Thursday, September 10, 2020

Backyard to Backstage and Back Again

How many times have we heard (or maybe even said), “Let’s put on a show!” It’s one thing to throw a few bedsheets over a clothes line and quite something else to engage in a full load-in at a brick-and mortar professional venue.  MDTC was invited to perform our Beyond the Image Suite in the Jamaica (Queens) Center for Arts and Learning’s Making Moves Dance Festival 2020, and also had to reschedule Linked by Tradition, our concert of Middle Eastern, Flamenco, and Indian dance that was cancelled in March.  So, what could we do when performing arts centers are still in COVID-19 shutdown mode and “the show must go on,” even in a virtual arena, as both of these concerts had become? 

Costumes for folkloric dance are as much a character on stage as the performers themselves, so performing the dances in costume was a must.  And, since the costumes are all stored at MDTC “HQ,” it was a given that somehow we all had to perform together.  But where, when, and how?  To answer those questions MDTC got creative, looked at the resources at hand, and found the answer in the driveway at HQ. 

How it all began

A 16x8’ dance platform of marley-over-3/4” plywood could be laid on the asphalt a few feet in front of the garage door.  A much smaller stage that what the dancers are used to, but that was as wide as the driveway would allow.  

Bob G. setting up the dance platform

The garage door opening would be fronted with a rear-projection screen, and the projector would be housed at the back of the garage, providing the needed distance from lens to screen to create the images necessary to the productions. 

Nick VH and Bob G securing the screen

Tech Director Bob Greenwald arranged for and calculated all necessary details. Performers and technicians consulted calendars, and Saturday, September 5 was chosen as our video day.  We all prayed for good weather.

The weather gods smiled on us.  September 5 arrived as a perfect late-summer day.  Everyone had committed to a 14-day quarantine prior to our getting together.  MDTC dancers, Samara Adell, Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, Kaitlin Hines-Vargas, and Danielle Hartman were “socially distanced” in dressing areas. 

Kaitlin and Danielle in their tent.

Everyone was masked throughout the afternoon's rehearsal, unmasking only to perform for the video. 

Kaitlin, Morgiana, Danielle on stage; Samara giving notes

Lighting Designer Nick Von Hagel, acknowledging that he and his equipment could not complete with the sun, recommended that we begin our video recording after sunset so projections would be bright and visible.  It would also give the marley (very hot under the sun) a chance to cool down.

Even the stage gets a break

After an afternoon’s rehearsal and a short supper break, we were ready to go.  Lights! Cameras! Action!  

Morgiana and Samara wait "in the wings"


We wrapped up the recording around 10pm. By midnight, all signs that the driveway had been anything but a driveway were gone.  Cinderella’s coach had turned back into a pumpkin, but the glass slipper, full of memories of a whirlwind day and the video (of course!), remained.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Mosaic Dance Theater Company Announces Fall 2020 Season

 We are thrilled -- THRILLED --  to announce Mosaic Dance Theater Company's fall season.  To be able to have a fall season during COVID-19 quarantines is a privilege, and we want to share with you everything that's on the calendar.  Of course, everything is virtual, and we are hard at work creating new and relevant programming coming to you throughout the fall months. 

A Fabulous Fall Festival

The Making Moves Dance Festival at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning is happening this September 25 and 26, and MDTC is happy to be a part of its virtual programming. Faced with myriad challenges brought about by COVID-19, the artists involved are applying their creative processes to present the works chosen by the curators of the festival.  MDTC will present Beyond the Image Suite, an excerpt from our larger production of the same name which premiered in December 2019.  Performers are Samara Adell (choreographer), Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, Kaitlin Hines-Vargas, and Danielle Hartman.The festival will be presented at no charge, but you must register.

Register now so you don't miss it!

Roll Out the Red Carpet

We are all set to premier
 Mosaic: A World in Motion, a livestreamed video magazine.  Each month is a new program with a different subject, including: in-depth looks at works from our diverse repertory; cabaret nights with "live" performances by MDTC artists and guests; interviews with and performances by Guest Artists; related dance topics.  Co-hosts for World in Motion are Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, Samara Adell, and Adriana Rosa,  Each program will be livestreamed multiple times at no charge, but must register to receive the link. Our first program, "El Zar," will be shown on October 3 & 4, 2020. We are excited to begin.


