HOLMDEL, NJ: As the Sinatra song goes, “If I can make it there I’m gonna make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York!” This NYC professional dancer and creative director Elizabeth White made it ‘there’ and recently brought her newly founded NYC Dance Company, coined ‘Elizabeth White Creative’ (EWC) back home to Monmouth County, for an in-studio production of her creation titled OAETH, the first production on behalf of EWC.
White comments, “The Elizabeth White Creative has taken its first breath and orchestrated a new media contemporary ballet production titled OAETH."
The show OAETH is authored by Elizabeth Caroline White and made its first appearance during two shows last month at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, New York. Bringing the production back to where White formally trained as a young teen, the New York dance company traveled to New Jersey, to provide an in-studio showing at The Academy of Dance Arts in Tinton Falls, the dance studio where White trained and eventually taught at.
TAPinto caught up with 2010 Mater Dei Middletown Graduate, Elizabeth White last month while she was visiting her large family in Holmdel, NJ. One of five children of Tim and Caroline White, Elizabeth loves going home where her house is always full of family, friends and great times.
Meeting her in person is a creative experience in itself. She has the intelligent quotient down, a masters from New York University, a B.A. from Fordham. In addition, Elizabeth has the emotional quotient mastered. She is kind. As her best friend of 16 years, Leah Small comments, “Elizabeth possesses a personality far beyond the norm. There’s a spiritual warmth that easily enables open human connection. She has an easy smile and a genuine interest for anyone who is in her presence. People are drawn to Elizabeth because she takes her time to highlight the best in everyone.”
White comments, “Everything I am and everything I succeed with is tied to my strong family foundation. Surrounded by love and encouragement and the freedom to express myself has nurtured my dreams into reality.”
TAPinto asked Elizabeth, “When did you begin to think of having your own performance company?
White: “Ever since I was young, I dreamed of having my own dance company one day. In between dance breaks and excursions in the dressing room playing “Light as a Feather” to try to make each other levitate, I would tell my best friend, Leah, ‘Get ready, because you’re going to be in my dance company one day.’ We were around 12 years old. She would laugh and say, ‘Okay, Elizabeth, sounds good.' A few months ago, I made my twelve-year-old self proud and founded The Elizabeth White Creative, a performance creative at the nexus of movement, visual arts and technology. Leading up to this moment, I had spent my undergraduate years studying Visual Arts at Fordham University and later earning a masters degree in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University, all the while dancing and choreographing. When considering my next steps, I decided to trust in myself to put it all together! Leah is now an incredibly wonderful nurse at a Hospital in Colorado, but we’ve agreed that in about a year’s time, she’ll consider dropping her career to come dance with me and my company, as we agreed on at the age of twelve.”
As a matter of fact Elizabeth’s dance company is only 3 months young. Her dream since the age of 12 became a reality just in September of 2018. According to White, “I synthesized my passions into one interdisciplinary venture and developed a long- standing dream of mine, the new creative acts as a vessel of communication between that which resides deep within and the world outside.”
TAPinto asked why the choice of OAETH for EWC’s debut production?
White comments, “OAETH is a new media contemporary ballet production based on the story of a young empathic woman on a difficult journey toward spiritual awakening. The main character, Oaeth, struggles to understand her place in a world filled with mass suffering. With such an open heart and mind, she taps into metaphysical happenings of the world that she cannot consciously understand, nor communicate with others. These feelings she is unable to express leave her feeling alienated from the world she once knew. With increasing exhaustion, she finds herself treading the dangerous waters of total surrender. Wanting to exit this state of spiritual limbo, she calls upon a greater force to help her find the strength to continue on in this journey through the dark. Eventually, she comes to realize that her inner light may have the power to guide her in ways she never imagined possible, so long as she chooses to see it.”
According to White, the concept to create and perform OAETH was birthed out of a state of emotional necessity. White comments, “OAETH is a metaphor for a deeper question I have grappled with in recent times: Is it possible to stand up to the face of darkness, and not be overcome by it?"
TAPinto asked Elizabeth, "Who were your greatest life influencers?”
