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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

CSUF dance majors head to prestigious NYC festival – Orange County Register

The Cal State Fullerton Dance Program will be on the international stage this summer as a piece choreographed by two CSUF seniors was selected to be performed at the prestigious WHITE WAVE DUMBO Dance Festival this June in New York.

The four-day DUMBO Dance Festival (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is hosted by the WHITE WAVE Young Soon Kim Dance Company and is in its 22nd year of spotlighting contemporary dance artists from around the world.

CSUF seniors Sophia Bernardo and Leila Massoudi choreographed the contemporary piece “Lavanertia” for six fellow Titan dancers for the program’s Fall Dance Concert, held last November. The piece was well received by the CSUF dance faculty, and Bernardo and Massoudi were encouraged to submit it for consideration to several dance festivals across the country.

Grateful for the opportunity to submit work they were proud of, and hopeful for positive outcomes, Bernardo and Massoudi were stunned to receive the news that their piece had been accepted by the DUMBO Dance Festival.

“It means a lot, mainly because of how up and coming the (CSUF Dance] program is,” Massoudi said. “To be able to have our names, and our professors’ names, linked to this program and the school, it’s incredibly beneficial.”

Bernardo is from Huntington Beach and Massoudi hails from the Bay Area, and both entered college with backgrounds in dance. They chose CSUF’s Dance Program for its strong reputation and the opportunity to expand their dance styles and obtain exposure within the dance industry. Part of their curriculum includes choreography, and while collaborating over the past few years, the two developed a strong working relationship and decided to team up to choreograph the piece for the program’s Fall Dance Concert.

“We have been taking a lot of choreography classes, and so that has really helped us improve and discover our artistic movement quality throughout the years,” Massoudi said. “And it just so happens that our movement qualities and artistic styles of what we like to choreograph on ourselves and others are contemporary and modern-based, so they work well together.”

The title “Lavanertia” is a play on words from Sir Isaac Newton’s Law of Inertia, and with “momentum” as the Fall Dance Concert’s theme, Bernardo and Massoudi found the perfect opportunity to weave the concept of movement into all aspects of the piece.


“We saw it fitting to utilize inertia within our title, which reflects actions of an external force on all objects,” Bernardo said.

CSUF dance professors Lisa D. Long and Joshua D. Estrada-Romero, both of whom have previously had pieces accepted by DDF, encouraged Bernardo and Massoudi to submit their work and have been instrumental in providing support and guidance to the pair.

“It’s an amazing opportunity … and we’ve had an incredible amount of support from our professors throughout the process, which we are very grateful for,” Massoudi said.

The DUMBO Dance Festival is set for June 22-25 at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY. Bernardo and Massoudi will be joined at the festival by Titan dancers Kelsey Hutchison, Jazmine Huerta, Jolyn Lambey, Colby Hanning, Erik Jaimes and Robinn Titular, who will perform “Lavanertia” alongside 55 companies and 300 emerging and established artists. The opportunity will provide tremendous exposure for both the dancers and the choreographers.

“I hope it brings other dancers inspiration and other CSUF students to submit to festivals like this and to know that there are opportunities for dancers and choreographers straight out of college, which is not always as widely known,” Massoudi said.

“Lavanertia” is choreographed by Sophia Bernardo and Leila Massoudi for six dancers and was performed at the CSUF Fall Dance Concert in November. (Courtesy of Skye Schmidt Varga)

Both Bernardo and Massoudi have their eyes on careers in the dance industry post-graduation. Massoudi will graduate this month with her degree in dance, while Bernardo will complete her dance curriculum this spring but will stay at CSUF for another year to finish her double major in public relations. The two credit the program’s course curriculum for helping them discover their own body and artistic movement, along with the small class sizes and one-on-one opportunities.

“The professors really get to know you as both a person and a dancer,” Bernardo said. “They’re great at helping you find companies or just techniques and styles that will fit you as a dancer. It’s very refreshing to be a part of a department that isn’t trying to mold dancers to be all one thing. They’re very open to allowing dancers to have their own identities within the dance community.”

Bernardo, Massoudi and the Titan dancers know an opportunity like this is rare for college students, so they are looking forward to not only showcasing their talents but representing the Titan community with pride.

“We’re all so incredibly close as dancers and choreographers and have grown up together these past four years within the dance community,” Massoudi said. “It’s exciting to able to spend time doing something that we’ve always dreamed of doing and experiencing it together.”

To support the travel expenses of the CSUF dancers and choreographers, visit https://gofund.me/60c0c434

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