Dance on the Lawn

by Cameron Boyle

If you are anywhere in driving distance of the Northern New Jersey area on the Saturday after Labor Day, Dance On The Lawn is the place to be. On the past such Saturday, the 2nd Annual DOTL, spectators were treated to a cornucopia of diverse and magnificent dance talents at this first-ever FREE annual dance festival of Montclair, NJ. As most know, Montclair is now the home of a famous film festival; thanks to DOTL founder Charmaine Warren, Montclair now has an (increasingly famous) dance festival.

The festival takes place on a stage on the front lawn of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Montclair-based Sharon Miller Academy for the Performing Arts featured racially diverse teens performing "Just Be You"--a choreography that conveyed the struggle to be yourself in the midst of peer and societal pressure. And then there was New Jersey's own professional tap dancer Maurice Chestnut who "rocked the lawn" with his powerful ensemble. “Dance on the Lawn’s Emerging New Jersey Choreographer” Robert Mark Burke received $1,000 and the chance to present his piece “The Dance Break.” Alive with the rambunctious energy of a sock-hop, this dance depicts stories of adolescent heartbreak. In one episode, a boy pines for a girl who keeps her back turned to him. These are just a few examples of the extraordinary array of performances which included elements of funk, hip hop, modern and ballroom; and each choreography offered layers of social messages.

CULTSHA.COM is always looking for socially conscious intention. That's why we love DOTL's mission: “Dance on the Lawn celebrates dance in New Jersey and aims to increase exposure to dance by bringing professional and emerging companies, plus students of dance from around New Jersey together in a community setting that is free and open to the public. In addition to the performance segment of our first annual event, an 'Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer' and mentor program will be established to support upcoming dance artists as we continue to grow." I spoke with Charmaine further on the mission of DOTL:
How do you describe your relationship with Dance On The Lawn?

This festival is near and dear to my heart. I've wanted to bring a free outdoor dance concert to our area for many years, so to see it actually be realized is more than special.

How did the idea for Dance On The Lawn emerge?

Not everyone gets to see dance, and more and more, tickets are simply costly. Beyond the event being free, it is such a wonderful way to bring the community together.

Is are the most important social intentions of DOTL?

It is our goal to make the event free to all and to bring a diverse program so that everyone will find something to enjoy.

What for you were some of the strongest social messages in the performances this year?

I think that programming is very important, that said, each artist, each company is chosen to help support the DOTL mission. The hope is that one doesn't stand out from the other, but instead, everyone leaves full!

How does dance make the world a better place?

In truth, we all dance, on and off stage, but the joy that dancing brings to everyone from the response to the heart beat says it all. Dance is power!

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