Asbury Park Dance Fest

All Arts, All New Jersey

Asbury Park Dance Fest featured array of great performances on nightclub stage

written by ROBERT JOHNSON August 29, 2023

Where does the dance scene go when audiences are on vacation? One place seems to be Asbury Park, where a crowd gathered at House of Independents on Aug. 27 for the latest edition of the Asbury Park Dance Festival.

Though visitors to the Shore might regard this fundraising gala as a mere interlude between frosty cocktails and dips in the surf, the dancing is seriously good. A team of Paul Taylor alumni organize these events to raise money for Arts Ed NJ (previously known as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership), and this year’s program featured major talents and a terrific range of styles.

While most of the dances shown on this club’s small stage were duets, there was no shortage of variety. It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast, for instance, than the one between tapper Dario Natarelli and a pair of gutsy Pilobolus veterans, Casey Howes and Jake Warren, now with Leggy Bones Physical Theater Company.

In an atmospheric sketch choreographed with Michelle Dorrance, Natarelli wistfully addressed onstage cellist Derek Louie as Louie played a transcription of the yearning Gershwin melody, “The Man I Love.” Natarelli gently pawed the floor and appeared to dream. Gliding around the stage, and swooping low, he worked himself up to a tapping outburst that stood for passion.

Howes and Warren displayed no such delicacy. Their piece, “Chaos Theory,” portrayed a grappling, rough-and-tumble relationship. Howes flew by the seat of her pants as Warren grabbed her by the belt and swung her in circles. She clambered up one side of her partner and down the other and wrapped her legs around his head, vise-like. This was love as a form of martial arts, tempered by a sense of humor and the characters’ romantic confusion.

Considerably more subtle, but similarly with no holds barred, was Doug Varone’s “Maybe,” performed by members of his company. Set to the rhythm of the torch song of that name by Janis Joplin, the movement here was alternately languid and abrupt, appearing wonderfully spontaneous as Courtney Barth and Ryan Yamauchi chased each other around the stage, making unpredictable connections. Near the end, a truce was reached. Barth offered her hand to Yamauchi (“Whoa, if I could ever hold your little hand,” the lyrics go), and when the dancers lifted their arms forming an arc overhead, we knew this couple would be OK.

Michael Francis McBride and Samuel Lee Roberts, both veterans of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, offered the duet “Strange Humors,” choreographed by Robert Battle. This piece flirts with danger, its orderly composition seemingly at risk from the dancers’ zany impulses. McBride and Roberts crouched and dodged; Roberts’ knees wobbled, and together the men suddenly fell flat. Yet we had no cause to fear — these wild men might skirt the edge of sanity, but they would never lose control. Even in a romp like “Strange Humors,” these powerful performers moved with elegance and grace.

“This Bitter Earth” is a neo-classical piece by Christopher Wheeldon. Complicating its sentimental mood, and the usual balletic swooning, were subtle movements in which the duet partners sharply turned their heads to the side. Added to a supporting pose with clasped hands, this motif oddly suggested two people locking together (click!). Other incidents, including the ballerina’s seductive approach to her partner at the beginning and her surprise directional change near the end, hinted at the drama in the accompanying text, and in Max Richter’s lugubrious score. New Jersey Ballet’s Denise Parungao and Joshuan Vásquez gave a limpid performance.

These were the highlights, but far from the only attractions at this year’s festival, where the offerings ranged from hip-hop to flamenco and beyond. Additional participants included Andrea Yorita and Zachary Kapeluck of BalletX; Gallim Dance’s Marc Anthony Gutierrez and India Hobbs; Georgina Pazcoguin dancing Bob Fosse; Sun Kim; and Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández.

A special shoutout goes to Lorenzo Pagano, a star of the Martha Graham Dance Company, who brought his luscious physicality to the “Sun” solo from “Canticle for Innocent Comedians.”

The Bread and Roses Film Festival

The Bread and Roses Film Festival

Elevating Women’s Voices

The Bread and Roses Film Festival is a female-centric film festival dedicated to showcasing, supporting, and celebrating the brilliant and talented cis and trans women working behind the camera in key creative roles like writer and/or director, though we do love to see films that feature a mostly female production crew. Students are also welcome!

