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Jamaica Performing Arts Center to host Making Moves Dance Festival in September

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL)

For 12 years, the Making Moves Dance Festival, presented by the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL), has served as a platform to promote new, emerging and underrepresented dance companies. After pivoting to an online model in 2020 due to COVID-19, JCAL is now returning this storied festival to the community.

The Making Moves Dance Festival “To Life” is a free two-day event set to take place on the outdoor stage of the Jamaica Performing Arts Center at 153-10 Jamaica Ave., on Friday, Sept. 17, and Saturday, Sept. 18, beginning at 7 p.m. on both days. 

“What a difference a year makes,” said Leonard Jacobs, interim executive director of JCAL. “In 2020, COVID-19 forced JCAL to pivot to digital-only, suddenly turning choreographers and dancers into filmmakers. This year, we’re blessed to gather together again — and to proudly present some of the best dance work in Queens and New York City — in a moment of life to celebrate.”

The festival is a testament to the rich diversity of Queens and New York City as it presents both traditional and contemporary influenced dance styles. This year, JCAL will offer its most diverse lineup ever with styles that include ballet, Afro-Latin, East Asian, Middle Eastern, Afro-Caribbean, East Indian and more. 

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL).

Along with the outdoor presentation of the festival, all southeast Queens residents will be able to check out the process, as rehearsals will be held in full sight of the community on Jamaica Avenue.

Courtney Ffrench, JCAL’s interim artistic director, said there’s a reason that the title of this year’s Making Moves Dance Festival is “To Life.”

“We’ve seen too much of not having life, not having hope, not feeling that there’s a future for artists. Now, we’re presenting some of the most stunning dancers and choreographers from Queens and New York City. It is a moment of getting back ‘to life’ — now more than ever,” Ffrench said. 

Following an open call for applications in April, a panel of professional jurors selected nine NYC-based dance companies, which are being presented in three sections: emerging artists, early career artists and commissioned artists. 

The two commissioned artists are Renardo-Domeico Grays with VISIONS Contemporary Ballet and Patrick Coker.

Artist Renardo-Domeico Grays (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning)

Grays is an alumnus of The Juilliard School where he studied choreography under Bessie Schonberg and Doris Rudko, and received his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He is also an alumnus of Marymount Manhattan College (Dance), Fordham University (Drama) and the Alvin Ailey School. He is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, where he attended as an awardee of a Skillman Scholar Award from the Skillman Foundation.

He has performed with the Juilliard Dance Ensemble in work by Garth Fagan, Rebecca Kelly Ballet, the La Toya Jackson Tour, Celebrity Cruises, Sensedance, Zach Morris and Urban Wash Dance Company and has danced and choreographed for various artists traveling throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Europe. He was choreographer/co-host of VH-1’s “Rock of Ages.” He also was assistant choreographer for “Hitgirls,” an off-Broadway musical.

Artist Patrick Coker (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning)

Coker is from Chester, Virginia, and was awarded the American Ballet Theatre’s National Trainee Scholarship from 2008 to 2010. In May 2014, Coker graduated from the Ailey/Fordham University BFA Program, where he apprenticed with Ailey II in his final year. After graduation, he danced for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and then went on to join Jessica Lang Dance.

He has also performed with the Mark Morris Dance Group and LA-based BODYTRAFFIC. In 2019, Coker joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he is currently still dancing. 

For more information about the lineup of artists for the JCAL Making Moves Festivals, visit jcal.org/making-moves-dance-festival.

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