November 4, 2021

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance presents 2021 Princeton Dance Festival

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University presents the 2021 Princeton Dance Festival. Princeton students in the program will perform new works by faculty members Tina Fehlandt, whose work is inspired by Mark Morris’ choreography on the 40th anniversary of the founding of his famed dance company, and Rebecca Lazier. Additionally, students will perform new works by guest choreographers Kyle Marshall, Larissa Velez-Jackson and Omari Wiles. Repertory works in the festival will include Justin Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, staged by Michael Breeden, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Germaine Acogny’s Woman’s Resistance, staged by Samantha Speis.

Performances will take place over three days, beginning on November 19 at 8:00 p.m. They will continue with two more performances on November 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and finish with a final performance on November 21 at 2:00 p.m. All performances will be at the Berlind Theatre in the McCarter Theatre Center.

Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes by Justin Peck, acting resident choreographer for New York City Ballet, will be staged by Michael Sean Breeden, a repetiteur for the Ballet, in a way that reimagines the piece’s gendered roles. Rodeo is Peck’s abstract take on Aaron Copland’s well-known Americana score and pairs a lone woman with “a cast of 15 jocular energetic and charming male dancers for a fresh and thrilling adventure.” In its Princeton premiere, excerpts of the ballet have been re-envisioned with gender identity no longer a prerequisite for any of the roles. Peck has created more than 40 ballets, won a Tony Award for choreographing the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel, and choreographed Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming film, West Side Story. Breeden has danced with Miami City Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet, where he performed principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Christopher Wheeldon, and Alexei Ratmansky. He has taught at Yale University, Kent State University, Ballet Tech, Ballet Academy East, the Vail Dance Festival, and Mark Morris Dance Center, among many others.

group of dancers rehearse in casual clothes

Choreographer Omari Wiles (center foreground) with Princeton students in rehearsal for his new work to be featured in the 2021 Princeton Dance Festival. Photo credit: Jonathan Sweeney

Samantha Speis is co-artistic director at Urban Bush Women (UBW) and the 2017 winner of a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Performer. UBW is a critically acclaimed contemporary dance-theater company that seeks to bring untold and under-told stories to light through dance. As members of the African Diaspora community, UBW strives to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond. Speis will be staging Women’s Resistance, an excerpt from les écallies de la mémoire (Scales of Memory), originally choreographed by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of UBW, and Germaine Acogny of Compagnie Jant Bi (Senegal). Women’s Resistance vibrantly embodies Women+’s power, resilience, and relentless pursuit for liberation and justice.

The Dance Festival premieres five new works:

Caesura is a collaborative work created by choreographer Rebecca Lazier and composer Ryan Wolfe, with contributions from the student cast. Caesura refers to a pause or break in a line of text or phrase of music and this dance engages with returning from the coronavirus “pause”: what is this moment of coming back to spaces with people? What is it to feel eye contact? What is it to see a whole body before you? Returning from the pause has changed how we navigate space, time, and each other. Caesura revels in contrasting the formal, stilted style of online conversation with the free-from nature of casual conversation, and the isolation of individuals with hurried, rhythmic intertwining of people passing in space. Lazier is a senior lecturer in dance at Princeton and associate director of the Program in Dance whose work has been presented at venues such as the Guggenheim Museum, 92nd Street Y, and Joyce SoHo to name a few, and who has received grants from the Puffin Foundation, the Canada Council on the Arts, and the Greater New York Department of Cultural Affairs.

Studies on Onyx is a new work created by choreographer Kyle Marshall as an examination of white rock musicians studying, imitating, and copying direct songs, styles, and techniques from Black musicians without their permission. The piece seeks to display the subtly of appropriation, to hold space for Blues music, and to remember a few pioneers of the revolutionary sound, such as Chuck Berry. Berry single-handedly shifted Blues’ and rock music’s emphasis to the guitar, creating some of the most iconic songs and guitar riffs in the genre, including “Johnnie B. Good,” “No Particular Place to Go,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” which became the melody to the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ in the U.S.A.” Marshall is one of Princeton’s Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence for the 2021-2022 academic year and has recently received the 2020 Dance Magazine Harkness Promise Award and a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award nomination for the production Colored.

