Wellesley Resident Embodies Youthful Spirit Through Dance

Wellesley resident Joanie Block, a modern dancer who has been teaching and performing in the Boston area for more than 30 years, will be presenting the debut of her own choreography in a modern dance concert entitled “Dear Olivia” this spring.  

The project was inspired by a letter Block wrote to her younger neighbor, Olivia Stein, on the eve of her Bat Mitzvah.  “It started as a congratulatory letter,” said Block. “But, as I started writing, a lot of thoughts and concepts came to the forefront. It got me thinking about the rituals and milestones that mark what people consider the transition from girlhood to womanhood.”

Block says the letter discussed the endearing qualities Stein had as a girl, and the wish she had that she would carry them into her womanhood.

“I don’t think we ever let go of the little girl inside of us,” said Block. “There are moments of our lives that we get to choose what part of the girl we bring into ourselves as women, and I think the spirit of the little girl is present right up to our death. That concept made me consider adapting that idea into an art form.”

While using her own choreography, Block went on to enlist the help of others to turn her letter to Stein into a production. With the assistance of composer Billy Novick, set designer Linda Klein and videographer Lynn Bikofsky, the production explores the span of a woman’s life under the guiding eye of a young girl’s spirit.

“There are five dances,” said Block. “It starts at infancy and ends at death, where the woman’s life unfolds before her. Each dance represents different phases of life.”

The production will be highlighted with video footage, which includes images from Norway, sculptures, and natural settings.  Most importantly, though, Block says video was her way of bringing her late mother with her to the production.

“We took a lot of photos and weaved them into the concert,” she said.

Auditions for dancers were held this past spring in Cambridge, Mass. Four professional dancers, Melinda Rothstein, Yenkuei Chuang, Jessica Muise, and Lucy Considine, were chosen for the production.

Block says she hopes the concert conveys Stein’s spirit.

“She has a very unique freshness and openness about her, and I feel that should be celebrated,” she said.

The production will debut the weekend of April 27 & 28 at the Green Street Studios in Cambridge. It will also be performed on May 3 at the Jewish Community Center in Newton. More dates are expected to be added closer to the time of production.