Cause and Effect - The Intersection of Dance, Fashion and Humanity

by Jennifer Newman

Tiffany Rea-Fisher
photo: Ayodele Casel
Paola Hernández
photo: Theresa Balderas

Tiffany Rea- Fisher and Paola Hernández met when Hernández attended a performance of Elisa Monte Dance Company and saw the company perform a piece choreographed by Rea-Fisher. ”That‘s it!” thought the designer who was then working on developing the presentation for her Spring 2016 collection. “I had the idea for a film and knew that Tiffany’s choreography would be a beautiful way to present the collection.“  Her first time working with dance, Hernández is always looking for different ways to express her concept.  The designer approached Tiffany and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I love how fashion affects the day to day.” says Rea-Fisher, who continues, “There is a flexibility and daily access that allows me to express myself to the world. People who don’t know that I am a dancer know how I am feeling.  I dress differently for rehearsal than I do for a meeting. Fabrics, patterns, silhouettes are a fun way to play.“ This collaboration is Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s second time working with a fashion designer.  A venture she says she approached with some trepidation. “Fashion is a different beast,“ says the choreographer who works in a hierarchical yet fluid way with her dancers in the studio.  “In the first experience, there was a lack of a guiding force.  Ideas would be thrown out, but no room was made for individual aspects to shine. There was no understanding of needs of dancers. I was traumatized really.”

In her collaboration with Paola, Tiffany has found a like-minded partner. “Paola respects the process which allowed me to go forward. She is a collaborator in the true sense of the word.” Akin to bees making honey, Hernández is fueled by the act of individuals coming together to make something unique. Meeting regularly with a team that included a composer and cinematographer, the designer would share photographs, video, and music inspirations. For Hernández, “collaborating is working with the same idea but allowing each other to go off and express in a way that feels natural and inspiring.“  Rea-Fisher shares this working philosophy, “The lead was Paola. We all made choices and moved on.  I am not a fashion designer, the composer is not a choreographer, we each do what we do. We allowed each other the space to create and then come back to make more decisions together.”

Allowing oneself to be affected by another extends past their individual modus operandi into the foundation of their actual collaboration.  Rea-Fisher’s new work, "Newton’s Cradle", with costume designs by Hernández, is a piece that at its essence is about cause and effect. Inspired by the highly recognizable executive desktop chrome contraption of hanging spheres suspended between a frame by thin wires, "Newton’s Cradle", according to press materials, “Explores the known and unknown consequences of one’s actions.”

Openness, or sensitivity, to external input, is not where their commonalities stop. For both Rea-Fisher and Hernández, the fundamental aspect of both their creative processes is the constant exploration of what it means to be human.  For Rea-Fisher, personal expression, individuality, and the acceptance of that are core principals and Hernández, who studied philosophy, is guided by personal experiences, “Instead of writing essays I use clothing and shoes.“

Their shared sense of play, inspiration, and humanity can be seen this week during Elisa Monte Dance Company's 35th-Anniversary season at City College's Aaron Davis Hall, March 2-5. Performance schedule and ticket information below.

Director: Jesse McGowan, Cinematographer: Jason Banker, Music by: Jessica Pavone, Model: Jana Knauerova from Wilhelmina Models, Make-up Artist: Regan Rabanal from MAC Cosmetics, Hair Stylist: Micki Charles from CUTLER, Manicurist: Mimi Wilson, Dance Company: Elisa Monte Dance, Choreography: Tiffany Rea-Fisher

Dancers: Clymene Baugher, Maria Ambrose, Mindy Lai, JoVonna Parks

Wednesday, March 2, 7:00 p.m. – Gala performance will include excerpts of Elisa Monte's "Pangaea," Rea-Fisher's "Newton’s Cradle," and a solo performance of Monte’s "Run to the Rock" by Tiffany Rea-Fisher 
Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. – Premiere of Elisa Monte’s "Pangaea."
An intermission toast with the company’s Artistic Director will take place Friday night.
Saturday, March 5, 7:30 p.m. – Premiere of Tiffany Rea Fisher’s "Newton’s Cradle", and "Current". This program also includes Rea-Fisher’s "why so curious?" and alumni performance of Monte’s "Shattered". 

*A photographic retrospective will be on display in the lobby of Aaron Davis Hall from February 8-March 7 and can be viewed Monday through Friday,  9:00 a.m-6:00 p.m., and open until 10:00 p.m. during performances. 

Tickets and Venue
Aaron Davis Hall is located on the campus of The City College of New York on Convent Avenue between west 133rd and 135th Street. Convent Avenue is one block east of Amsterdam Avenue. The theater is accessible by the 1 train to 137th street, and the A, D, B and C trains to 145th street.
Purchase Tickets here:  OR call 212-650-6900. General admission tickets are available at $25. Group sales for groups of 10, student and senior tickets are $15. $5 rush tickets are available for City College of New York Students. March 2nd Gala tickets include the 7:00 p.m. performance with dinner to follow at 8:30 p.m. Purchase Gala tickets here:

A New York-based dance and theatre artist, Jennifer has worked with Franco Dragone, Julie Taymor, Donald Byrd, David Rousseve, Ronald K. Brown, Michael Jackson, The Radio City Rockettes, and has performed on Broadway in Saturday Night Fever and Disney’s The Lion King. As a director and choreographer her theatre work includes:Three Women, by Patterson, Loring, and Zainabu; The Children, by Phillip Howze; Bull Rusher, by Eisa Davis; Woman Bomb, by Ivana Sajko; and October in the Chair, adapted from short stoierries by Neil Gaiman. She is currently touring her solo performance, The Geneva Project, an interdisciplinary and immersive dance work directed by Charlotte Brathwaite.

Having studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and The American Dance Festival she holds a BA in Dance from UCLA and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.  Jennifer has been an artist in residence at Yale University, Central Connecticut State University, The Field, Mabou Mines, Baryshnikov Arts Center, 651 Arts, and Sisters Academy. She is currently on faculty at Central Connecticut State University.