Blood sucking and mummy wrapping will prevail on Saturday night when the Kennedy Dancers host their annual Vampire's Ball at Grace Church Van Vorst (Third and Erie streets, Jersey City). The event, which is a fundraiser, will not only celebrate Halloween, but will also commemorate the non profit organization's 25th anniversary.
"We thought we'd go through with it this year because everybody seems to need a lift," Diane Dragone, the Kennedy Dancers' founder and artistic director, said last week. "Plus, we'll be 25 years old, to the day. It will be a safe place for the kids and family to come enjoy the arts and Halloween, and show their support for a local arts organization at the same time."
The evening will kick off with a cocktail hour featuring wine, champagne and finger foods at 8 p.m., followed by a dance performance at 9 p.m. There will also be a toilet paper mummy wrap contest; an open dance; costume prizes; and "The Weakest Link Vampire," an audience participation competition featuring questions about vampires and horror movies.
"It should be a good laugh," Dragone said. "Because I think everyone needs a good laugh right now."
This year, the Kennedy Dancers are encouraging their guests to come dressed as vampires, or at least wear all black. Fangs and other ghoulish accessories will be available at the ball.
"There will be a biting booth," explained Dragone. "You bite a vampire and you get a pair of fangs."
Between the boos and ghouls, there will be a 25-year salute to the Kennedy Dancers, featuring a 10-minute video chronicling the organization's artistic history.
The Kennedy Dancers have been holding their annual Vampire's Ball at Grace Church Van Vorst for the last several years.
"Grace Church has been a hub for the arts in Jersey City," said Dragone. "It's very Gothic looking and it's on Erie Street. So we have to have the party there. And the pastors have always been very generous."
A brief history of the Kennedy Dancers
Diane Dragone was born and raised in Jersey City. She studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City and spent the first part of her career performing with a professional ballet company and in regional musical theater productions while teaching dance at Hudson County's Schools of Technology. She supplemented her income by working as a legal secretary.
"I wanted a place to teach and choreograph at the same time," she said. "The original goal was to have a company and school fulltime. And, as a choreographer, I had a need to express and show my work."
So 25 years ago, Dragone founded The Kennedy Dancers, a performing arts company and non-profit dance school.
"The first couple of years, my paycheck was $50 a week and we only had 40 students," she said. "We've grown a lot."
Today, the school boasts over 400 students, ranging in age from 3 to 92 years old. There are 97 senior citizens; 48 Inner City Youth Dance scholarship students, ages 13 to 19; 200 children, ages 3 to 12; 58 students from Hudson County Community College, where Kennedy Dance instructors offer seven movement classes; and 97 adults, ages 20 to 59.
The Kennedy Dancers also function as a performing arts company with 10 professional dancers. The professional troupe performs between 20 to 30 recitals a year at venues like the Newark Museum, the Morristown Community Theater, the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and the Joyce Theater. The troupe has even performed at the White House for Ronald Reagan and George Bush. The Dancers have also brought live performances, classes, lectures and demonstrations to over 52 schools in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey.
While the Dancers offer training in movement classes ranging from ballet to Tai Chi, when asked, Dragone described her personal style as Contemporary Dance.
"Everything fuses together, just like music," Dragone explained. "You have ballet, jazz, modern, tap. At some point it just becomes dance. And the latest label is Contemporary or Contemporary American Dance."
On her 25th anniversary, Dragone is not only reflecting on the past, but also looking toward the future.
"I'm a big dreamer," she said. "We have two studios, and I would like to add a third. And in the next 25 years I plan to become a national company."
The Vampire's Ball will be held at Grace Church Van Vorst (Third and Erie streets, Jersey City) on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults; $15 for children 12 and under. All tickets/donations are tax deductible. For more information call 659-2190.