CREATING DANCE, INSPIRING DANCERS
Our interview with Samuel Pott
By Sally Deering
The Jersey City dance company Nimbus Dance Works’ repertory of dances blends contemporary with classical and newbies with professionals; and Artistic Director Samuel Pott likes it that way.
Nimbus Dance Works celebrates its 10th season in Jersey City this year with new works by guest choreographers, a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a brand new dance studio on Third Street. The school has expanded tremendously since the move from the Barrow Mansion and class registration is in full bloom for the spring session which begins Feb. 2nd.
Pott founded the company with the mission to “focus work on the intersection between high-level dance and innovative ways of involving communities and audiences” and he has stayed true to that mission. Nimbus has a lush repertory of dances and its resident company performs regularly in New Jersey, New York and regionally. Nimbus dancers are top-tier drawn from companies like Ballet Hispanico, Ailey II, and the Martha Graham Dance Company, where Nimbus company member and Pott’s wife PeiJu Chien-Pott is a principal dancer. Nimbus’ annual performance of JERSEY CITY NUTRACKER casts student dancers from local schools in pivotal roles, and in addition to Pott’s choreographies, Nimbus commissions international choreographers like Pedro Ruiz (Cuba/USA), Huang Yi (Taiwan), Korhan Basaran (Turkey), and Xiao-Xiong Zhang (Australia/Taiwan) to create dances for the company.
Nimbus Dance Works offers Hudson resident, both kids and adults, a high level of artistic excellence and guided by Pott’s vision, the company continues to provide inner-city kids opportunities to learn and perform dance to spark their individual creativity and inspire a life-long appreciation and involvement in the arts.
RVO: Samuel Pott, how would you describe Nimbus Dance Works’ style?
SP: We’re a contemporary dance company. The dancers are all highly trained in ballet and modern dance which are the backbone of technique for the work we do. It’s also very theatrical depending on the piece. We try to do work with great music, from jazz to classical to contemporary. Our company is made up of seven dancers and three apprentices.
RVO: How’s the school doing at the new location?
SP: The move from Barrow Mansion to our new studio on Third Street was a big move for us, and enabled us to build up the school quite a lot. We now have classes for kids, adults and a pre-professional program. We focus on ballet and modern dance. That gives students a strong base and real preparation if they want to pursue dance professionally or in college dance programs. They’ll have the foundation that will really benefit them. In addition, we have dance programs after-school and during school in 11 schools. Educationally we’ve been able to keep expanding and giving children the opportunities to see performances and take classes. We have a lot of kids that perform in (the annual holiday show) JERSEY CITY NUTCRACKER.
RVO: Why do you think it’s important to teach dance to inner-city kids?
SP: When I was dancing with ballet and modern dance companies it was an amazing experience in an artistic sense, but one thing I saw over and over was that audiences were largely made up of senior citizens. Audiences were diminishing and it was becoming increasingly hard for these companies to draw young audiences. So what I wanted to do with Nmbus was find a way to connect with people who didn’t feel like the world of concert dance was open to them or representing them. And that’s young inner-city kids. Those underserved audiences have the most potential to have their lives changed through dance. Those who have discretionary income to see ballet, they’re going to have plenty of options available to them no matter what. Whereas the audiences we try to reach and the community we try to reach, they don’t have a lot of other options available to them. I thought that was a compelling reason to focus our attention on how to bring dance into their lives. Teaching children dance to not just to teach them about the art form, but what it means to take something seriously, invest in themselves.
RVO: Are you trying to get a permanent performance space?
SP: Jersey City is growing so fast, its cultural organizations are being left behind. We still lack performance spaces and funding for the cultural organizations that are here in Jersey City. It’s lacking compared to other areas in the country. We have luxury high-rises, but you’d have a hard time pointing to one cultural group in Jersey City that’s established financially. I don’t think there’s one organization in Jersey City that has a budget over $300,000. It would be great to see Jersey City promote its own arts groups, support them financially and help spread the word.
RVO: What are the company’s plans for its 10th season?
SP: We’re trying to propel the company’s profile to another level. We’re doing a show at BAM in May. Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti is creating a new piece for us. We’ll be going up to Vermont in March and western Massachusetts for out-of-town engagements. We’ll be performing at Drew University at the end of April. In the spring, we will present two important historic modern dances, LYNCHTOWN from 1936 by Charles Weidman, one of the early pioneers of modern dance. It’s a political piece based on when he witnessed a lynching in his home town in Nebraska. We’re also doing a company premiere by Pearl Primus. She did a piece in 1942 called STRANGE FRUIT, a solo dance about a woman expressing her grief and anger about a racial killing. These two pieces are important historically and get people talking about issues. I think it’s important to keep the audience entertained and feel they’re glad they came out and bought a ticket. Ever since the start of the company, I have focused on how we move beyond pure entertainment and make an impact on the audience and community.
For more info:
Nimbus Dance Works
209 3rd Street