Star Pû Method ~ Care, Freedom and Partnership is a new work created by choreographer Larissa Velez-Jackson based on her research on the healing properties of her improvisation practice, the Star Pû Method. Star Pû Method reveals a creation in real time onstage, including an improvised, supportive sound design by Lewis Center Music Director Vince Di Mura and Velez-Jackson, and features dancers improvising movement, vocal sound, song and spoken words based on the core premise of self and community care. Through embracing failure along with success, this work explores the vast spectrum between being a “star” onstage and the comedy, vulnerability, and humanity of the dancer as a raw expression of joy and resilience. Velez-Jackson believes that when given the freedom and invitation, the dancer is the ultimate expositor of embodied knowledge. She is also one of Princeton’s Caroline Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence for the 2021-2022 academic year, and she was a choreographic artist-in-residence at the historic Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd Street Y for 2017-18 and a Movement Research artist-in-residence for 2018-2020.

A new work by Tina Fehlandt will lead Princeton dance students in an exploration of 40-plus years of dances made by the renowned choreographer, Mark Morris. Fehlandt, a founding member of the Mark Morris Dance Group, has been joined by former and current company artists Maile Okamura, Brandon Randolph, and Billy Smith, in teaching the students phrases from pieces created from 1980 to the present day, that explore the vast range and versatility of a generational dance maker. From this movement, the students will use choreographic tasks to manipulate and explore the choreographic process, assembling these into a new dance, with an original score by Di Mura. The work will culminate with an excerpt from Morris’ monumental dance in silence, Behemoth (1990). The Washington Post originally described Behemoth as “a dazzlingly suspenseful, enigmatic abstraction danced in silence.” Fehlandt is a lecturer in dance at Princeton who has staged Mark Morris’ work for the San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Houston Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and many others. Her choreography has been performed by Houston Ballet II, Barnard College, Trinity College, Deep Ellum Ensemble, and American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensives.

A new work by choreographer Omari Wiles explores both masculine and feminine energy through dance and expression. Fusing traditional movement from both African and LGBTQ Black and Latinx communities, the dancers will perform a combined blend of Afrobeats, house, and vogue styles. Wiles is the founder of House of Oricci, a ballroom-African fusion dance company, and Les Ballet Afrik, a vogue-African fusion dance company. Wiles has also worked with artists such as Janet Jackson, Goldlink, Beyoncé, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, and Naomi Campbell, as well as Ephrat Ashire Dance.

Currently under the direction of choreographer Susan Marshall, Princeton’s Program in Dance is now in its 51st year and has grown to include five full-time and nine adjunct faculty and offers 23 different courses and a curriculum that includes introductory courses, courses suited for dancers at the pre-professional level, as well as courses in dance studies and interdisciplinary contemporary practices.

The Berlind Theatre is an accessible venue; find full details and access information for McCarter. Assistive listening devices are available upon request when attending a performance. Large print programs will be available. The November 21 performance will be open captioned. Patrons in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at for assistance at least one week prior to the selected performance.

All guests are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to wear a mask when indoors, and to show proof of vaccination and a photo ID at the door (Princeton students, faculty and staff only need to show their PU ID card.); children under 12 are not permitted in campus buildings as they are not currently able to be vaccinated. Dancers will be unmasked while performing on stage.

Tickets for Princeton Dance Festival are $12 in advance of show dates, $17 purchased the day of performances at the box office, and $10 for students. Buy tickets online through McCarter Box Office. Each ticket for each person attending must be reserved through a separate online transaction (however one person can submit multiple transactions on behalf of different attendees).

To learn more about the Princeton Dance Festival, the Program in Dance, and the more than 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts visit

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