Nina Joly ’11 to Perform in NYC's Central Park

Nina Joly ’11’s dance career is poised to take a leap forward Saturday, July 14, when a piece she choreographed will be featured as the finale of the ChEck Us OuT Dance Festival in New York City’s Central Park.

The festival, which is being billed as a celebration of female choreographers, kicks off at 5 pm at Summit Rock, at the intersection of 83rd Street and Central Park West. Admission is free.

Joly and seven other dancers, all but one with Mount Holyoke ties, will perform Gobbledigook, a piece Joly originally choreographed for the MHC dance department’s year-end showcase in 2011. The piece takes its name from the lead-off track of Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós’s 2008 album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly).

Allison Brzezinski, artistic director of ChEckiT!Dance, the dance company hosting the festival, describes Joly’s piece as upbeat, fun, spunky, and interesting.

“We picked her piece because it is completely engaging, full of life, energy, and beautiful movement,” Brzezinski says. “We are eager to hear audience responses to all of the pieces and look forward to presenting Nina’s work as the closing piece of the festival.”

Joly, who is returning to Mount Holyoke for the fall semester to serve as a guest artist in the dance department, is excited about her big break.

“I can’t wait,” she says. Applying to the festival was “a total shot in the dark.” When she found out her submission had been accepted, it was “the biggest surprise in the whole world.”

A lifelong dancer, Joly shifted her focus to choreography in high school. She choreographed Nunsense, Sweet Charity, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at her Connecticut high school and worked on Little Shop of Horrors, High School Musical, and Grease at her local playhouse.

Given her experience in musical theater, the Five College Dance Department, with its emphasis on modern dance, represented new territory.

“When I got to Mount Holyoke, I felt a little out of place with my background,” she says. “So I tried to push myself into what they were doing.”

Joly choreographed a solo for herself as a sophomore and a duet, Twins, as a junior. (Her mother is an identical twin.) She and dance partner Elizabeth Hazelton ’12 restaged Twins at the 2011 American College Dance Festival Association New England Conference, where they represented Mount Holyoke. But Joly missed the dynamics of working with a larger ensemble, so as a senior she decided to choreograph a piece for not one or two but ten dancers.

“With Gobbledigook it was my last year, and I knew I wanted to do something big,” she says.

Moreover, she wanted to have a good time. She told her dancers to imagine themselves at a fireside festival or summer-solstice party.

“A lot of modern dance can be very somber, very darkly emotional—not necessarily what I have always found compelling,” she says. “I wanted to do something bright, fun, and joyful.”

Six of the original dancers—Joly, Hazelton, Zoe Henrot ’12, Jennifer Roberts ’12, Jennifer Passios ’13, and Anastasia Funston ’11—will be performing in Gobbledigook 2.0 along with new additions Amanda Mehlman ’12 and Jessica Mauro. Even with eight dancers instead of ten, the piece promises to maintain its original look.

“A big deal logistically for the show was getting everyone back together,” says Joly, whose spiel went something like this: “I can’t pay you, I can’t even reimburse you for your travel expenses, but I can offer you the everlasting bond of Mount Holyoke dance camaraderie.”

—Christina Barber-Just