LIBERTY HALL DANCE FESTIVAL
October 10, 2021
I feel an affinity for the Liberty Hall Dance Festival. I danced with its director, Nicole
Buggé, whose Buggé Ballet always has a slot in the Festival. It was one of my duo, BREAKTIME’s
first public performances in 2017. Four years and a pandemic later, the festival remains a well-
organized oasis on the campus of Kean University – if you can get to it.
Knowing the Festival to be a rotating promenade, I took my time arriving somewhere
between 1 and 4pm. Though I remembered the Union NJ Transit station to be a mere 15-
minute walk away, Google urged me to take a train to Newark Airport, take an AirTrain to
Terminal C, and take a (15-minute) cab ride (a mere 42 bucks).
I arrived, disoriented and
frustrated, to the Festival in the last hour and went to the nearest movement I could find.
The Liberty Hall Museum stands in homage to the American Revolutionaries who
inhabited it – a site specific dance festival’s wildest dream.
At the Ice House performed the
Cranford High School Dancers, under Emily Donahue. One can’t be as in their program along a
site-specific tour as when in a dark room. It was only after seeing erect spines, camouflage
leggings, and regimented spatial patterns that my thematic hunch was confirmed by its title, All
the Daring of the Soldier.
Another student work, by Mandy Stallings’ class at Packer Collegiate Institute, played
before a sprawling Rose Garden in a feminine nod to Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table. Eight
female-presenting dancers in Victorian garb form a bouquet of polite postures, from which
dissenters digress in earthbound choreographic asides. On Frippery symbiotically benefitted
from and cast as a character the space around it.
I concluded with Teresa Fellion’s BodyStories. Back at the Ice House, the 3:30 sun cast a
shadow that marked off boundaries for Emma Iredale and Kimberly Murry to pounce in and out
of light in contrasting dynamics. Stallings’ preceding use of environment had me wishing for the
same ingenuity from Fellion, particularly when the work ended waiting for a blackout in a
theatre we were not in.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews