Dance Troupe Puts Feminism into ‘Moshen’

Project Moshen Dance Company | Photos provided

“What’s wrong with being confident?” singer-songwriter Demi Lovato asks in one of her hit singles.

The singer with a killer vibrato isn’t the only one in the entertainment industry voicing their thoughts on female empowerment (even if Kesha’s single “Woman” takes a more profane route).

Now, the local Project Moshen Dance Company will showcase the subject with an upcoming performance, WOMAN.

Artistic Director Kelli Moshen founded the dance company in 2010. After graduating from the University of the Arts, she lived in New York City briefly, dancing for commercials and the like, but her niche was choreography.

“I decided to move back home from New York and start Project Moshen with my best friend who I went to school with,” she said. They were eager to continue dancing, since the business is extremely hard to get into — and stay in.

“Everyone who dances just loves to perform,” she continued. Eight years later, the dance company is well established in Philadelphia, creating original, entertaining works that often provide commentary on current events.

Moshen, who grew up in Cheltenham attending Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel and now resides in Center City, choreographs contemporary jazz, though she doesn’t like to label it as just one style.

“We do incorporate all styles, but my movement is very athletic, intricate and empowering — however you want to define it,” she laughed, which is also combined with her East Coast and West Coast training to develop her own urban, up-tempo technique.

Moshen — who is also a dance instructor at the Institute of Dance Artistry and a barre instructor at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue — tries to pick a different theme each year for their annual home season show.

“With everything going on in the world — a lot of women’s rights, a lot of activists — this year I really couldn’t pinpoint just one theme to tell a story about,” she explained. But inspriation struck, and she decided there shouldn’t have to be just one theme, but more of an all-encompassing movement.

“Instead of our show just going straight through with one story, we have all different pieces telling a story of its own and a situation that has occurred or is occurring,” she said.

Project Moshen Dance Company | Photos provided

Moshen was also inspired by her own mother, who she said is “a strong, independent, hard working, beautiful woman who told me to always fight for what I want, be confident, and be myself, and for all the women in my life who have taught me to follow my dreams, stand up for what I believe in, and voice my opinion.”

Telling stories from the female perspective is all about believing in and standing up for one’s self, Moshen added, which is embodied throughout WOMAN.

One piece, for instance, is titled “We Won’t Stand Down,” emphasizing the idea of individuals coming together for a greater purpose. Throughout the dance, performers start the routine independently but come together as a group by the end.

These ideas flow into the Jewish spectrum, too, Moshen said, since this type of activism applies to every woman in society.

Now a decades-long afterthought, the idea that women must stay at home and have the sole responsibilities of wife and mother is simply no longer. “We have directors. We have people owning businesses. We wanted to showcase that little girl’s dream has become a reality for her, and she is allowed to voice her opinions, she is allowed to run a corporation, she is allowed to be on top. And that doesn’t pinpoint one religion.”

The performance highlights women’s confidence — in their abilities, bodies, minds, equality, independence, credibility.

The all-female jazz ensemble — the only one in the city, to Moshen’s knowledge — has put on similar shows in the past referencing the strength of women, but never to this magnitude, said Moshen.

Although feminism was birthed decades ago, she noted, like many in the country, she felt a rise in activism for women’s rights and other minority groups since the 2016 presidential election.

Although she prefers to remain apolitical in shows, WOMAN focuses more on feminism, empowerment and the individuality of real-life women.

“We do believe in all this and, as a group, we wanted to stand up for that,” she said of her eclectic dance troupe of women from varying backgrounds.

WOMAN will be shown at the Performance Garage (1515 Brandywine St.) on April 13 and 14 at 8 p.m., and April 15 at 5 p.m.

In today’s climate of daily heated discourse, Moshen said it is the right time for a show like WOMAN, where people, especially the millennial generation, are constantly vocalizing their opinions and interests.

“People have been voicing their opinions” for years now, she added, “I just don’t think it has been heard before as much as it is now. … Everything is just more vocal.”

She hopes the audience grasps the message of the performance; first and foremost, it’s meant to be entertaining.

“I want people to leave feeling like they can do what they want to do in life. They can feel confident that maybe one of our pieces is telling a story that they’ve been through, and then they’ll be more vocal about it with their family or friends,” she said. “I like my shows to be an outlet for people.”

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