Student starts troupe to share passion for dance
Fairleigh Dickinson University freshman Kaitlyn Esposito wanted to create more opportunities for dance on the Florham Campus. She tried the Devils Dancers team, and is even a dance minor.
However, she said she wanted to create something different for others who have an interest in dance. Esposito created the Fairleigh Dance Project, a dance troupe dedicated to using contemporary dance to portray social issues, in January.
As president of the Fairleigh Dance Project, Esposito said she spends time planning different events for the troupe to participate in, as well as choreographing her own dance moves.
Esposito said she got her start as a dancer at age four. Since then, she has moved through Linda D’Amico’s Academy of Dance, and eventually auditioned at the Morris County School of Technology.
“I was a dance major and theater minor in high school,” said Esposito. “I created the Fairleigh Dance Project off of my high school’s program.”
Esposito said that she fell in love with the way the high school’s program was run. “Really, I was inspired by Ruth Clark, the dance department director of visual and performing arts academy at the Morris County School of Technology,” she said.
“I really enjoyed the way it was run, and the rehearsals, because it was very professional and very organized.”
Sharing her passion for dance, Esposito said that she wanted to give other people with an interest in dance the opportunity to join a club that allowed them to pursue that passion. “Through my club, I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to choreograph their own piece, and to dance for causes that they feel strongly about,” Esposito said.
Esposito said that the idea came from discussing her passion for dance with her professional communication professor, Jeffrey Muska.
“After hearing about my enthusiasm for it, [Muska] said, ‘Why aren’t you doing it?’ and he told me what he always does, which is to use my ‘Kaitlyn energy’ and start doing what I love.”
When she began planning, Esposito said that she was worried about competing with the Devils Dancers team.
“I wasn’t sure there would be a lot of interest in the Fairleigh Dance Project, but Professor Muska made me feel that I could do it, and I did it!”
Now with 10 members, Esposito said that her biggest step in getting the Fairleigh Dance Project started was convincing herself that it was a good idea.
“First, I messaged people who were in other dance areas and tried to find interest, and that’s how I found the club’s vice president, Samantha Gee,” she said. “I set up an interest meeting and from there I talked about how this is what I wanted to do and showed people they could be founding members.”
Gee said she was excited about Esposito’s idea for a contemporary dance club because they had worked on dance together before. “Kaitlyn charmed me into helping her bring this project to life, which I’m very glad about,” said Gee.
Gee also said that because the dance community on campus is small, the club was a great way to make a statement.
“Dance is a way of expressing, and if we can express things that are important not only to us, but to our society, then that’s even better,” Gee said.
For freshman member Darlene Benjamin, the Fairleigh Dance Project was about more than just dancing. It was about rehashing old skills. “At first I was nervous to join because it has been two and half years since I last danced,” said Benjamin. “But with ease it was like my dancing abilities never left.”
Benjamin continued, “As the Fairleigh Dance Project has finished for the year, I do not regret joining because I was able to meet new people and get back to dancing.”
Esposito said that the troupe’s first rehearsal was a success, and so were the rest. Rehearsals were on Monday nights, “and the dancers prepare choreography and share it with each other,” said Esposito.
Esposito said she is thankful to have supporters of the Fairleigh Dance Project, especially when things got crazy during planning for events this semester.
Esposito said that the troupe’s biggest supporter and club adviser, Cynthia Thole Loewus, was unable to make it to the troupe’s first showcase.
“Showcase was a hassle because toward the end it was hard to book rooms and spaces,” said Esposito. “At the last minute, we booked the Orangerie, and we had problems because our advisor couldn’t make it, but luckily, Sarah Azavedo stepped in for the showcase, and I am so grateful she was able to help out because she’s one of our biggest cheerleaders.”
Esposito also gives credit to freshmen Gino Mainiero and Brian Quinones for helping with sound problems and ticket sales in the Orangerie and to freshman Brandon Ferriero for helping with film and photography for the troupe’s social media accounts. “We were really pleased with the turnout of the showcase, and we were extremely happy to have the support of friends, family, faculty, and fellow students,” said Esposito.
For next semester, Esposito hopes to involve the Fairleigh Dance Project in two showcases. “We want to do what we’ve already done and add opportunities like the Homecoming game and Family Weekend,” Esposito said. “We’re hoping people will reach out to us for other opportunities, and we will keep asking if there are any opportunities for us to partake in.”
This year, the Fairleigh Dance Project performed at Relay for Life, the Maddy Awards, the IMAGES Student Arts Festival and their own Showcase.
“The biggest success of the semester was seeing the impact it’s made on campus and in people’s lives,” Esposito said.
For more information on the Fairleigh Dance Project, follow the group’s Facebook page at Fairleigh Dance Project, or its Instagram account at fairleigh_dance_project.