BRFF is run by an all-female team and is 100% curated by a panel of all-female judges, who are particularly interested in elevating marginalized voices (e.g., LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC), as well as wide range of stories centering on any of the many social justice issues around the globe. Added bonus if the film is fully produced in the state of New Jersey.

BRFF officially kicks off at the Jersey Shore in the Fall of 2023 with a small and mighty force, including one full day of film screenings (10/07), as well as an opening reception the night before (10/06).

Submit/Register To FilmFreeway

Elevating Women’s Voices

QSpot - The Return of QFest Film Festival


QSpot LGBTQ Community Center proudly announces the return of QFest LGBTQ Film & Digital Media Festival, the original annual LGBTQ film festival in New Jersey.

Produced by QSpot, one of New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ community centers, QFest will screen Friday, Sept. 22 -Sunday, Sept. 24 in Asbury Park.

QFest strives to support and promote LGBTQ film and digital media, the individuals who create it, and the people and stories they highlight. Festival submissions must have content about or connection to the LGBTQ community with preference given to unreleased projects, work by NJ residents, and work that exemplifies artistic expression, education and inclusion.

QFest recognizes and salutes the contributions that LGBTQ individuals make to the media landscape and world culture and provides a venue where people can share film and media which might not otherwise be seen.

From Drab Walls to Color, Creativity

The Coaster

Area artists painted these murals on the Asbury Park Sewage Treatment Plant - by WILLIAM CLARK

Area artists painted these murals on the Asbury Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

The Coaster, Aug 9, 2023

What began as just the drab, brown bricks of the Asbury Park Wastewater Treatment Facility became four vibrant murals for beachgoers and those driving along Kingsley Street.

The continuation of the collaboration between the city’s Public Arts Commission and the Asbury Park Arts Council has brought murals from artists Judith Hull, Chloe Evangelista, Jude Harzer and Zachary Manning to the east side of the building, as part of a project that started last year.

“In the fall we opened up submissions for the four panels that face the water,” Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said. “We received over 75 submissions from artists and we picked four, including two local arts.”

The goal, according to Quinn, is to one day have the entire building covered in artistic works.

The project is funded by the city’s Public Arts Commission but received help from the Arts Council when it came to choose submissions that would grace the walls for residents and visitors. The Arts Council also provided financial assistance to bridge the gap for part of the project.

Jenn Hampton, chair of the Public Arts Commission, said that the members of the commission each picked their top 10 which didn’t provide much overlap.

“Barely any of them matched,” Hampton admitted.

As the process moved forward, they took special care to give priority to local artists from the city itself.

In the end, Hampton was thrilled with the choices the commission made.

“This year was interesting because we chose different skill sets, backgrounds and aesthetics,” Hampton said.

Evangelista of Ocean Township chose to show the activity of the boardwalk from a different perspective, creating a mural of different legs and feet as they pass by.

Hampton, an admitted extrovert, appreciated how another person may see the world a bit differently.

The youngest of the muralists, Evangelista impressed Hampton as she saw her move through the work putting the piece together.

“Watching her excel so well will give her the confidence boost to do it again,” Hampton said. “I think she’s really good.”

This project was the second time Hull worked with the art commission. Last year Hull, provided a timely piece on Ukraine. This year she focused on the ocean creating a striking blue fish surrounded by colorful sea plants.

“It’s a motif we are all really familiar with,” Hampton said.

Harzer, an art teacher from Brick Memorial High School, made her contribution to the wall after helping students fill the halls of the school with their murals.

Harzer was also a second time participant of the project.

“She was also more confident and excited,” Hampton said.

Hampton said that Harzer, a Brick Township resident, has one of the only programs within a school that helps support student muralists.

Finally, mixing art and science is Manning’s piece.

“He had an online quiz where he would ask you five questions asking you rate how you feel about certain things,” Hampton said. “He took all the responses and created an algorithm to create the design.”

Hampton appreciates the participatory nature of Manning’s piece which is titled Life in Color.

“It’s a beautiful color palette and really nice to see something different in terms of an artist’s process,” Hampton said.

Manning also lives in Asbury Park.

The Wastewater Treatment Facility is located along the oceanfront north of Convention Hall.


