday season. It’s A Shore Holiday blends classical and contemporary dance set to beloved holiday tunes. This “Radio City-esque” review will feature the AC Ballet Professional company along with live singers and a six piece band. Performances will take place on Saturday, November 24th at 7:00pm in Circus Maximum Theater (inside Caesars Hotel) in Atlantic City and Sunday, November 25th at 3:00pm in the Stafford Township Arts Center in Manahawkin.


Dracula: The Atlantic City Ballet LIVE! at Lakewood’s Strand Theater
On Saturday, Oct 21, 2018, The Atlantic City Ballet celebrated Halloween early with their production of Dracula at The Strand Theatre in Lakewood, NJ.
Ballet, Boxing and Street Dance Gangs?! An Artist Profile of Mark Roxey
Mark Roxey’s been thrown in a garbage can, part of street dance gangs (who knew those were really real?!) and spends a whole lot of time in the boxing gym. He is also the founder and director of the Roxey Ballet Company, associate director of The Mill Ballet School, and has had a distinguished career with numerous American dance companies, including The Joffrey Ballet. You have to hear Mark’s story in our latest artist profile.
Swan Lake: The Atlantic City Ballet LIVE! at The Strand Lakewood
On Saturday, September 22, 2018, The Atlantic City Ballet presented their version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at The Strand Theatre in Lakewood, NJ. Featuring spellbinding choreography by Phyllis Papa, the talented members of the ACB transported an enthusiastic audience of all ages to another world, and Love Imagery was on hand to capture the magic in this photo-essay.
A New Ballet Company Launches At The Shore
Monmouth County has long been a hub for the arts, with a celebrated music scene, thriving original theatre and artists throughout the area, but one thing was missing – the area did not have its own professional ballet company.
Kennedy Dancers Take On Anderson Park
Trust me when I tell you that the Kennedy Dancers do it all. No joke. The company, which is based in Jersey City and was founded in 1976 by Artistic Director Diane Dragone, is a professional dance company (performing all manner of styles), a pre-professional training company, a dance school and a producer of a television show.






Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

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