BWW Interviews: Morgiana Celeste Varricchio Talks Mosaic Dance Theater
Theater can be captured in many different ways and one troupe based in New Jersey and New York takes it to another level with 'Dance Theater'. Mosaic Dance Theater will be performing on Sunday, September 9 at Luna Stage in West Orange. BroadwayWorld set down with the Producing Artistic Director Morgiana Celeste Varricchio to discuss the performance and the company.
Thanks for joining me on BroadwayWorld. I’ve seen your performances in the past and there is such a beautiful sense of theatrical nuance to all you do. Can you tell us a little about Mosaic Dance Theater Company?
Morgiana Celeste Varricchio: Thank you so much for inviting me to BroadwayWorld, Greg. Mosaic Dance Theater Company is a unique dance company, of 7 dancers, dedicated to performing the dances and folklore of the Mediterranean region, which includes North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain. Our dances are highly theatrical, and explore the rich cultures of this area — from the ancient to the contemporary, from the folkloric to the interpretive. Extensive research accompanies all our works, and our productions are faithful to the ethnic dance traditions of the region. We seek to transcend cultural boundaries to create truly inspired original works. Our broad repertory of dance pieces also includes dance/story-theater adaptations of folktales from the Mediterranean region. Mosaic tours nationally to performing arts venues, universities and schools, and is on the roster of arts-in-education artists for Lincoln Center’s Meet the Artist series and Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. My title is Producing Artistic Director, and Samara Adell is the Company’s Choreographer and Artistic Director for Dance.
I know you and I share some “Texan roots”. Tell us about your background and how you started the company.
I started out as a classically trained actor, who also sings and dances. While an apprentice actor at the Dallas Theater Center in Texas, I was introduced to Paul Sills’ concept of “story theater” by one of my instructors, Robyn Baker Flatt (co-founder and Executive Director of Dallas Children’s Theater). I positively fell in love with the style of combining narrative with dialogue. It was years before I had an opportunity to come back to the style which I did through several one-person shows, telling the myths and stories I love, but adding much dance and movement throughout. In the meanwhile, I had the opportunity to work as a production assistant for several Broadway shows, which gave me up-close knowledge of producing. My day job, which turned into a 20-years career in trade publishing, was in production. My life was all about working backwards from the release date, which is a books “opening night.” I learned much about corporate business practices. All the while, I was touring these one-person shows. And, while in “Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves” I worked with a 3-piece band of Arabic musicians, I was missing the fun of working with an ensemble. I approached Samara, my teacher for Middle Eastern dance, to collaborate with me on a school show with 4 dancers – “Caravan to Cairo.” This has been a tremendously successful show – we have been touring it since 2001 – and played the NY Fringe Festival in 2003. At that time, Lenny Bart was Producing Director at 12 Miles West Theater in Montclair. Lenny was including a Guest Artist Series in 12MW’s season, and we had an opportunity in November 2003 to present a larger show, with a bigger cast, geared for the general public, not just for school audiences. That show was titled “Mosaic.” Samara and I both wanted to continue in this new direction, and so Mosaic Dance Theater Company was founded. We incorporated as a non-profit in 2005, and, the rest, as they say, is history. If I may make a little plug here, our new website just went live and we have a brand new YouTube Channel.
So with your production on September 9, you are partnering with the WAE Center. How did that come about?