Cancelled on March 12 by the coronavirus shutdown,
 Linked by Tradition has been rescheduled as a virtual weekend of dance from India, Spain, and The Near East for November 6 through 8.  Friday, November 6 provides master classes for NJ high school dancers, taught by Samara Adell (Middle Eastern dance), Antonia Messina (flamenco), and Rimli Roy (Indian dance). These three master teachers and choreographers return on Saturday, November 7 for community workshops. A concert performance featuring MDTC and our guest artists will be livestreamed on Saturday, November 8. All activities will be presented at no charge. Full details and registration links are coming soon.  Mark your calendars to immerse yourself in these three distinct yet related dance forms.

Linked by Tradition: Celebrating the Dance of India, Spain, and The Near East is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Coping in the Time of COVID-19 -- Samara Adell

From Samara

More time to cook

Happy man...women cooking!

Recipe for Vegan Tofu Scramble

In a medium size frying pan, saute 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, 1 medium onion, or 2 or 3 medium size scallions (I prefer) in 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce or Braggs Amino's (what I use).
When garlic and onions are slightly browned, add 1/3 cup chopped carrots and 1/3 cup of chopped sweet potatoes (both chopped in small pieces) and (optional) any type mushroom (chopped) about 1/4 cup.
In the meantime, take a block of firm or extra firm tofu and drain and wrap in paper towels and squeeze out excess water.  Take off paper towel.
Then take half a block and with a fork start to crush the tofu until it looks like cottage cheese, then do the other half.
After the carrots and sweet potatoes cook and become somewhat tender, put all of the tofu in the frying pan.  Keep smushing it.  Mix it together with everything in the pan.  Add one or two tablespoons of tumeric to taste and then put on top spinach or kale and cover under greens become wilted.  Mix greens that are wilted on top in with the rest of the scramble.  You can add olives if you'd like more flavor.  You can also add grated vegan cheese at the end and cover and let it melt on top!  Delicious!

My friend and student Kaitlin Hines brought to my attention the desperate situation her husband is in up at Harlem Hospital Centers. There are Patient Care Associates, Transporters, and Janitors who are being told they don't need masks, which we all know is not true. Their lives are being put at risk because of the shortage of supplies... like everywhere. These people as we know are on the front lines. They are our soldiers. If we just do a little something to help them it would help keep them safe. These are "lower level employees" who are not being taken care of. I would like to raise a few hundred dollars to buy some masks. I do have a connection to buy masks. I know many of us are out of work now but If everyone just chips in $5.00 or more or less we can get these people masks for the next month. This is an Independent organizing method by Kaitlin and her husband to get items directly to lower level workers.
Please send to my paypal
I would like to get these masks to these workers as soon as possible
Thank You...Let's support each other!

Enjoying spring.

Zoom teaching.

Best wishes to everyone.

Coping in the Time of COVID-19: Morgiana Celeste Varricchio

"mourn, process, create!"

I received an email with the subject "mourn, process, create!"  Those words fit my frame of mind exactly.  We made the decision to cancel Mosaic's March 20-22 weekend of events on March 12.  On March 16, NYC went into lockdown, and NJ followed a few days later.  For about a week, I was busy with putting away all the costumes, props, and accessories that were needed for the show.  Things didn't seem quite real, but the reality hit home very quickly.  

During week two, I didn't do too much of anything, still in mourning for not only Mosaic's events, but also for the cancellation of our entire spring season -- the various festival appearances the Company was looking forward to.  I did make a big pot of Leek and Swiss Chard soup (the recipe is included below).  Fortunately, I didn't fall down the slippery slope depicted in the cartoon at right.

Week three was my week to process, realizing that things were not going to magically reopen by Easter.  The nice weather and need to just get out of the house were what was needed to figure out a new normal.  I finished some long dormant sewing projects, and made time to start a regular schedule of dance. Family and friends started figuring out teleconferencing, so face-to-face, if not person-to-person, connections can happen

And now, the exciting phase of "create" has kicked in.   I am sewing  CDC-pattern masks for familyyy and friends -- as a start, who knows where this will take me. This time at home is the "writer's retreat" I've often dreamed about, and it's a perfect time to put on paper the plan for a new project that's been in my head for years! 

It's a good time, too, to check into any grants for which Mosaic may be able to apply.  There are not too many grant opportunities available for us, so that means a lot of research time to see what is possible.

We have to make the best of things as they are, and not let them get the best of us.  And before you get the soup recipe, who can resist a cat video -- a perfect example of the trials and tribulations of working at home. 

