The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Tiny Dancers Turn Professional on New York's Stages

NEW YORK — A group of tiny dancers are getting the break of a lifetime, performing alongside a world-renowned dance company in theaters all through the city.

RIOULT, a professional modern dance company based in SoHo, will debut the Manhattan portion of a five-brough tour of "Small Steps: Tiny Revolutions" on Sunday. The piece is designed to cast 13 students between the ages of nine and 13 for a performance in every borough.

"It's a really cool opportunity for the kids," RIOULT dancer Marianna Tsartolia said about the program, which will be next performed at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice during the company's New York Season.

"They get to do the dress rehearsal and the tech rehearsal like a true professional, and of course dance with all the professional dancers."

The kids' costumes include a caterpillar, water creatures and tree bugs.
The kids' costumes include a caterpillar, water creatures and tree bugs.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Della Hasselle

The piece, which was originally choreographed in 2008 as a co-production with Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, is based on the poem "Don't Go Too Far," by Deborah Sacarakis.

The tale is of a little boy who loves to dance, a father who disapproves of the boy's hobby, and the mystical journey the boy takes in order to escape his oppression and find his inner voice.

"It's a great piece," said Tsartolia.

"The music is really wonderful and interesting for them, and the movement is nothing like they've done before. It's a full production."

The piece was so successful in Pennsylvania that company director Pascal Rioult decided to integrate it into an educational program for New York City kids in late 2011, bringing performance opportunities to kids in areas ranging from Hunt's Point in the Bronx to Brooklyn's Brighton Beach.

The 5-borough tour is a two-year project that partners with CUNY performing arts centers and New York City public schools as part of the company's educational DanceREACH program.

The first New York performance was held December 4 at the Lovinger Theater at Lehman College on the Bronx's Bedford Park Boulevard West.

"The choreography is really cool," said dancer and Hunts Point resident Jeremy Figueroa, 14, who performed the New York debut piece in the Bronx last December and is returning for the Manhattan show.

"I like modern because it's something that lets me release," he added. "When I'm working on dance, it's the only place I can really be myself."

At an audition held in the company's SoHo studios in late April, Teaching Artist Nicole Dalia helped company dancers Tsartolia and Anastasia Soroczynski show the students their potential parts as mythical creatures that populate the imaginary world the boy creates in the story.

The creatures, which include a caterpillar, water animals and quirky, crawling tree bugs, incorporate various principles of modern dance, including flat backs, high extensions, floor work and contractions.

"All three of them move very differently, and that's a great opportunity for the kids to experience different types of qualities of movement," said Tsartolia, who also acts as the Artistic Advisor for the company's educational program.

For dancer Hana Soula, 11, the audition really opened her eyes to the world of modern dance, and to the benefits of rehearsal.

"Some of the moves, like, when you first do them, feel kinda weird, but once you did them again and again they felt kind of right," Soula said.

Sahara Matic, a 12-year-old Chelsea resident, said that she loved practicing the piece, and that the water creature section was the most appealing part.

"I like the water, because I like slow dances, and they give you time to take in what you're doing," she said.

"It just helps me express myself."

Matic, an experienced performer, also felt excited about the possibility of being onstage with a professional company.

"It's a great feeling, when you've done something amazing and people are clapping for you," Matic added. "It just feels really good."

Tsartolia agreed.

"All the kids are leaving with a magical smile and sparkly eyes," she said.