Arts & Culture Plan/Planning Board Meeting

Monday, August 21st at 7pm, City Council Chambers, 1 Municipal Plaza – will be taped for APTV

APAC Hosts Filmmakers Meetup

TAPintoAsbury Park

Your Neighborhood News Online - By Alissa Deleo

The APin3 film challenge kicks off August 7

ASBURY PARK, NJ — The Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC) hosted a first-of-its-kind filmmakers meetup on July 27 at the Parlor Gallery.

The event was an opportunity for creatives to engage with each other and with the APAC on ways to increase awareness and advocacy of film, videography and photography in Asbury Park and the surrounding areas.

The meetup was well-attended, with over 25 people stopping by to share conversation about thier passion of filmmaking.

Michael Sodano, APAC Board President said that the arts council plans to continue to host these meet-ups every other month.

“Everyone was thrilled to meet and share ideas,” Sodano said, adding, “It really all goes back to the mission of the arts council which is to advocate, promote and support the arts in Asbury Park.”

Several updates about the arts council’s current endeavors were shared.

The APAC is working with the City to have Asbury Park registered with the NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission in their Film Ready New Jersey program, a five-step certification and marketing program that educates municipalities on the basics of motion picture and television production.

The program enables cities and towns to effectively accommodate on-location filming and market their communities as filming destinations for movies, television and commercials.

The program also sets basic standards for attracting filmmaking and positions the state as a top production destination, according to the NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission.

The APAC is helping the City create a photo catalog of locations throughout Asbury Park as well as a database of services (production, support, stages, etc) in the area that are available to production companies when they scout a location.

The arts council is encouraging members of the public to help by sharing photos of the City, and if they know of any production services in the area (including their own) to add to the database by emailing

The APin3 Film Challenge, the only filmmaking event in Asbury Park begins on August 7.

Participants will have three weeks to produce a three-minute film set in Asbury Park including a prop, line of dialog and location chosen by the arts council.

All entries to the challenge must be submitted by August 27.

Each of the entries will then be reviewed and the top ten films will be chosen by a panel of local judges. Finalists will be screened to an audience at Asbury Park’s House of Independents Theater on October 22.

The online submission platform, Film Freeway, will be utilized for the challenge, which is now accepting applicants.

There is a $25 entry fee, but no one should feel that the cost is a barrier as there are discounts and sponsorships available for qualified applicants to help with the entry cost.

The Asbury Park Arts Council is a 501c3 group formed to advocate for and promote arts and culture initiatives in the City.

Siren Arts, DRIFT

Siren Arts: DRIFT: July 10 – Aug 18, 2023

Transformer brings Siren Arts back to the beach in Asbury Park, NJ for its 7th Annual Summer Artist Residency & Performance Art Series

Performance Art Events: 7pm Thursdays on the 2nd Avenue Beach, Asbury Park, NJ
Artist Talks: 6pm Wednesdays at Transparent Clinch Gallery

All Audiences Welcome; All Programming Presented Free of Charge

Transformer celebrates the 7th year of our Siren Arts program back on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ this summer, supporting 13 east coast-based artists presenting innovative performance art works that address human & environmental interconnectedness. Each artist’s beach residency includes public artist talks 6pm Wednesdays at Transparent Clinch Gallery, and performances 7pm Thursdays on the 2nd Avenue Beach:

  • July 10 – 14 | Pussy Noir (Washington, DC)
  • July 17 – 21 | nia love (New York, New York)
  • July 24 – 28 | MuEr: Wood Ear/Eye Bait (Che Chen, Anne Ishii, Eugene Lew, Patrick Shiroishi, Matthew Smith Lee, Alex Zhang Hungtai) (Philadelphia, PA)
  • July 31 – Aug 4 | Yali Romagoza (Queens, NY)
  • Aug 7 – 11 | Maira Duarte/Dance to the People (New York, NY)
  • Aug 14 – 18 | Dusty Childers (Brooklyn, NY)

Launched in 2017, Siren Arts is a summertime micro-residency program taking place in Asbury Park, NJ that supports emerging visual artists working within evolving performance art disciplines. Created and curated by Victoria Reis, Transformer’s Executive & Artistic Director, Siren Arts is an expansion of Transformer’s mission to connect and promote emerging visual artists, to advance them in their artistic careers, and to build & engage audiences with new & best contemporary arts practices.

