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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York’s theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we’re passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

Every summer, The New Victory Theater celebrates the best dance the city has to offer. Victory Dance is always exciting and inspiring, but this summer's program stands out in two ways—a change in venue (from The New Victory Theater to The Duke on 42nd Street) and a familiar face onstage. Jerron Herman, once a New Vic Education Apprentice, has since made a name for himself as a professional dancer with Cerebral Palsy. Thrilled to welcome him back with Heidi Latsky Dance, we sat down with him to explore both his journey from Apprentice to dancer and what it means to dance with a disability.
 

Jerron HermanHow did you first start dancing with Heidi Latsky? 
I was an Education Apprentice at The New Victory in 2011 while working on an intensive with Teaching Artist and choreographer Sean Curran. There, I was introduced to dance at large and Heidi Latsky Dance in particular. Sean brokered my audition with Heidi's company following a short solo performance I gave as one of his students in the intensive at the end of the week.
 
What words of advice would you give someone trying to follow in your footsteps?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to be generous, whether that's in deed or intention. At the New Vic, I positioned myself to simply be helpful. Being at the ready was the main reason I was in Sean's intensive to begin with!
 
Did you meet any resistance on your path to becoming a professional dancer?
Because I grew up with a disability, Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy, my identity as a dancer emerged late. I had a rough time thinking of dance as a career, as opposed to a side hobby. I was also studying to be a writer at college, and felt pressured from well-meaning folks to find financial stability first. Ultimately, I just had no precedent for a dance career and nothing to look to as a guide for success. I was saved, though, by my perennial curiosity that helped me think outside of the box to convey to everyone why I dance. Then there were also invaluable supporters—like my family and dance company—who devoted their energy to breaking down any resistance alongside me.
 
What draws you to dance?
I started out as a writer, but I've always wanted to perform. In life, I try to respond to obstacles with determination or creativity—I can't cut my waffles with a knife and fork simultaneously? I'll cut them with a pizza roller! So, when dance said that who I was is enough, that my body already had the necessary creativity in it to succeed in the industry, I was hooked. For the first time, I wasn't inserting myself into a meritocracy, but embracing a God-given ability.  Dance is a playground. Our bodies are playgrounds. I love the idea that if we have nothing else—no lights, stage, funding or audience—we still have ourselves and by harnessing our bodies we can relay our presence.

Jerron HermanHow does it feel to return to the New Vic?
It feels surreal to return to the New Vic as a performer. What really excites me about this organization is that it feels like I'm returning to a culture of artistic breadth. You feel immersed in everything from the artistic programming to the colors on the wall. I'm with Heidi Latsky Dance because I was first with the New Vic and learned how to notice truly fertile atmospheres for creativity. Now, I get to perform and activate that atmosphere for New Yorkers. It's a surreal, full circle moment for me.
 
How has Cerebral Palsy shaped your life and shaped your path as a dancer?
I perceived CP as an alien for most of my life. I didn't know its language and it weighed on me. I did many things in spite of my disability. Now, as a dancer, CP is a color I use to express myself. I'm learning through experience how CP best works for me. I still let it have its way if I'm spasming in the middle of rehearsal, or if I'm making tiny adjustments when I'm called to be still. There are moments that I'm disabled and feel it, but across those moments I'm ultimately an artist solving a problem, versus a person in need of intervention. I used to facilitate my body's organization with braces and physical therapy and now I organize my body with dance. My job and my "therapy" overlap until it all melts down to play. I'm in bliss that I am already suited for what I do.
 
What kind of music inspires you?
I've always been a jazz fan because it's the soundtrack to New York City. I'm also very interested in the use of classical arias and opera in juxtaposition with more modern music and rap. I represent a fusion and to create with music that does the same is important to me. The placement of an aria suddenly becomes political. When placed against my moving body it relays this idea that my disability is as culturally classical as the song—that it is meant to be moving.
 
As a New Yorker and an artist, what does Victory Dance mean to you?
Being a part of Victory Dance means I am a New Yorker and an artist—two identities a disabled black boy from the Bay Area cannot get enough of. Being in this season with a new piece painstakingly and lovingly created by Heidi Latsky Dance means that our work is both accessible and celebrated. HLD has been a New York City dance company since 2001, and Victory Dance is an introduction to future dancers, donors and theater-goers in New York. I'm grateful the New Vic saw fit to include a work that is very New York and very much dance, victorious.

