By Samantha Brandbergh
The Bart Luedeke Center theater was quieter than usual, as Rider Dances prepared to rehearse for its collaboration with the all-male dance company, 10 Hairy Legs.
The only sound in the theater was faint music. Eight female dancers huddled around a MacBook, watching a recording of one of the pieces. Director and associate professor of dance Kimberly Chandler Vaccaro studied the video with them, suggesting minor adjustments to the choreography.
“Don’t do anything that you think will make anything worse,” she warned the dancers before they began warming up on stage.
The collaboration, which will debut on March 4 and 5, came after a three-hour meeting between Vaccaro and 10 Hairy Legs’ founding artistic director Randy James. With James’ primary audience residing in central New Jersey and New York, and Vaccaro’s interest in encouraging the reconsideration of gender roles, the collaboration became a reality.
Two of the pieces featured in the program will be choreographed by James and 10 Hairy Legs’ dancer Robert Mark Burke, “Among the Stars” and “Close-up,” and will feature Rider students. The dance company will also be performing two pieces on their own, “Slapstruck” and “Quadrivium.”
Junior dance performance major Courtney Booker, who will be dancing in James’ piece, described being directed by a professional in this field as “one of the best experiences.”
In preparing for the collaboration, Rider Dances took a trip to the Gibney Dance Center in New York City to meet and work with James. They were later taught by Alex Biegelson, one of 10 Hairy Legs’ founding members, once back in New Jersey. After practicing the choreography for two weeks, James came to campus to put the finishing touches on the piece.
“Overall, the process was very new to me, personally, because I had never worked with a professional New York City choreographer,” Booker said. “So, it was cool to see how he worked. He treated us like his own company rather than just Rider students.”
The pieces the students will be performing range from jazz, contemporary, Caribbean, hip-hop and modern dance, according to Vaccaro.
“Each piece is unique, and, like all art, the meaning is created by the images received by individual audience members,” she said. “They are as different as the choreographers themselves.”
The collaboration will not only highlight current students’ talent, but also those who have graduated. “Flirty3,” choreographed by Vaccaro, will feature music composed by Rider alumna Maddie Prentice, ’16, with whom Vaccaro has worked for the past three years.
“This year, I asked her to write a piece that included eight instruments,” Vaccaro explained. “Each dancer is one of the instruments, and we hope to project a digital image of the music during the performance.”
The stories illustrated in the dances also include the demonstration of a Cuban prayer, a hip-hop house party, women’s rights and a group of women at a support group, according to Booker.
Booker also believes that the diversity of the dance styles paired with the reputation of the dance company will provide audiences with a unique opportunity to witness their craft.
“Seeing 10 Hairy Legs dancing is going to be a new experience because we don’t get many guys in our program,” Booker said. “So, seeing a professional company of all men dancing, I think, is going to be really cool.”
After audiences see the performances, Vaccaro hopes to see a spike in interest in dance among males.
“Dance has all the athleticism of sports but also is an emotional, spiritual and intellectual undertaking. It is a holistic expression of self,” she said. “The dancers in this concert love to move in all sorts of liberating and interesting ways. I wish more people had the opportunity to experience their bodies and the world in this way.”
Rider Dances with 10 Hairy Legs will take place on Saturday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m. in the Bart Luedeke Center theater. Tickets can be purchased through the online box office or by calling 609-898-7775.
Originally published in the 3/1/17 edition.