"Breathtaking": Dancers' performance at The Joyce in NYC draws praise from The Star-Ledger

Mason Gross dancers took Manhattan on May 2, 2011, with a performance at The Joyce Theater in New York City that drew kudos from The Star-Ledger newspaper dance critic Robert Johnson.  

"The students handle these maneuvers from [Merce] Cunningham’s 1969 dance 'Canfield' with the sang-froid of seasoned performers," Johnson wrote "Their lines remain crisp in revealing, pink unitards; the space is beautifully defined; and in the finale, all 12 cast members dance in perfect unison. 'MinEvent' is breathtaking."

Photos by Andre Costantini

The program, a celebration of the Dance Department's 30th anniversary, included a world-premiere work by Doug Elkins; sequences from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company repertory; excerpts from a work by Danielle Agami and Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company, and a piece by Benoit-Swan Pouffer of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

The performance was part of the school’s Rutgers in New York performing- and fine-arts series. The series was established in 2001 to give Mason Gross students the chance to create, perform, exhibit and network in the heart of one of the world’s leading cultural centers. Johnson praised the effort.

"The administration of Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts understands the powerful necessity of dreaming in the life of an artist. Its 'Rutgers in New York' program . . . has its practical aspects, showcasing dancers to potential employers. But the program’s most important function is to envision the future, placing neophytes on a legendary stage where they hope someday to dance professionally. Evidently, the faculty strives to build a foundation under those dreams. They expose the students to models of excellence."

Giving Mason Gross artists continued exposure in a cultural mecca has provided an imprimatur of sorts, reminding our Jersey-based artists that the quality of their work can stand across the river. Mason Gross students have performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the Blue Note jazz club, and they have exhibited at a variety of downtown art galleries.

“The Joyce is the premier dance venue,” said Julia Ritter, a Mason Gross alum and chair of the Dance Department. “To be performing for New York audiences [stirs up] a different kind of energy.”

Dean George B. Stauffer agreed.

Rutgers in New York has been a great boost to the school,” Stauffer said. “In 10 years of performances and exhibitions, audiences have gotten over the notion that Mason Gross is provincial in any way."

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