Leek and Swiss Chard Soup

2-3 leeks
1 bunch of swiss chard (green or red)
1/2 cup (about) regular olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz. chicken or vegetable broth
2 or 3 bouillon cubes
Small pasta (pastina, angel hair bird's nest)
Robust grating cheese (aged asiago, parmesano, romano)

Cut off the root end of the leeks and wash thoroughly.  Slice the leeks in 1/8 - 1/4" slices, including some of the green part.  Leeks are pretty sandy, so you'll need to make sure all the slices are well rinsed.

Rinse the swiss chard thoroughly, tearing the leaves, and include some of the tender stems.

Heat oil in a large stock pot.  When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and the sliced leeks.  Saute until the leeks are soft, stirring at intervals so things don't burn.  Add the swiss chard, the broth, and then add water to just cover the leaves, maybe 2-3 cups.  At this point, I add 2-3 bouillon cubes (depending upon how much water was added) to flavor the additional water.  Keep the burner on moderate heat until the liquid boils, then cover the pot and lower the heat.  After about 30 minutes, when everything is soft and wilted, puree with a hand blender right in the pot until everything is liquid.  All those stems are now pulverized!  Transfer to storage containers.  Refrigerate or freeze.
When it's time to serve, add about 1/2 cup of pastina, or 1 crushed angel hair bird's nest.  The pasta cooks as the soup heats up.  Garnish with grated cheese to taste.  Buon appetito!

Stay safe and healthy!

Coping in the Time of COVID-19 -- Kaitlin Hines-Vargas

Updates from Kaitlin

While my quarantine began as an early effort (March 12) to avoid public transit as someone with an autoimmune condition, the rest of the city quickly hunkered down with me.  I'm lucky enough to still be working in my job as a Grant Writer for a local nonprofit, and have spent a lot of time balancing work, artistic practice, and the love of my husband, bunny, and cat -- all in a small space.

Here are some of the things I've been doing to live my best life indoors:

1.  I filled out the census -- it was an easy online completion, and I was happy to get information to the government that will inform essential services in my area.

2. I quicklyyy reevaluated my dance practices and tried to find a variety of ways to keep myself active that challenged me and was fun.
  a.  I started by practicing with my old go-to instructional dance DVDs and appreciating the stylistic differences of my favorite dancers.
  b.  I found instructors I used to work with who moved away, and have purchased videos and attended online class with them -- it's a great way to support people you've lost a connection with, like my favorite Pilates teacher!
c.  I signed up for a 2-week dance fitness challenge that keeps in line with my trying to get my AFAA certification (delayed because I need to do in-person CPR/AED training).
d.  I've built at least 1-2 hours into every day to move and be in my body.

3.  I've spent lots of time catching up with old friends from out of the blue -- will be on video chat with my best friends from college this week, thanks to Zoom!

4.  Of course, I'm bonding with my animals much more.  I have cuddle time with each of them, and sometimes the bunny does stretching with me in the early morning.  Here I am in Cobra position with the little guy next to me.

5.  I've been lobbying to get donations of Personal Protective Equipment for all-levels of health care workers.  Myy husband is a healthcare worked who is not a doctor or nurse, and he and his coworkers are often sent into compromising situations with less than appropriate gear.  So far, I've assembled about 6 people who are sewing masks and mask covers for his hospital.  If you have time, money, or talent, I highly recommend finding a way to offer donations in the form of protective equipment to workers on the front lines.

That's all for me from Harlem!

Can't wait to dance with Mosaic again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Deja Vu All Over Again!

The show, unfortunately, does not go on!

MDTC is just one of hundreds? thousands? of arts organizations worldwide that has had to cancel events during this scary time of COVID-19.  We take the responsibility of respecting our Mosaic team -- artists and crew alike -- and our audiences very seriously.  There was no other decision to make, and so our eagerly anticipated weekend of events, Linked by Tradition: Celebrating the Dance of India, Spain, and The Near East scheduled for March 20, 21 and 22 was necessarily cancelled. We hope to reschedule for the fall, and you'll be the first to know the new dates.

However, we at MDTC are a resilient bunch, and while we don't want to make light of this situation, we are not strangers to circumstances of this ilk. Here's a look back at these heartbreakers.

2003. Remember the big NYC blackout on August 14, 2003?  We do! Mosaic Dance Theater Company was a few months away from our first production, and appearing at the NY International Fringe Festival with Caravan to Cairo and Gypsy Tales. The Fringe schedules were all over the place to give artists equal opportunity at the prime times. We had a performance of each of our shows scheduled for two prime slots on..August 15!  Cancelled, but not rescheduled.  Fortunately, we had a few other performances left, so it wasn't a total wash out.

