Meet the Companies


Title of Piece: Happiness? IDentity
Description: What means to live and what means to be … what means human being and identy?

People are dealing with so many issues, questions and decisions in our rapidly growing complex world with all its multifarious social issues and problems. Today’s society and human values ares threatend and sometimes already shattered by escalating violence, terrorist attacks, wars and social injustice. It appears there isn`t time anymore to breath in our very mobile, flexible and virtual information society.
Nowadays human beings are ask to be super flexible, adaptable to a fast changing society and its economy sized values and dreams as well as technological demands. So how can we still know who we are, what we need, what we really want.

People have started to questioning more and more about happiness and satisfaction and the meaning of existance. It seems it gets more difficult to find it. But how and where can we find happiness and satisfaction in that multifarious world? Does finding our own and real identity helps? Or can`t we have simple have more beings in one person? Why do we have to classify label ourself and each other? Should we more focus, listening to our own strengh to reach a kind of true happiness?

The imbalance between outer expections and conditions and inner search for real happiness is the issue of this piece. Anne Dietrichs shows the struggle of today’s generation in search for meaning, significance, inner piece, with the help of different dancestyles. Contemporary dances meets the graceful South Indian Mohiniyattam as well the powerful Kathak.

Meaningful gestures meet intensity. The piece doesn`t want to give answers, but moments for thoughts and questioning…

About the Choreographer: Anne Dietrich is a graduated Culture and Dance Educationalist as well a qualified dancer and choreographer. Next to Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Jazz Dance, Improvisations Technique, she studied Kathak under Guru Smt. Geetanjali Lal in Delhi, as well Mohiniyattam under Guru Padmashree Bharati Shivaji, Kalamandalam Leelamma and Pallavi Krishnan. In addition to her dance, the passion for dance music and theater has played an important role in her life. She took lessons in piano, classical singing, music theory and theater in Germany and Ireland. Anne is artistic leader of the Indian art ensemble Atmadvhani, Srijan as well Prateeksha, as well together with Jana Schmueck of the dance and art institute TanzART Kirschau. As a freelancer she performed especially Classical Indian Dance at well-known platforms in Spain, France, Belgium, Danemark, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia and India.

Dancer: Anne Dietrich


Title of Piece: « Gargouille Digestif »
Description: Description: What really happens when we aren’t watching? A journey into another point of view. Gargouille Digestif seeks to transport. A study of the collective versus the individual. And, the choices we make along the way.

About the Choreographer: Melanie Ramos was born and raised in Miami, FL and attended New World School of the Arts High School. In 2014, she was a Young Arts finalist in the categories of modern dance and choreography. In 2018, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Purchase College with a BFA in Dance. She has studied at Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School, Hubbard Street and Ballet Hispanico. In 2015 and 2017, she was selected as a Young Choreographer presenting her own works at the Young Choreographer’s Festival. Following graduation, she received the 2018 Eryc Taylor Dance New Choreographer Grant as well as choreographing for the American Swiss Ballet Company and Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School.

Dancers: Malcolm Jones, Blake Brown, Ellen Mihalick, Barbara Lins & Gabrielle d’Anthouard


Title of Piece: 6 Gals, for Themselves
Description: This piece was designed to display the innate strength brought about 6 ladies dancing as fast and furiously as possible, all the while performing with unbridled joy and excitement. As women in musical theater, we rarely get to show off our true technical potential, so I literally “jumped” at the chance to showcase leaps and turns galore. It hopefully re-invigorates interest in classic musical theater, when tunes were propulsive and dance was king, while simultaneously giving a nod to new-age creativity.

About the Choreographer: As a dancer, Ms. Diniz competed with the studio In the Spotlight for many years, earning regional and national titles/scholarships. She also trained at the Paper Mill Playhouse Conservatory and Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute. Upon graduating from Cornell University (B.A. in English and Theater, minor in Dance), she was featured in productions of My Fair Lady, National Pastime and Rocky Horror under the direction of Tony nominee Hunter Foster, with choreography by Waitress’s Lorin Latarro. She joined the Dirty Dancing national tour (u/s Baby, Lisa, Elizabeth) and has been seen in NYC workshops, on One Life to Live and in other regional shows. She is honored to often perform with Stars of American Ballet and partner, New York City Ballet Principal, Daniel Ulbricht.

