DanceWorks New York City, the city’s largest performance-based dance company for college graduates, is hoping to give Queens residents a jaw-dropping show.
Lisa Mara, founder and executive director of the company, has been dancing since she was 7 and only realized after graduating college that she wanted to make dance a career. After working in public relations for two years, Mara quit her job in New York City and moved back home to Boston to become a Boston Celtics dancer.
Though Mara did not make the dance team, she met young women who wanted to continue dancing while holding down other jobs, which inspired her to create DanceWorks Boston in 2010 and, later, DanceWorks New York City.
“It came from a small idea that other women and men like myself wanted to continue dancing and performing after college and into their adult lives while pursuing full-time careers not in dance,” Mara said. “I wanted a balance of high-caliber dancers who wanted to get to know each other, network, and also put on a show that was not your niece’s dance recital.”
On Nov. 21, after 16 weeks of practice, 140 dancers from around the city will gather at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria to put on a 2-hour show. The first show will start at 5:15 p.m. and the second performance will start at 8:30 p.m. The audience will be exposed to 24 original pieces in ballet, jazz, hip-hop and tap.
These dancers, who are all technically trained and have studio experience, are also lawyers, event planners, teachers and advertisers. They meet several times a week at the performing arts high school to rehearse 3-minute pieces for the show.
The company hosts an open-call audition every July and January for dancers and choreographers, and Mara said up to 200 people show up. Participants must be 18 or older and must be technically trained. Dancers and choreographers can register for the spring season, which runs from January to May, or the fall season, which runs from August to November. For $295, they receive 16 weeks of rehearsals in a studio space and a chance to show what they have been working on at the seasonal performance.
The DanceWorks New York City website is filled with testimonies from dancers who keep coming back to the company for a chance to put their training to use.
“As a newbie to DanceWorks I was nervous about what the experience would be like. Dancing years later after college?! Yikes!” Jenn Wolosoff wrote. “Rest assured, every week I look forward to rehearsal: to dance and to see the many new friends I have made. When I think of DanceWorks, I think of a group of über-talented, relentlessly committed individuals with a love and passion for dance. It’s somewhere I hope to call home for many years to come.”
The performance will culminate in a group dance, where all 140 dancers will take the stage to show off their skills. Mara said one word perfectly describes the performance: “memorable.”
“It will be the show you show up to work on Monday talking about to your co-workers,” Mara said. “It makes you think, laugh, cry and dance in your seat, all in 2 hours’ time.”
Tickets are $28 and $18 for children 12 and under.