With new support from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Presenting & Multidisciplinary Arts grant program, Siren Arts: DRIFT will explore themes of movement and transition within the continued lens of celebrating the ocean, while building awareness on the intersectional implications of climate change. Artists have been invited to participate in this year’s program via nomination by peer arts colleagues including: Kara Gilmour, Brooklyn Arts Exchange; John Chaich, Queer Threads; and Kim Chan, National Sawdust; in addition to Siren Arts curator Victoria Reis.

All performances will take place at 7pm on the 2nd Avenue Beach in Asbury Park, NJ. Performances will last approximately 30-45 minutes and are open to all audiences free of charge. Audiences are encouraged to gather on the 2nd Ave beach at 6:45pm, bringing beach towels or chairs for seating. In case of rain, please visit @sirenartsap on Instagram for rain location details.

Can New Jersey’s New Festival Top Coachella or SXSW? It Thinks So.

New York Times

By Tammy La Gorce - June 2, 2023

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, along with the first lady, Tammy Murphy, had a vision: A new performance festival in their home state that could rival South by Southwest in Texas or Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And they had a plan to distinguish it.

“Austin and Nashville are great towns,” the governor said, referring to two famous arts hubs that are connected to notable festivals. “But if you stop to consider the cultural priorities of the states that govern them, you say, ‘Wait a minute.’ You’re hoodwinked if you get taken by the coolness.”

A festival in New Jersey, they argued, would be produced in a state whose values align with issues like gun safety and reproductive rights, a bragging right difficult to come by in the south. But what organizers are really touting with the event, which is being produced for the first time this summer, is the mix of homegrown talent and national acts (Halsey, Santana, Jazmine Sullivan) performing across three different cities, from the state’s largest city to the coast.

The North to Shore Festival will roam from Atlantic City to Asbury Park to Newark throughout the month. Its inaugural run will feature more than 220 acts — including music, comedy, dance and film — in 115 venues. “When you combine all the talent we have in New Jersey with the fact that our values are on the right side of history, we thought, there’s no reason we couldn’t give this a shot,” Mr. Murphy said.

In May, the festival doubled in size, in part because of a commitment to local talent. Grants of up to $5,000 were handed out to 58 New Jersey-based artists.

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“What I love about it is that it’s a combination of the biggest names in entertainment and comedy and film,” said John Schreiber, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, which is producing the festival, “but it’s also a chance to turn up the volume on the local folks I call the local heroes — the artists, the creators, the presenters, the producers — who work in these cities 365 days a year.”

One example of this kind of artistic convergence is “You Got VERRRSED: NJ Poets vs. New York Poets,” which will take place in Newark on June 24, the day after Marisa Monte, a Grammy Award winner, performs there.

In each host city, venues stretch beyond the familiar. Newark, for example, will host “Jersey Club 101,” a combination dance lesson and party, at Ariya Plaza Hall, a local dance club known for hosting private events and the occasional concert, on June 24.

On June 9 in Atlantic City, a brewery, The Seed: A Living Beer Project, will host a multidisciplinary event, “From Earth to Cup,” with live music, pottery making and samples of its craft beers. The following afternoon at Sovereign Avenue Field, a popular skatepark, local hardcore and punk bands will play free shows in the “Back Sov Bullies Concert.”

While Asbury Park’s famous rock club, the Stone Pony, will see its share of action — with Eric B. & Rakim, Brian Fallon, Demi Lovato and the B-52’s all scheduled to perform — stages at the lesser-known Watermark, down the street, will also be in heavy rotation and can expect to see more traffic than usual.

Alexander Simone and his seven-piece band, the Whodat? Live Crew, will play there on June 14. Mr. Simone, 34, who is from the area and the grandson of Nina Simone, won a grant to take part in North to Shore with the band, which leans toward funk and R&B, after being nominated by local fans. The recognition confirmed something he already knew: “I am definitely one of the most known bands in this community,” he said.

Now he hopes that other parts of the country will pay more attention to his music. “Artists are coming this way, to Jersey, and bringing people with them the way South by Southwest brings people to Texas,” he said. “They’re coming to see what we have to offer on this end.”

Billboards along the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike are promoting the festival. Mr. Schreiber said he expects more than 350,000 people to attend. The overall windfall for New Jersey’s economy, he added, could be $100 million. “We’re betting the economic impact in all three of these communities will far outweigh any of the investment we have to make,” Mr. Murphy said.

Natalie Merchant, accompanied by New York City’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s, will perform in Newark on June 25. “I think it’s really ambitious and impressive,” she said of the idea behind the festival.

But her decision to participate did not have much to do with performing in a liberal-leaning state, Ms. Merchant said. “I tend to not penalize my fans in states with political conditions like abortion restrictions.” Instead, “I talk about them onstage.”

The North to Shore Festival will take place June 4-11 in Atlantic City, June 14-18 in Asbury Park and June 21-25 in Newark.

Meet the Creative Force Behind Asbury Park’s Transformative Art Scene

New Jersey Monthly

By Jon Coen - June 2023 issue

Known as the muse of Asbury Park, Jenn Hampton founded the Wooden Walls Project, which has grown to include ambitious installations and residencies.

Link to NJ Monthly Article

When Jenn Hampton, known as Juicy Jenn, moved to Asbury Park in 2003, the city was still famously deserted, poverty-stricken and crime-ridden, and the historic Palace Amusements was being torn down. But her idea to create murals throughout the city helped transform Asbury into a destination for the arts, and was a major part of the city-by-the-sea’s radical transformation.

She gravitated to Asbury Lanes, the 1960s-era bowling alley that reopened as a live-music venue in 2004. Eventually, she took on the role of booking the fringe acts it was known for—the punk bands, films, burlesque performers, DJs, visual artists—along with cheap drinks and famous tater tots. And as she is known to do, she poured her whole being into it.

In 2006, the city was feeling positive momentum when Hampton, now 48, opened the Cry Baby Gallery and then the Parlor Gallery, both on Cookman Avenue.

Jenn Hampton poses in front of a colorful mural in Asbury Park
“Art is educating people, making them comfortable,” Hampton says. Photo: Krista Schlueter

She was still managing the Lanes, which became an indie clubhouse for the Shore and Central Jersey region, helping to attract new visitors, and even residents, to Asbury. When the company I-Star bought up 70 percent of the buildable land on the Asbury waterfront, it included Asbury Lanes. But the development company rebuilt and reopened the venue without her.

“Music creates a certain community that feeds an art community. An art community feeds a music scene,” she says. “I had the best of both of those worlds. I didn’t need anything else. I was so heartbroken after I lost Asbury Lanes.”

She comforted herself by spending time by the ocean and came up with the idea to commission artists to adorn boardwalk buildings with art. “I thought that working with artists to inspire visitors might heal my broken heart,” she says.

Jenn Hampton strolls in front of a colorful mural in Asbury Park
Hampton’s Wooden Walls Project gives Asbury visitors a visual experience they won’t see anywhere else on the East Coast. Photo: Krista Schlueter

The proof of concept came when Hampton’s longtime business partners, Michael Lavallee and Brad Hoffer, painted an expansive mural in the boardwalk passthrough of the Casino building (which was recently closed indefinitely due to structural rust). In 2015, Carrie Turner, now executive director of the Asbury Arts Council, and Angie Sugrim, both former employees of Madison Marquette, which owned the boardwalk buildings, diverted funds from advertising to pay eight artists to adorn walls. “Art is educating people, making them comfortable. My brain doesn’t work in a way that is only driven to the profit. Your return on investment in art isn’t as obvious,” she says.

Today, Hampton’s Wooden Walls Project has grown to include ambitious installations and residencies, giving thousands of Asbury visitors a visual experience they won’t see anywhere else on the East Coast. She’s also worked to bring projects to the overlooked west side of the city.

But after 20 years of the transformation, Hampton is aware of the trade-offs. Facilitating public art helped fuel Asbury’s gentrification—but now some people who helped to pave the way can’t afford to live there.

“I try to tell our local officials that you wouldn’t want to be in this city if we didn’t have the vibrant music and art that we have,” she says. “That was why we were all drawn here.”

North to Shore

NJPAC is producing the inaugural North to Shore Festival, a three-city celebration of arts and technology that will feature programming in Asbury Park from June 14th-18th. Many local producers and artists were awarded grants to showcase their talents.