Orange hosts sixth annual Dance Festival to rousing success

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, Orange High School’s girls softball head coach and a fan stand with singer Jayla Marie on Sunday, April 30, at the Orange School District and Orange Dance Conservatory’s sixth annual Dance Festival.

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange School District and Orange Dance Conservatory hosted its sixth annual Dance Festival at Lincoln Avenue School on Sunday, April 30, and, based on the response by those who attended, it was an unqualified success.

According to teacher and Orange Dance Conservator coordinator Debbie Rembert, the star-studded lineup at this year’s festival included Vivian Nixon, the daughter of “Fame” dancer Debbie Allen and former L.A. Lakers basketball star Norm Nixon; Carlos Neto; Charles Smith; April Cook; Wendy McKenzie; Ronald Alexander; Maleek Washington; Ashley Rich; King Jafi Rock; Joanna Numata; Jeremy McQueen; Dorrit Koppel; Keenan Cooks and Miles Keeney.

But this year’s featured attraction — at least for the large group of pre-teen and teenage dancers who participated, including Kyanna Dwyer, Kayla Fisher and Shackayla Campbell — was singer Jayla Marie of the reality TV series “The Rap Game.”

“Her performance was good,” said Dwyer, an eighth-grade student at Orange Preparatory School, on Sunday, April 30. “It was amazing. Everything about it was good.”

Rembert said sentiments such as Dwyer’s are a big reason why she organizes the annual event. She also said it’s a great opportunity for young dancers to get inexpensive instruction from “master dancers” and, this year, some of the participants actually got the chance to audition for Marie and serve as her backup dancers.

“Some of them are actually schoolkids from the Orange public schools who got to audition for her and got picked to perform,” Rembert said Sunday, April 30. “So they got a professional opportunity, too. Just for today, they got that opportunity.”

Aside from Marie, Rembert said the dancers and instructors who participated in this year’s festival are also famous stars and great performers who the young dancers were truly blessed to have been able to work with, even just for a day.

“We have awesome master teachers, from Justin Bieber background dancers to Nishae, a choreographer; Jeremy McQueen, who just worked with Misty Copeland; we brought Jayla Marie in to perform for us. We also have Ronald Alexander, who is a former Dance Theater of Harlem dancer and also the coordinator at Restoration Dance in New York, so a topnotch staff; and Charles Smith, who actually just choreographed for the Brooklyn Nets,” Rembert said.

“This is our sixth anniversary and it’s only getting better and I’m enjoying myself. It’s more opportunities for the kids and a chance for them to work with the top dancers. A lot of times, our kids don’t get to go into New York. They’ve never seen an Alvin Ailey show; some of them have never been to Broadway Dance Center. This is the chance for us to bring New York and the best to them in Orange. It’s an awesome thing.”

The Broadway Dance Center is a dance school located in midtown Manhattan.

For one day every year, Orange is the center of the youth dance universe during National Dance Week, and Rembert said that’s a very good thing for the students, the public school district and the entire city.

“It’s an opportunity and hopefully the kids go back energized and inspired. Hopefully, they register for dance classes, become more active, or at least take the opportunity to go into New York and take the classes,” said Rembert. “The kids get scholarships to go take five classes at Broadway Dance Center. They’re really lucky.”

Rembert also thanked the Orange School District and former Superintendent of Schools Ron Lee and current interim Superintendent Paula Howard for coming out to support the arts in Orange, saying, “It was so nice to see the support from both of them. We hope that they continue to support the arts because, in our political climate right now, the arts seems to be put on the backburner. We’re so very fortunate to be able to do these things and we hope it can continue.”

“Every year, we always do this in April; the last Sunday in April, so we really hope people come out,” said Rembert. “Our show is going to be in June. We’re still taking registration for dancers. We have a summer program coming up.”

The Orange Dance Conservatory still has several upcoming events and activities in 2017. For information about the Summer Dance Program at the Orange Dance Conservatory, call Rembert at 973-677-4124 or send an email to