DanceHaven Leaves It All On The Stage

Alexis Robbins | Arts Council of Greater New Haven

Sammy and Candy and the Winard Harper Collective. Photo: Lotta Studio

On a recent weekend, a generationally diverse crowd came together for DanceHaven, a program of senior Gabrielle Niederhoffer and the Yale Schwarzman Center. It was a festival of free master classes and a culminating performance celebrating Black artists and the respective vernacular dance forms they practice, preach, and breathe. 

DanceHaven was the final product of Niederhoffer’s undergraduate thesis project, created in collaboration with the “Queen of Tap,” Dormeshia. Prior to DanceHaven, Niederhoffer spearheaded Speaking Dance, the culmination of 33 oral histories conducted by the New Haven Dance History Project. It received support from the Yale Dance Lab, of which Niederhoffer is an associate producer and lead researcher. 

Throughout the DanceHaven weekend, there were several master classes offered in a variety of vernacular dance forms including African Diasporic Movement, Chicago Footwork, Lindy Hop, Dunham Jazz, Commercial Dance, and Tap, all taught by leaders in the field who were specifically invited by Dormeshia and Niederhoffer. Niederhoffer, who took every single class, said she enjoyed the live music that accompanied the African Diasporic Movement and Dunham Jazz classes, as well as the sense of community that was created within each class.

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