2006. Jumping ahead a few. years, MDTC was presenting The Fisherman and the Djinni and The King of The Ebony Isles in an off-off Broadway venue in NYC, with a 5-performance run over a two- week period. We were sharing the space, and the resident company had performances earlier in the day.  The venue had terrific "vibes" but a not-so-terrific technical aspect. Two shows per day were two much for the systems to handle, and consequently they overheated. One night we lost stage lights, and the next night we lost the sound.  But, we didn't lose heart.

2006 -- AGAIN!. A popular cafe in South Orange, NJ, called "The Dancing Goat"  was home to several gala benefit performances presented by MDTC. We invited two stand-up comics to be a part of the show as a change of pace (one of them had just been in the cast of the above-mentioned Fisherman production). As we were heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel with a van full of performers, guess what? The van breaks down! While AAA could tow us to NJ, there was no way we could make it in time.  Fortunately, we were able to reschedule in January 2007.

2010. Technically, we did not cancel performances, but we might just as well have! We were back in NYC, in early June. An unusual heat wave for this time of year, plus an HVAC system on the fritz, and the nightmare problem of "the part has to be ordered" saw dancers and audience alike soldiering on in the sweltering theater. The AC for our first performance was passable -- after that, we brought the realism of the Sahara to our production.

2012. The phone lines between Morgiana Celeste Varricchio (MDTC's Producing Artistic Director), Samara Adell (MDTC's Artistic Director for Dance) and Jehan Kamal (our co-producer for this event) were heating as we wondered "should we?" "shouldn't we?" We were listening to the pre-emptive closures, everyone awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Sandy,  When then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed the subways, we decided we should too.  Happily, we were able to reschedule in February 2013.  There was a snowstorm that day, but who cared!  

2015. A broken water pipe in February 2015 shut down University of Pittsburgh/Bradford, and most of the town of Bradford, PA. MDTC was scheduled to be the highlight of their International Heritage Festival. While there was no opportunity to reschedule in 2015, we were invited back in 2016, and a good time was had by all.

And that, as they say, is show biz!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Mosaic's Guest Artists are "Linked by Tradition"

March 20, 21, and 22, 2020 are the days for a very special event, Linked by Tradition. MDTC in association with Mount St. Dominic Academy in Caldwell, NJ presents a 3-day celebration of the dance of India, Spain, and the Middle East. This exciting weekend begins with a series of Master Classes in Middle Eastern, Flamenco, and Indian dance for Essex County (NJ) high school dancers. On Saturday, we invite the community to join us for mini-classes in these three dance forms. The project culminates on Sunday with a special performance at the Doris M. Byrne Performing Arts Center.

Joining the dancers of the award-winning Mosaic Company are Guest Artists: Antonia Messina and VivaFlamencoNJ, and Rimli Roy and Surati for Performing Arts.

We are delighted to share the stage with these illustrious artists, and now introduce them to you,

Antonia Messina began dancing flamenco in Italy with Ester Moreno in the mid-1980’s.  Upon moving to Boston to attend law school, she joined the Ramon De Los Reyes Spanish Dance Theater and toured with them for four years.  She has performed internationally and now teaches and performs in the Tri-state area.  She began her own company, VivaFlamencoNJ, in the 2000’s and has directed productions which include flamenco artists from all over the world as well as artists from other genres, such as Middle Eastern and music and East Indian dance and music.  She often performs with her husband, Marc, who accompanies her on sax, flute and cajon.

Rimli Roy began her first formal lessons in Indian Classical dance at the age of four. Other than Indian classical dance forms, Rimli also experiments with folk dances and dance forms of Tagore music, as well as a fusion of the several genres of Indian Classical dance, creative dance and improvisation, venturing outside the conservative domain of set classical dance forms. She has choreographed for major stage and TV programs. She founded Surati, a performing arts academy based in New Jersey, in 2002. Surati’s mission is to promote Indian art and culture, educate and enrich the community primarily through dance,music, theatre, arts and crafts. Surati has performed at prestigious venues such as the United Nations, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Library of Congress. As director and instructor, Rimli teaches Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Manipuri, folk, contemporary and other creative dance forms.

This is a weekend of dance you won't want to miss! Register your place for the Saturday workshop and reserve your tickets for the Sunday performance now, at