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Marijke Eliasberg

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Jana Hicks

The Next Stage Project is an innovative dance collective that creates performance opportunities and experiences to help dancers further their careers and realize their dreams by forming partnerships between artists from around the globe. The group is one of the featured companies in the second annual Brooklyn Dance Festival, which will take place Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 at the Actors Fund Arts Center in downtown Brooklyn.

In the interview below, Co-Artistic Directors Marijke Eliasberg and Jana Hicks discuss their mentors, creative influences, and more.

What piece are you performing at The Brooklyn Dance Festival and what is the idea or inspiration behind it?

We will present All the Way and Back. It’s a physical interpretation of life presenting itself in different challenges — sometimes taking you up, sometimes taking you down. Our philosophy is that whatever the challenge is, all you can do is keep going and enjoy the ride.

What is your dance background?

Marijke Eliasberg: A native of the Netherlands, Founder and Co-Artistic Director of The Next Stage Project (TNSP), I have been dancing, teaching and choreographing for the past 15 years in New York City and the Netherlands. I have a BFA in Physical Education with a specialization in Dance, and continued my Modern Dance studies at the Rotterdam Dance Academy (Codarts) and Dance Space Inc. in NYC. I have performed with numerous companies and choreographers including Jana Hicks, Pauline Levick, Guido Tuveri, SunHwa Chung, Jenni Hong, Max Stone, and Kevin Wynn. I’m currently on faculty at Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center, Ballet Arts and the Joffrey Contemporary Summer Program.

Jana Hicks: A native of Texas, I hold a BFA in dance from Southern Methodist University where I received the Meadows Outstanding Performer Award. While in Texas, I danced with Dancers Unlimited Repertory Co., Citijazz, Meadows Repertory Dance, The Dallas Opera, and performed the works of choreographers such as Toni Beck, Eddie Burgess, Mathew Diamond, Judith Jamison, Bill T. Jones, Parker/Pucci, Ross Parks, Moses Pendleton of MOMIX, Bertram Ross, and Max Stone. Following an invitation to apprentice with the Jose Limon Company, I moved to New York in 1990 and have since performed with a wide variety of companies and choreographers. I was a member of The Kevin Wynn Collection from 1995 – 2005, and currently serve as faculty member at Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center, and The Joffrey Ballet School.

Who were your mentors, and who are the dancers or choreographers you find inspiring today?

We both always found inspiration from choreographers that use pure physicality to express what they have to say. Kevin Wynn is a major influence and inspiration. We enjoy watching dancers who can push their physical abilities so far and yet remain so delicate that the movement speaks for itself. The choreographers who inspire us today include Kevin Wynn, Hoffesh Schechter, Wim van de Keybus, and Johannes Wieland.

Favorite part of the rehearsal process?

The whole process: the openness, creating, exploring and puzzling and finding the solutions. We like to keep the process as open as possible. Always being in the moment.

Most played songs on your iPod?

Our warm-up music for our classes.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests outside of dance?

Nature, cooking, and making connections all over the globe.

To learn more about the Brooklyn Dance Festival or to purchase tickets, visit brooklyndancefestival.org. And check out our Facebook page for the latest Festival news, artist interviews, and more.

 Interview conducted by Elisa Lichtenbaum. A Senior Writer at Thirteen/WNET New York, Elisa has written articles on subjects ranging from Woody Allen to Downton Abbey. She studies tap dance with Germaine Salsberg.

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The Next Stage Project (Photo by Bill Hebert)