White says, “My greatest life influencers come from all over the map. Spiritually I’ve been heavily influenced by Vietnamese Buddhist monk and western author, Thich Nhat Hanh. As well as the beautiful metaphorical stories of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. Artistically, I’ve had great influence from the work of German choreographer Pina Bausch. Bausch has played a huge role in my artistic development. The work she creates is so raw, real, open and honest. She employs a bravery so deep to the human spirit that the obstacles in my mind seem to completely fade away. Also, American modern dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, was a huge grounding influence in my early adult life. I began studying her technique and could feel it deepening my connection and understanding of my body. One of my greatest dance influences growing up was a dance and technology company based in Kansas City, called Quixotic Fusion. I was mesmerized by their work at a young age, and felt drawn to the way they were able to blend non-traditional elements into one beautiful performance experience."
White continues, "I also constantly find I am influenced by the dancers I work with. The main dancer of my show, Sofia has always been a huge inspiration in my life. I used to watch her dance and feel like she had the ability to stop time and bring light to the darkest space. The other main dancer, Sarah has been there with me through my process from the very beginning. She has been an open canvas for me as I’ve grown artistically, a huge influence in my life. Of course, my parents have been a huge influence in my path. The both of them were always encouraging me to recognize and believe in my abilities, talent and potential. They have believed in me many times when I didn’t believe in myself. My dance teacher Miss Sori, instilled a feeling in me at a young age, that I had magic inside. I still feel this light in my life to this day."
TAPinto: "What is your earliest inspirational dance memory?"
White responds, “That's an easy one. It's an experience I had with my earliest teacher, Miss Sori (Gottdenker). I was focusing with all my will on performing the exercise she’d given us, of a slow por de bras (slow choreographed motion of the arms), with musicality, and correctly. Suddenly she stopped the music. She told all the children to come sit on the floor, except for me. She said to me, “Elizabeth, I want you to do exactly what you just did, the same way, one more time.” I was unsure of what I’d even done, but I did as she said. The way she looked at me, and had the other students watch me with their undivided attention, I felt a magic in my heart. A magic that has never gone away."
TAPinto: "What is your formal dance instructional background? Where when?"
White: "I trained in classical Ballet from the age of 2-18 at The Academy of Dance Arts in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, contemporary and modern from 16-present between New Jersey and New York, at institutions including: Alvin Ailey, Joffrey Ballet, Manhattan Movement and Arts Center and The Rock School."
TAPinto: "What dance teachers were your greatest influencers?"
White comments, "The following have been an inspiration to my art in ways that I carry with me through my performances today; Sori Gottdenker, Jennifer James Church, Shayne and Nick Mishoe, Brigette Trochiano, Victoria Hall, JoAnna Medl Shaw, Nancy Turano, Daniel Catanach, Deborah Wingert Arkin, Earl Moseley, Francesca Harper, Carleen Sheehan, Abby Goldstein, Peter O-Brien, Dwight Rhoden. To them all I am thankful."
TAPinto: "What is your main driver?"
White: "Truth and communication. I’ve always been interested in discovering and being guided by something larger than myself. A deeper truth to my existence. A higher being within myself. I always thought, if I could discover my greatest and purest being, and be led by it, I would undoubtedly be able to bring some form of positive change to a suffering world, whether I consciously understood it or not. I’ve also always wanted to tell the stories of our hearts that we otherwise dismiss in the face of others. Stories of the hearts of those who feel unheard, misunderstood, or alienated in some way by the world in which we live. I want my work to speak to that part of each of our beings that feels more, deeper down. The part of each of us that once believed we could fly. Sometimes I have dreams that I am flying. I wake up and though I can’t fly, I can still access the feeling. It’s a power from inside. It’s a power that, once I harness it, remains untouched. A force-field."
TAPinto: What passion brought you to create OAETH and when did you begin to write the production?
"OAETH is driven by my experiences of feeling unable to communicate deeper truths within me, but what catapulted me into creating this show, was the particular experience of going vegan. I suddenly realized so much about the world and society in which we live, which I had no idea about before that moment. I tried to communicate what I’d learned, and the atrocity which we are all unknowingly supporting regarding animal cruelty, but I felt unable to reach people as deeply as I’d been reached by it. This was a very difficult time for me. It still isn’t easy, but I’m learning as I go. It’s forced me to understand people better and also fight through some of the darkest hours. That fight, has undoubtedly, brought me a strength I now carry with me at all times."
TAPinto: "As a young woman of 26 years, an artist, you are extremely inspiring. What is your message to today's youth, specifically young girls?"
White comments, "My message to young girls is stand still, close your eyes, and feel the magic inside you. You are enough. Your thoughts, your voice, your feelings~ they matter, and you don’t have to apologize or try to be something you are not. You will become all that you decide to become. It is all up to you. Let the magic inside lead the way. One of the reasons I love teaching dance is because I get to do this with each class, indirectly."
