By Roger Lee for The Dance Journal
Spring has officially sprung. This weekend kicks off Philadelphia’s spring dance season. It also marks the debut of the Philadelphia Youth Dance Fest. The Dance Journal caught up with the festival’s founder and artistic director Melissa Chisena to find out about this weekend’s debut.
“I noticed that there was so much young talent in Philadelphia, but that there lacked a sense of community. Dancers will attend their own school and only dance in their own studio’s performances,” said Chisena. Her extensive experience as a dance educator contributed to the birth of Philadelphia Youth Dance Fest.
The mission of the Philadelphia Youth Dance Fest is to provide young and aspiring dancers an experience that will help them with their craft, future careers, and in life. According to Chisena, “The fest is an occasion that will allow them an opportunity to learn from their peers, unite through dance, and gain a sense of community.” Chisena wanted to create an environment where young dancers can be inspired and learn from each other in an open, non-judgmental environment. “There is no winning and loosing in this festival. It is not a competition. It’s about being supportive,” added Chisena.
Chisena is used to supporting and nurturing young dancers. She is a passionate dance teacher with experience teaching youth, college students, and adults. She feels that he work as a dance teacher has a direct correlation to her work as a dance producer. “I think being a teacher has prepared me to “be the person in charge”. As a teacher you are the one that the students look up to for guidance, knowledge and support. I feel that I am able to extend that knowledge to the world of being a producer. It also helps that the field that I teach is dance.”
In casting the festival performances, Chisena drew inspiration from her talented young students. “I hand selected the companies performing in the festival. Some I have experienced from teaching and master classes. My colleagues recommended some companies to me as well,” admitted Chisena. She ended up selecting a diverse group of companies with different training, backgrounds, and interpretations of dance.
“We have a little bit of everything! The program is jam packed with 19 pieces ranging from classical ballet, contemporary ballet, contemporary, modern, indian classical dance, jazz, and pop,” said Chisena. The festival’s lineup includes Babylon School of Dance, Berks Ballet Theatre, Dance Elite, Delaware Ballet, Delaware Valley Dance Academy, Institute of Dance Artistry, Janice’s DanceWorks, Jovo Dance, Nava Nritya Dance Academy, Opus 2 Project, Pennsylvania Regional Ballet, and Philadelphia Dance Theatre.
“One of my proudest moments was the realization that there was interest and that it was actually going to happen! I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if other directors would have interest in performing in something like this.,” admitted Chisena. She added, “I think my proudest moment is yet to come when the lights fade to black and everyone is quiet in the audience and the music of the first piece starts to play and the dancers start to move!”
Philadelphia Youth Dance Fest
Saturday, March 22 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 23 at 4:00 pm
Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets $20 General ~ $15 Students/Seniors
For Tickets Visit: www.paintedbride.org/events/philayouthdancefest