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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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Ananya Dance Theatre to perform, offer public workshops In New Brunswick
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), a contemporary Indian company of women of color committed to the interchange between art and social justice, is set to perform and offer multiple free public workshops here on campus, January 29 through February 2, 2019.  
State Theatre New Jersey presents Savion Glover's All FuNKD' Up
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up on Thursday, February 7 at 8:00pm. Savion Glover’s All FuNKD’ Up will highlight Glover’s mesmerizing interplay of percussive genius. Glover will be appearing along with his six-piece band and company of dancers. Together they will illuminate his original grooves and compositions. Glover will also be doing a lecture/demonstration for select community groups earlier in the day on February 7. Tickets range from $25-$55.
NAI-NI Chen Dance Company Announce Guest Artist Line-Up for the Year of the Pig Celebration at NJPAC
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company will present a colorful and vibrant special Chinese New Year Celebration at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on Saturday, February 2 and Sunday, February 3 at 2:00pm.  This year, Nai-Ni Chen bring a new Bamboo themed production aimed to take audiences beyond cultural boundaries. Nai-Ni Chen chose bamboo as a theme to celebrate the Year of the Pig.
Peak Performances Presents "When Angels Fall"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Peak Performances Presents Raphaëlle Boitel: When Angels Fall from February 9-17 in the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University. The season of genre-and-convention-defying performances catapults into 2019 with multidisciplinary visionary Raphaël Boitel’s return to the Alexander Kasser Theater, following her luminous directorial debut The Forgotten. Admission is $30; FREE for Montclair State undergraduates with ID.
State Theatre New Jersey Presents Dancing with the Stars: Live!
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Dancing with the Stars: Live! featuring dancers from Season 27 on Friday, January 25 at 8:00pm. The star joining the cast for the State Theatre performance is Joe Amabile. Lovingly referred to as “Grocery Store Joe,” Amabile was a fan favorite on The Bachelorette season 14 and went on to appear on Bachelor in Paradise season 5. Limited tickets are available from $55-$125.


The Nutcracker LIVE! at The Strand Theater
There’s holiday excitement in the air inside the auditorium of Lakewood, NJ’s historic Strand Theater this Saturday, December 22, 2018 as an audience of all ages readies itself for a live performance of The Nutcracker by The Atlantic City Ballet and the Garden State Philharmonic orchestra!
American Repertory Ballet's Nutcracker at Two River Theater
Although it’s raining cats and dogs outside, the feeling is more about mice, fairies, princes, and toy soldiers inside Red Bank, NJ’s Two River Theater this Sunday, December 16, 2018 as a sold-out audience of all ages readies itself for a holiday performance of American Repertory Ballet’s presentation of The Nutcracker!
NJPAC's "The Hip Hop Nutcracker"
Celebrate the season with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center‘s holiday smash, “The Hip Hop Nutcracker.” Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet gets an urban makeover in this fresh retelling of the timeless tale. With contemporary dance moves and a New York City backdrop, this festive tradition feels new once again. Join Jesse and Dave as they talk to the creators of this bold show, which explodes onto the stage in Newark on Friday, December 14.
It's a Shore Holiday: The Atlantic City Ballet LIVE! at Caesars
On Saturday, November 24, 2018, The Atlantic City Ballet celebrated Christmas early with a production of It’s a Shore Holiday at the Circus Maximus Theatre located inside Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
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.










Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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