Arts Culture

International Women’s Day of Dance celebrates agency, individuality and creativity

The free one-hour event will feature five powerful performances by female choreographers and an accessible movement workshop, all outdoors (rain or shine) at Riverview-Fisk Park in Jersey City on Match 8.

In the years since International Women’s Day was formally adopted by the UN in the ’70s,  the celebration has gained more traction in the arts sector, particularly in the historically female-dominated field of dance. 

You can see so for yourself on March 8 at 5 p.m., when MeenMoves artistic director Sameena Mitta celebrates this important day through the inaugural International Women’s Day of Dance at Riverview-Fisk Park in Jersey City. With local arts organization SMUSH Gallery as a production partner, the free one-hour event will feature five powerful performances by female choreographers and an accessible movement workshop—rain, snow or shine. Says Mitta: “Considering International Women’s Day happens only once a year, there is no other choice. Of course we should be celebrating every day, but this is the one day a year we have dedicated to it.” (For those who can’t attend in person (or are a little weather shy), the event will be livestreamed on Instagram @meenmoves.)

Located in Jersey City Heights, Riverview-Fisk Park is a clean, quaint green space with a lovely calm energy and a beautiful view of Manhattan. While it hasn’t seen many (or possibly any) dance performances, Mitta says that locals eagerly stop and ask questions during her company’s regular outdoor rehearsals. (MeenMoves Dance Center is located a couple of blocks away.) 

“Everybody is craving art, and they want to know what we’re doing. If you share a little about what you’re working on, they turn around and start telling some of their personal stories about how the theme you’re working on relates to them.” 

Katelyn Halpern & Dancers

Mitta is hopeful that, as with her rehearsals, people will happen upon the event and be intrigued enough to stick around.

According to Mitta, dance is an ideal way to celebrate International Women’s Day because it provides a space for women to challenge traditional power structures, gender roles, and stereotypes—to assert their autonomy and agency. 

“Through dance, women can claim their bodies as their own while expressing their individuality and creativity.” 

International Women’s Day is both a celebration of the contributions women have made to society and a reminder about the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality. 

Sameena Mitta. Credit: Maeve FitzHoward

Mitta takes inspiration from the innumerable strong women she’s crossed paths with over the years, and is especially inspired by her mother. 

“My mom is a fierce woman who taught my sister and I how to see ourselves as equals in the world we move around in. That base empowered me to set high expectations for myself and what I wanted to achieve. Working primarily for women throughout my career gave me the opportunity to see women in more powerful positions so I wasn’t always hyper-aware of gender inequities. But I knew they were there. I knew it was real. There are countless women in the dance community—both on stage and behind the scenes—that bring this world to life for us, and this is a small nod to each of them,” Mitta says.

While Mitta has self-produced her own work, this is her first foray into organizing outside her company structure. 

“As a person of color who hasn’t always necessarily fit into any specific category, I want to be seen as somebody who’s helping pave the way for others. I think it’s essential, especially for younger generations, to see women and people of color and different abilities in positions of support.” 

At the top of her priority list is giving female-identifying choreographers a platform while getting people outside during a time of year usually characterized by hiding from the winter. International Women’s Day of Dance is a celebration that’s uninterested in judging others and being judged. It’s a kind of community hug.

Host company MeenMoves is a dance-theatre company that explores the experiences of those who check the “none-of-the-above” box; the misfits and outsiders who see the world slightly differently. Much of their recent work has been in screendance, and they are currently working on a 10-year project that re-imagines a well-known collection of German children’s stories, Struwwelpeter, as a set of dance films. 

“This is my happy place because I get to collaborate with composers, dive in deep with a solo dancer, and work with my wonderful videographer Alicja on something that lasts longer than just a one-night run.”

Sokolow Theatre, ‘Ballad in a Parking Spot’

At the event, MeenMoves will perform Fe, which honors the strength of women navigating the challenges of modern-day migration, and asks: “What does it take to feel as though we belong?” Spurred by the increase in racist attacks towards those of Asian descent, JENNIFERCHINdance will perform an homage to Chin’s Asian heritage and community entitled A Love Letter. Picking up on favorite themes from past work, New Year’s Rondo (Var. 1) by Katelyn Halpern & Dancers is a line dance designed to bring out variation in the cast of dancers “like long grasses blowing in the breeze.” Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble will present modern dance pioneer Anna Sokolow’s 1936 Ballad in A Popular Style, a celebration of rare moments of tranquility and freedom in the midst of the Great Depression, and a reminder of the sheer determination of women to forge their own paths.

In addition to the performances, audiences will be invited to take place in a workshop based on MeenMoves’ piece, Fe

“After witnessing performances by Lucinda Childs and Anne Theresa de Keersmaker who are both masters at minimalist dance work, I wanted to challenge myself to create my own minimalist piece. Over the past four years, I’ve developed Fe based on overlapping patterns of six, and the workshop will involve one of the dance’s underlying movements. The workshop will take place before the performance so audience members can approach the dance with a fresh, embodied understanding.” 

Mitta intends to make this piece of simple yet powerful choreography a yearly workshop tradition.

Those interested in supporting International Women’s Day of Dance can send donations through