May 17, 2023

“Morven Moves” Brings Dance to Morven Museum & Garden

DANCE AT MORVEN: Morven Museum & Garden presents “Morven Moves,” its first concert devoted solely to dance, on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. Luminarium Dance, shown here, performed in the garden at last year’s Morven Fourth of July Jubilee. (Photo by Chroma Studios)

By Wendy Greenberg

Morven has been a bastion of music, art, and culture since it opened as a museum and garden in 2004, and before then as a governor’s mansion and historic home. But it was not a showcase just for dance — until now.

The beautiful Morven backyard will be the scene of the first concert devoted solely to dance, “Morven Moves,” on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m.

Although there have been what he called “bread crumbs” of dance at Morven, such as a Fourth of July Jubilee last year, said Marketing Manager Grant Jacoby, a full dance concert is a first. The idea germinated when Jacoby started working at Morven in January 2022, and saw the site. A dancer and choreographer himself, “the idea has been percolating since my interview,” he said.

The dance performance aligns with Morven’s mission, he said, which is “preserving and celebrating authentic stories.”

An in-house committee initiated an open call to New Jersey-based dance companies and choreographers, and considered the mission of telling authentic stories and also “what would translate well in the garden,” Jacoby said. “New Jersey has a lot of artists, and we are giving them a platform.”

The verdant stage will feature seven distinctive New Jersey-based choreographers and dance companies that represent dance genres ranging from contemporary and flamenco to dance theater. Performers include Cara Hagan, Kiana Rosa Fischer, Lisa Botalico, mignolo dance, morgaine de leonardis, Yu.S.Artistry, and Jacoby himself, with his company of five, Grant Jacoby & Dancers.

Jacoby graduated with a degree in dance and theater from Connecticut College and with a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from Sarah Lawrence College. He performed in several dance troupes and presented his choreography nationally and abroad. As a teacher, he has been on faculty at Boston Ballet, The Boston Conservatory, Sarah Lawrence College, and The National Theater Institute.

His piece in the Morven program, “Untitled Sextet,” is an “antithetical response to the choreographic processes reflecting on tragedies,” he wrote. “Devoid of any intentional emotional influence, the work looks at the moving body as a piece of sculpture, and derives itself compositionally from structures in classical and jazz music, as well as chance-based procedures inspired by Merce Cunningham and John Cage. In doing so, the work is a continuous pushback against the notion that dances need to ‘mean’ anything.”

The performance program, in which each piece tells a story, includes the following pieces: “Al Ritmo de las Piedras (To the Rhythm of the Rocks),” choreographed by Lisa Botalico and performed by 11 dancers to a song by F.G. Lorca; “Mama Piranh,” choreographed and performed by Cara Hagan, to a sound score by Hagan with music by Steve Combs and Dave Keifer; “L.O.V.E,” choreographed by morgaine de leonardis, performed by two dancers to music by Lous Armstrong; and “Triadic Concepts,” choreographed by Charly Santagado and Louisa Miller, performed by the choreographer with music by Gian Torrano Jacobs.

Also “Reclaiming Me,” choreographed by Kiana Rosa Fischer (who wrote the text) performed by two dancers with music by Aaron Martin; “Memories of the Moon (excerpt),” choreographed by Yuki Ishiguro (Yu. S. Artistry) and performed by seven dancers, with music by Armand Amar and Rin Nagaya; and “Untitled Sextet,” choreographed by Grant Jacoby & Dancers, with music by Bruce Springsteen and John Wasson.

Reaction from the community has been positive, said Jacoby. “There is curiosity, and intrigue,” he said. “’What’s it going to look like?’ We hope they will experience Morven in a completely different way.”

Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for Morven members and students. Seating is limited to 50 tickets; standing room tickets will be sold once the seated tickets sell out, and will be $10 general admission, $5 for Morven members and students.
The rain location will be in the Stockton Education Center’s Gathering Space. Standing room tickets will be converted to virtual if the performance is moved indoors.

Purchase of a ticket also includes access to the museum to view the current exhibition, “Striking Beauty: New Jersey Tall Case Clocks, 1730 -1830.”

“Morven Moves” is sponsored by Keller Williams Realty Princeton.

Morven Museum & Garden is at 55 Stockton Street. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit