The CUNY Dance Initiative and John Jay College, in collaboration with Rocha Dance Theater, present the World Premiere of Half-Heard at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 524 W. 59th Street, NYC on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 8pm. Tickets are $25 and are available at Brown Paper Tickets.
Integrating dance, theatrical parody and architectural costume design, Half-Heard shows a satirized version of one woman’s struggle to be heard in the workplace. An all-female identifying — and at times, drag cast — opens a veritable Pandora’s box of the absurdity of gender roles and human behavior. Half-Heard traverses themes of gender stereotypes, commodification, and identity – issues that have been exponentially heightened by the #Metoo movement–and is influenced by Rocha’s work for The Painted Ladies, her cabaret dance troupe.
Over the course of an eight-year residency at Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space, Rocha shared the stage with circus, burlesque, and sideshow artists, and found her voice through nightlife performance.
Ms. Rocha said, “I was drawn to burlesque as an avenue for holding up a mirror to audiences in a direct way: by taking on male and female gender stereotypes, from housewives to Disney Princesses to macho men, I used comedic satire to ridicule social standards, and this gave me the freedom to exaggerate and expose so-called “women’s issues” that are often normalized. Although Half-Heard is not a burlesque piece, my work in nightlife has directly impacted my creative process, particularly the complicated relationship between clothing and gender identity.”
Half-Heard is choreographed and directed by Jenny Rocha, and is performed by Courtney Drasner, Nicole Lemelin, Shoko Fujita, Nikki Ervice, Dervla Cary-Jones, Jamie Graham, Chelsea Escher, and Rocha herself. The costumes, also designed by Rocha, are an integral part of the piece’s theatricality. Experiences with being invisible, forced gender identity, and deflated ambition are illuminated through costuming that dictates the movement: performers drag balloons, hide behind hats, and sport an overwhelming amount of pink bows and tulle.
The original music score by long-time collaborator and husband Joseph Rivas uses orchestral elements layered with synthesizers and drums to create a dream-like landscape for the work.
Jenny Rocha is a choreographer, dancer, costume designer and Artistic Director of Rocha Dance Theater, the Brooklyn-based dance company she founded in 2001. She is also the Director of The Painted Ladies, a cabaret group that was admitted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. A first generation Portuguese-American from New Bedford, Massachusetts, Rocha attended Roger Williams University for Dance and Performance, where she graduated with an Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award. She then moved to New York City, where Jenny was a member of Sean Curran Company, Heidi Latsky Dance and other freelance choreographers for 12 years. Her choreography has been presented by esteemed venues such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art,The Boston Center for the Arts, Danspace Project, La MaMa, Galapagos Art Space, and more. Rocha has received awards and residencies including The Puffin Foundation grant, Galapagos Art Space Residency from 2008-2014, Armitage Gone! Dance/MANA Contemporary Space Residency and CUNY Dance Initiative in 2015. The US Embassy in Lisbon recently awarded her an Innovation Grant to perform her work Battledress in Azores, Portugal, as well as host educational workshops in September 2018. Rocha’s choreography has received critical acclaim in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Village Voice, among others. She has taught dance at universities and colleges nationwide, including Roger Williams University, Connecticut College, Rhode Island College, West Virginia University, and Lehman College. Rocha has been a teaching artist at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music for seven years and serves on the guest faculty at Mark Morris Dance Center.
Rocha Dance Theater is a Brooklyn-based dance company led by artistic director, Jenny Rocha. RDT’s work ranges from contemporary dance to dance theater and cabaret. Rocha has created a prolific amount of works and evening-length productions since 2001. As an artist, she is dedicated to creating provocative dance that is both artistic and entertaining. Jenny also creates costumes for RDT and considers this an important part of the creative process, performance experience and overall visual design. Rocha Dance Theater has been presented and/or commissioned by numerous venues and events such as Danspace Project (City/Dans Commissioning Initiative), Joyce Soho, LaMama ETC, Galapagos Art Space, The Philadelphia Museum, The Boston Center for the Arts, The New Bedford Art Museum, Roger Williams University, 92nd Street Y, Dixon Place, The Flea Theater and more. Rocha Dance Theater’s Battledress has been touring nationally and internationally since 2013.
Rocha Dance Theater’s residency and performance at John Jay College is part of the CUNY Dance Initiative (CDI), a program that opens the doors of CUNY campuses to professional choreographers and dance companies. CDI receives major support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Jerome RobbinsFoundation, the SHS Foundation, and the Harkness Foundation for Dance. CDI is spearheaded and administered by the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York, an international leader in educating for justice, offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.