TAPinto: You are only 26 and have amazingly created, produced and performed in your own show OAETH. What is your favorite performing arts show of all time?
White comments, "One of my favorite performing arts show is The Nutcracker. The majesty of the music paired with the storyline and beautiful lines of the body brings me feelings I could not begin to describe."
TAPinto: What are some of your favorite movies, books, restaurants, a perfect night out, dance club or other?
White responds, "Favorite Movies are Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Good Will Hunting and Remember Me. As for my favorite books; The Untethered Soul, The Witch of Portobello, No Mud No Lotus, Art and Fear and Just Kids. Restaurants in NYC that are my favorite are ABCV by Jean Georges, Blossom Du Jour and Peace Food Cafe. When I'm back home in New Jersey I love Neelam Indian Cuisine in Middletown, Muang Thai in Red Bank, Good Karma Cafe in Red Bank, Twisted Tree in Asbury and Vegan Tree in Red Bank. A perfect night out for me is a Reike session followed by Green Curry at a Thai Restaurant! Or a night drive to a view of the water with good company and vegan food. Another favorite is a night out at my favorite dance club Le Bain with my sister and good friends!
TAPinto: What is your favorite place to live and to travel?
White: My favorite place to live is where I am now, NYC. My favorite place to travel is Inward! <3
TAPinto: What’s up next?
Firstly, I want to develop the story of OAETH even further. There are many scenes from the initial story I wrote that I didn’t flesh out, due to time constraints. For example, there is one scene where the main character is on a quest through the desert, guided by the moon and the ethereal creatures she meets along the way. I want to make sure I have ample time and space to develop this piece.
I would also like to expand to a whole team of creative technologists who could help me execute greater ideas regarding the technology integration of my work. I would like to explore things like real-time reactive spaces, camera feeds, AR, audience participation, more elaborate projection mapping, etc. There are many possibilities for creating mixed reality spaces through technology that I had to let go of for my first show due to limited resources, budget and time. I’d love to explore them in the future!
I’d also really like to explore the power of art as activism. I’m largely driven by an urge to communicate my deeper discoveries about the world around me. One of the most profound discoveries I made was how our society views animals, on a systemic level. Merely as food, entertainment, furniture, clothing, objects… money, essentially. And how deeply all of these beings in the world (39 million cattle each year just within the meat industry) are suffering for our leisure and luxury. Upon realizing all of this, I started to examine the relationship between humans and animals, and come to understand that we don’t pay much attention to the experience of the other livings beings on this Earth. I once saw a video posted by PETA about some of the most incredible abilities of different creatures around the world. For example, there is a particular kind of fish that lives at the bottom of the ocean, and when it wants to attract a mate, it uses its detection of Earth’s electromagnetic vibrations to create perfect mathematical compositions on the ocean floor. I’d love to try to open up the relationship between humans and the other beings living here on Earth with us, by bringing attention to the unique capabilities of some of them through the work of this creative.
TAPinto: Thank you Elizabeth White for sharing your story and inspiring others. We look forward to reporting on your exciting future news!
Elizabeth Caroline White's Bio:
Elizabeth is the artistic director, choreographer and visual designer at the heart of The Elizabeth White Creative. She is a New York-based creative with many deep loves within the visual and performing arts spheres. On an exploration of continuum movement, visual arts and technology, her work aims to create immersive performance experiences for audiences and extend possibilities for storytelling through the body.
Prior to the birth of this creative, Elizabeth received an MPS from Tisch NYU in Interactive Telecommunications Program, where she studied emerging technologies for the stage, more specifically how to design reactive systems for performers in real time. Preceding graduate school, she received a BA from Fordham University in Visual Arts, where she studied fine arts and digital media, while training in contemporary dance at Alvin Ailey. Prior to training at Alvin Ailey, she studied classical ballet and contemporary dance at The Academy of Dance Arts in New Jersey.
An altruist and dreamer at heart, her pursuits are driven by the urge for truth, understanding and communication. Her greatest interest is finding creative ways of connecting with others by encouraging imagination and sparking feelings of wonder. Elizabeth says, "I believe honest expressions of creativity have the power and potential to unlock hearts and minds and allow people the space to reconnect with their higher selves, and that is first and foremost what drives me to create.”
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