When Julia Gingerich moved to Astoria, she noticed there were few opportunities for highly trained adult dancers to refine their craft and perform for the community.
The words of Sparrow Dance Co.’s vision statement — “to dance across boundaries of age, culture and ideologies” — captures Gingerich’s passion for the group she founded last year.
“Dance is a language with no words,” Gingerich, who serves as the group’s artistic director, said. “When I don’t have words to express what I’m feeling, whether it’s joy or sadness or frustration, I dance. I create dance and I share my creation with somebody else in hopes that it will evoke emotion or something in them.”
The company is developing a show with a musical theater slant that will be performed three times in September. The show comes after a successful set of family-friendly, social distanced performances in Astoria earlier this summer. The show will include local guest singers and numbers such as “Spoonful of Sugar” from “Mary Poppins;” “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid;” and “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from “Oklahoma!”
The goal of the street dances this summer, Gingerich said, was to find a way to be resilient and find hope while also bringing dance to the community safely.
“A street show was a great way to combine the state the company was in and the state the world was in and give back,” she said.
The company also includes Sarah Cohen, Sarah Elder and Celeste Olivares.
One of the company’s focuses is working with children. This happens through workshops and school partnerships. Through the partnerships, the company leads children to learn about different genres of dance and music. This mission has led to working with guest artists and exploring Irish dance, salsa, Afro-Caribbean, Hawaiian hula, among other styles of dance.
“We’re looking around for new groups to bring in all the time,” Cohen said.
Cohen serves as the company’s board treasurer and administrative assistant. She also works as an instructor at Maddox Dance Studio.
The company often pairs dance with other forms of visual and performance art. Their debut production, for example, included a singer, poet and an art installation by a local woodworker.
“It’s not just dance and only dance,” Gingerich said. “I like to bring in live musicians or figure out, ‘How can we use this piece of sculpture because it inspired me?’”
‘A passion project with benefits’
Before the coronavirus pandemic led to event cancellations, the company was consistently presenting at least one event each month.
The company rents and uses various locations for rehearsals and programs, from the First Presbyterian Church to the outdoors.
The pandemic temporarily curtailed these activities — including a May fundraiser at the Liberty Theatre. The lack of events, however, has created an opportunity to further develop the company’s business and sustainability.
The company is a nonprofit. Currently, neither Gingerich nor Cohen receive compensation for their work, but they hope to see that change in the future.
“We’re planning on having this not just be a passion project (but eventually) a passion project with benefits,” Cohen said.