Go Deeper For the love of dance: Gala's local ensemble, Pt. 2

For the love of dance: Gala’s local ensemble, Pt. 2

Posted September 11th, 2016

Jérôme Bel’s Gala is a joyous performance that celebrates the love of and desire to dance without the complexes that often keep people from cutting loose. Twenty dancers of all different ages, levels of training, and walks of life take the stage to interpret a series of dances across a range of eras and in turn their performances reveal each person’s desire to move, to strive for joy, perfection, to transform with unabashed expression. The show reinvents itself with each staging, building an entirely new ensemble out of local performers each time it moves to a new city. On September 13, Gala will have its Philadelphia premiere as part of the 2016 Fringe Festival. Over the next few days we’ll be introducing you to some of the dancers that will be a part of this iteration’s ensemble. For more info and tickets click here. (Pt. 1)

annie-gala-pic-1Anne White

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was born a very long time ago in NYC but grew up in a NYC suburb. I moved from NYC to Philadelphia in 1990 when I joined The Pennsylvania Ballet as a dancer. I currently live in in the burbs of Philly with my husband, 3 teenagers and 2 dogs. I am an Assistant Professor of Dance in the School of Dance at The University of the Arts. I like to see performances, read, watch TV (yes, I said it), hang out with my family, do crafty DIY projects around the house, troll design blogs and “sing” remarkably badly at the top of my lungs in the car.

Why do you love to dance?

I love to dance because I am a human and because I can’t sing. I went to a groovy hippie movement class when I was five and definitely moved a lot in a Montessori school but my earliest memory of really dancing is putting our LP of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite on and creating dramatic narrative dances to the music up and down the stairs of our split level house around age 6 (The Coffee section was particularly menacing to me).

I have virtually NO non fond memories of dancing. Because even if I didn’t love what I was physically dancing, I always loved the people I was dancing with and the fact that I was even dancing at all! Dancing in a benefit at the Trocadero, in a ballet at The Academy of Music or The Kennedy Center, with friends at a club or in class with my students – They are all equal creative expressions and who doesn’t like to express themselves?


(photo by Ben Esner Photography)


Marilyn Esner

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was born in Detroit, Michigan and remember very clearly doing the Pizacatta Polka when I was about five years old. I ended up in Philadelphia, retired several years ago from my job as an Algebra teacher in Philadelphia. I enjoy reading, knitting, playing cards, studying and exploring the city with my two dogs.

Julian Darden

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

image2I was born in Albuquerque New Mexico and moved across country to Virginia Beach, Virginia. After moving to central Pa, I found myself here in Philadelphia. I’m currently a freelance dancer as well as a dance teacher but I aspire to  preform more and try my hand at singing, acting, and modeling. In my free time I like to play video games and watch action/fantasy films.

Why do you love to dance?

Dance is the language of the body. Not only has it helped me reach the hearts of others, it has helped me better understand myself. It has, in many ways, saved my life. My fondest dance moment actually happened just recently. I have been apprenticing in Umfundalai, a contemporary African dance technique created by Dr. Kariamu Welsh,  going on 6 years now. Having the progenitor of this codified technique tell me she recognizes progress and sees a future for me in the technique really was a milestone moment. My earliest [dance memory]? I’d say dancing in the living room with my mom, aunt, and cousin in the 90s. The music was so different back then.


img_20160612_094300Helen Gassmann

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I grew up in the small town of Hamburg, Pennsylvania, and have lived in Philly for four years. I began ballet lessons when I was just 3 years old and have been a competitive baton twirler for the past 12 years – I just retired this summer! I held feature twirler positions as an undergrad at Temple University and during my graduate education at Villanova University. I just finished up my MA in Public History and work for a cultural heritage non-profit. I love living in Philadephia and I try to experience everything the city has to offer. In my free time, I’m often baton twirling in Clark Park or taking a run through my neighborhood.

Why do you love to dance?

I love to dance because it combines athleticism with art, and drives me physically as well as creatively. Baton twirling in particular is great outlet. During a practice session, nothing matters besides you and your baton. There is also no better feeling than catching a new trick for the first time!

I don’t really have an earliest dancing memory – I can’t remember a time before I was a ballerina! Many of my fondest memories are steeped in the bonds I formed with my fellow dancers at Horizons Dance Conservatory in Leesport, PA and with my many baton twirling friends over the years.