S.O.A.R.ing through Philly Fringe

“I didn’t start dance classes until I was 11 years old. I had two girl cousins who always took dance, and they got me into it at family dinners and holidays. We were always making dances.” Her cousins—one now a nurse, another a salesperson for a medical supply company—may have introduced her to dance, but Kelli Moshen’s entrepreneurial spirit drove her to create her own dance company, Project Moshen. Their show S.O.A.R. opens this weekend at the 2012 Philly Fringe.

Kelli’s first dance class was a hip hop class, leading, a few years later, to admission to the dance programs at both CalArts and Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, but she found that CalArts focus didn’t mesh well with her affinity for popular forms. And she had worked with UArts summer program for three years, and felt at home there.

After graduating from UArts in 2009, Kelli moved to New York City to work as a junior agent with the MSA agency, whose clients have choreographed or performed in everything from Smash (for which choreographer Josh Bergasse just received an Emmy nomination) to So You Think You Can Dance. She returned to Philadelphia in September 2010, largely for the community she has here.

After the jump: pop music and popular forms

“To do our company, the dancers I wanted to work with were here. But now we’re trying to transition to do showcases in New York as well,” Kelli says, because her old contacts there know she’s founded a company, and have been asking after her.

Project Moshen—which includes Samantha Carmichael, Sarah Dziomba, Narissa Fell, and Danielle McGilligan, in addition to Kelli—performs a wide variety of styles, and brings in guest choreographers as well. For this year’s performance, they’re working with Samuel Reyes and Tara Madsen-Robbins.

Kelli says that thus far, their variety shows have attracted an audience composed primarily of non-artists, “which is great, because they’re the hardest ones to get to follow you. This year, I want to showcase everything we do. I like doing variety shows because we get to demonstrate different aspects of our work.”

They use a lot of popular music, ranging from upbeat jazz to the world’s biggest DJs, and use a lot of very identifiable tracks to help people relate to their projects, “common songs that people would recognize from movies and soundtracks,” Kelli says. She also uses electronic beats that DJs make for her—Kelli works as an MC for a DJ company, and is a fan of Tiesto, Skrillex, DeadMau5, and other electronic dance music practitioners.

“If I’m listening and it affects me, it’ll usually affect my audience. I grew up in pop culture, and try to integrate that with the instrumental music I find.”

“I love creating stages,” says Kelli. And in Philadelphia and its suburbs, her stages are proving popular homes for new popular work—last year’s show was a sellout.

This year, the stage S.O.A.R. will soar (rimshot!) to Koresh Dance Studios on September 8 at 8:00 pm and September 9 at 7:00 pm. 2020 Chestnut Street, Center City. $15.

–Nicholas Gilewicz