Learn more about Jerron and take a look at the New 42nd Street's studios in this piece from Great Big Story!

 

Photos: Daniel Kim, Andria May-Corsini
Posted by Beth Henderson

After the July 14th public performance of Victory Dance Program A, four members of the three companies took to the stage and answered questions from the audience. The three choreographers and one dancer were joined by New Victory Teaching Artist, Penelope McCourty, who facilitated the Talk-Back. The questions from the audience ranged from the artists' inspirations to how it feels to perform for young audiences. 

Most of the companies performing in Victory Dance don’t often have the chance to interact with young audiences, these dance professionals got feedback on their work that they never expected! Get to know the insights and stories behind behind Big Dance Theater, doug elkins choreography and the Advanced Beginner Group below.

 

Doug Elkins Choreography
Mark Gindick and company performing with doug elkins choreography, etc. Photo: Jamie Kraus
The Talk-Back panel included: 

Paul Lazar: Artistic Director and dancer from Big Dance Theater
Annie Parson: Artistic Director and choreographer of Big Dance Theater
Doug Elkins: Founder and choreographer of doug elkins choreography, etc.
David Neumann: Founder of the Advanced Beginner Group

What was the initial inspiration for these pieces?

David: I collaborated very closely with the writer Will Eno on the text. We were curious about helping an audience to connect to a puppet through dance. We wanted to comfort audiences if they felt a little lost or confused, since we’re all just people here, trying to get by. 

Annie: The first piece I choreographed that you just saw was inspired by a nocturne written by Stravinsky. The second piece was inspired by page 79 of Costume En Face, notations of work by Tatsumi Hijikata.

Paul, as a performer, how did you step into your inspiration space?

Paul: I didn’t bring my page 79 from Costume En Face to the stage with me, but there are a few examples I remember. One picture was "face flattened by fear," another was "peacock on fire." These are really vivid images. The thing about a picture is that it can suggest very strong movement even if it, itself, is still.  

Did you have a storyline in your head or did you leave it to the interpretation of the audience?

Doug: There are allusions towards stories, but you don’t have to explicitly follow them. The great thing about dance is that you can pay attention to the choreographer's stories or create your very own in your head!

For the last piece, were the dancers trained as puppeteers or puppeteers trained as dancers? What was the puppet made out of?

David: I would say they’re puppeteers trained as dancers, but to be a puppeteer you have to have a very good sense of movement. You have to be able to figure out how the figures walk and move from your own experience. 

The puppet's in the style of bunraku. Underneath the suit, it's made of wood, string and a little bit of elastic. The head was made out of paper mache.

 

advanced beginner group
The bunraku puppet, Steve, with the puppeteers from David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group! Photo: Susan Cook.
Do you feel different when you're choreographing from when you're dancing?

Paul: It is definitely a different experience. As a dancer, I'm first learning the movement and then discovering how to translate the choreographer's voice into my own style. As a choreographer, I’m giving movement to a dancer to see how it fits. 

 

Big Dance Theater
Aaron Mattocks performing in Big Dance Theater's Short Ride Out (3), Photo: Liz Lynch
What inspires you to do your job?

Annie: A very strange curiosity about how people move in a space and how to arrange that movement.  I don't think of choreography as dance steps, it’s more like building a house. You take the wood and the windows, put them together, and see how the house looks at the end.

It's all about seeing how little things become more than the sum of their parts. Choreography is about turning small movements into something that has a metaphysical meaning.

Since all four of you usually only perform for adults, what have you learned performing these pieces for young audiences that you didn’t know before? 

Paul: I was hugely enthused about being able to do this. This joy and energy from the audience is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

I love this flow of conversation with the Talk-Backs. All of your questions are so insightful and beautiful, it's like I'm learning about my work all over again. 

Doug: Well, I’m taller than everybody… There’s nothing more joyful than when working with young people. I really feel privileged to be here. 

David: I think that the one thing I’ve discovered is that there are moments where I was surprised how much it affected some of the younger ones. I will definitely revisit those moments to keep digging.

Looking back, showing our work to a younger audience has been a wonderfully chaotic experience. The innocence and the discovery–coupled with the energy from the audience–has been singular. 
 
 
New Victory Thumb Interested in inspiring a #LoveofDance in your family? Make sure to check out Victory Dance this summer!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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