By Kristin Schultz
The Dance Collective is the brainchild of Niskayuna High School graduate Jillian Foley. She, along with company manager Jane Krantz aim to make dance more accessible to both audiences and performers. Tickets are on sale now for its first performance, “She,” at Proctors GE Theater on July 7.
Even though dance companies are composed of mostly women, Foley said there are even more talented female dancers who don’t get a chance to perform because there are a limited number of female roles.
“It starts in baby ballet,” Foley said. “If there is one boy in the class, he will be front and center and get the lead. That’s the way it is all the way up.
“I’m not a super-feminist. There are just not enough opportunities, and it’s easy to give up if you can’t find a job,” she added.
The lack of performance opportunities for women may be a simple issue of supply and demand. The more startling issue is the dearth of female leadership in dance, particularly in choreography. The New York Times has written articles asking why, if there are so many women in dance, aren’t there more women in leadership.
“I want to provide opportunities for female dancers and choreographers,” said Foley. “I’ve read about the disparity and seen it in New York. There are no up-and-coming female choreographers in New York City.”
To address the issue, Foley started The Dance Collective. It is a contemporary dance company made up of a rotating group of members to allow for maximum opportunity. Foley approached Niskayuna councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw with her idea for a company that empowers women.
Murphy McGraw facilitated a meeting with Philip Morris at Proctors and a partnership was born. Foley said the relationship between Proctors and The Dance Collective is similar to Proctors’ relationship with MopCo, the local improv theater.
“Proctors is helping a lot with production cost like posters, stickers, hiring the light and sound guy,” Foley said. “Funding is a huge thing and raising money is difficult. I’d like to raise money to pay the dancers or at least cover their travel cost and maybe cover a meal.”
Not only does Foley want to increase accessibility for performers and leaders, but also for the audience.
“I want to make it easy for people to come to a show,” said Foley. “It’s hard to get people to come to dance. It can be a stressful situation to go to a performance. You have to sit there and be quiet for hours. It’s a long uncomfortable night.”
Instead, The Dance Collective’s performances will be more casual, starting with its first show at the GE Theatre.
Instead of traditional theater-like seating, the space will be set up more like a bar with table seating and a few high-tops for standing. Dancers will mingle with the audience when they’re not performing.
In addition to drinks and a laid-back ambiance, attendees can expect to see contemporary dance. Although she is trained in classical ballet, Foley prefers the freedom of contemporary dance.
“Ballet is very important and I still do it all the time,” said Foley, a Myers Ballet School alum. “But it has too much structure to really be a performance art. I love ballet, but there’s only so many times you can watch ‘The Nutcracker’ or ‘Swan Lake.’ I understand the rules, but I want to break them as well.”
“Contemporary dance is less restrictive and allows for more creativity,” she said.
This show will feature primarily Foley’s friends and people she has met during her career. There will be two solo performances, two duets and a larger group piece. Foley does plan to invite a new group of performers for future events.
Foley and Krantz want to create a space for more interaction between the audience and the performers.
“When you’re at a music show, the audience is singing or clapping — they’re giving back to you,” said Krantz. “In dance it’s like, ‘I just nailed four pirouettes. Cheer for me.’ ”
In addition to putting on shows at Proctors, Foley hopes to branch out and perform at venues that traditionally see bands or musical performances, like breweries.
In the spring of 2016, the Schoen Movement Company in New York City performed at Long Island City’s Rockaway Brewing Co. and Brooklyn Brewery, a concept that inspired Foley, and one she hopes to emulate.
“There’s always live music at these trendy places,” Foley said. “Why can’t we have a dance event at a casual place like this?”
After graduating from Niskayuna High School in 2011, Foley went to the Hartt School ,where she majored in ballet pedagogie, psychology and performance-art management. Since graduating from college, she has performed with the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera and taught ballet at schools in New York and Connecticut among other things. She primarily teaches and performs on a freelance basis. Foley hopes to devote herself full-time to The Dance Collective.