March 24, 2016

Choreographer and Teacher, Joanna Mendl Shaw, Serves as Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Centenary University

03/24/2016, 03:41 PM
Hackettstown, N.J. – JoAnna Mendl Shaw, Choreographer and Teacher, is serving as a Centenary University Spring 2016 Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lecturer.  Shaw’s work at Centenary University is a groundbreaking collaboration between the Theatre Arts and Equine Studies Departments. Her work on campus, with Theater students, equestrians and the Centenary community teaches herd of horses and focuses on Physical Listening and the kinetic expressiveness that emerges when you bring performers and horses together inside a creative process.

She has been teaching Movement Composition classes for the Theatre Arts students and is working with Centenary equestrians and dancers from her New York company on the creation of a performance piece that will premiere at the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) National Show on April 23, 2016. “Inter-species Encounters” will be performed at noon at the Centenary Equestrian Center, located at 12-56 Califon Road in Long Valley. This event is free and open to the public.

The focus of the Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lecturer series here at Centenary is to promote cross curriculum activities between departments, with strong emphasis on promoting the value of the arts in conjunction with other disciplines. In her classes with Centenary Theatre Arts students she has been exploring the dynamics of leading and following duets, emphasizing the importance of Physical Listening, spatial awareness and being accountable for movement choices when improvising, when choreographing, when performing. Shaw sees the application of an interspecies lens as offering valuable lessons about leadership, listening, negotiation and authenticity.

Centenary Equine Studies students Corinne Babcock (Mentor, OH), Alex Holbrook (Orleans, VT), Chloe Pedersen (Rockfall, CT) and Camille Schenk (San Diego, CA) are performing in the April 23rd event alongside The Equus Projects dancers.  This work has been completed in collaboration with the following Centenary faculty members: Lea Antolini-Lid, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts; Sarah Simms, Assistant Professor of Equine Studies; and Dr. Lynn Taylor, Professor of Equine Science. Approximately 50 hours of work will have been dedicated to this project upon completion.

Shaw with her company, The Equus Projects, has created over forty works for dancers and horses throughout the United States and in Sweden. For well over twenty years her work has been broadening the boundaries of traditional dance.  Shaw is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Choreographic Fellowships and she has choreographed for dance companies throughout the States and Europe.  Her company of professional dancers are all trained in natural horsemanship and committed to the investigation of the dynamic physical dialogue between horses and humans.

“I am so pleased that Joanna Mendl Shaw is able to serve as our Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lectureship and that she is working with our students on a long-term basis in a cross-curricular fashion,” says Dr. James Patterson, Chief Academic Officer and Provost at Centenary University.  “Our students will benefit from her knowledge and expertise and members of the community will have the opportunity to learn about her work.”

The Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) began in 1995 as an informal competition among a small group of colleges and secondary schools in the northeast.  Michelle Hoffman, who was a student at Mt. Holyoke during this time was the originator of the IDA concept. She personally drew up the basic structure for the team competition and the guidelines for calculation of team points, which, for the most part, are still in use today.

Johnson and Wales University, Mt. Holyoke College, The Ethel Walker School, Williston Academy, Stoneleigh Burnham School and Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) were all among the first school-sponsored programs seeking to develop dressage as a “team” sport. The rapid international growth of dressage inspired greater development within college and secondary school riding programs. This led to an increase in participation and interest in a more formally constructed national organization.

In the spring of 2001, the first eastern region finals were held at Virginia Intermont College. During the finals, representatives from numerous colleges and secondary schools met to approve by-laws, elect officers and create the structure for the organization that is dedicated to increasing interest and participation in competitive dressage at the college and secondary school level.
The organization began with a handful of college members and quickly grew to include riders from all over the US and Canada. In 2003, the IDA became a college only organization.

The Gates-Ferry Distinguished Visiting Lectureship at Centenary University recognizes the dedication to the College of Joseph R. Ferry, Trustee from 1948 to 1976 and treasurer of the Board of Trustees for 20 years.  It was established to set high standards and goals for students and faculty alike, and to enrich the quality of life on the Centenary campus.


Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix is designed to provide an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world.

Centenary University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township (Morris County).  The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs in two locations: Parsippany and Edison, and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.  The School of International Programs recruits international students for study at Centenary and Centenary students for study abroad.


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