Choreographically, her work has been showcased in Stars of American Ballet rep, New York Choreographers’ Forum, Dance Against Cancer Youth Movement (NYC), Locally Grown Dance Festival, Nebula Dance Festival and A’Very Special Night of Dance (NYC). She also choreographed the 2017 AEA showing of ‘On the Air.’ Her pieces were recently presented at Jazz Choreography Enterprises and the Steps Beyond Foundation performance lab and will be upcoming at the Higher Ground Festival and Ballet Arts showcase.

She also has taught, and continues to teach, classes at NYSSA, MYB, AMDA, Groove with Me, Dance Open (Saint Petersburg, Russia) and studios around the New York area.

Dancers: Mary-Kate Hartung, Abbey Hunt, Melissa Hunt, Emily Grace Kersey, Mallory Pettee and Kristi Smith


Title of Piece: Back/Story
The work depicts the events of one pivotal day for a group of friends.
Tonight’s performance is the debut of the final two sections in this six-part work.

About the Choreographer/Company: General Mischief Dance Theatre is dedicated to harnessing the power of joy and laughter to communicate ideas. Mischief creates theatrically-based movement works that are playful, accessible, and often interactive. Head Troublemaker Emily Smyth Vartanian’s choreography has been presented at venues ranging from Radio City, the Capitol Theater, Don’t Tell Mama’s, Theater for the New City, Proctors, the Kumble Center for the Performing Arts, and here at Dixon Place in New York, to the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington D.C. and the Freud Playhouse, Highways, and House of Blues Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Visit for more, including upcoming performances!

Dancers: Maiko Harada, Wendy Lechuga, Allyson Ross, Peter Trojić, Andrea Steiner, and Emily Smyth Vartanian


Photo by Yi Chun Wu

Title of Piece: Scene 10: revision
Description: It is a look into the physical transformation of how migration and immigration affects us physically, ideas and images of leaving something or someone behind, going to or towards a person or place, the struggle of achieving your goals or not, the choices you make alone or with support.

About the Choreographer: Keith A. Thompson, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, danced internationally for the Trisha Brown Dance Company from 1992-2001, served as Trisha’s Rehearsal Assistant from 1998-2001, currently full time faculty in the Dance Department at Mason Gross School of the Arts, performs and rehearsal directs for Liz Lerman; teaches globally for Sasha Waltz & Dancers (Berlin), TsEKh Summer Dance School Moscow Russia; his company,‘danceTactics performance group’, has been featured at Harvard University, Montpellier International Dance Festival, Dance Theater Workshop Guest Artist Series 2006 (New York, NY); Dance Boom Festival at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Dixon Place NYC, the 2013 DanceNOW Joe’s Pub New York Festival, the 2011 Annual Aging in America Conference, 2012 2nd Annual Feature Length Independent Choreography Festival in Brooklyn NY, Jersey Moves Festival at NJPAC in Newark NJ, Triskelion Art Center’s Split Bill Series in Brooklyn, the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival and the Hokusai International Dance and Theater Festival in Tokyo, Japan, BAM Fisher Hall Brooklyn NY, recipient of 2017 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship Award in Choreography.

Dancers: Emily Berry, Aidan Feldman, George Hirsch, Nicole McClam, Sara Roer


Title of Piece: Sita’s Ramayan

Description: Sita’s Ramayan is the result of a childhood filled with Hindu mythology and a present filled with women’s empowerment. Growing up as an Indian American in the US, I listened to great stories of women in Hindu mythology, such as Sita. Sita was revered as this beautiful woman known for the devotion to her husband. After her husband, the King, is sent to exile, she goes with him because of how much she loves him. She is kidnapped by a demon king, and then again saved by her husband. This is usually where the story stopped.

However, after they return to their palace, her husband decides she is untouchable because of her kidnapping. He decides to test her through Agni Pariksha, trial by fire. Still unsatisfied, he exiles her once more. She raises her children in the first, but one day meets him again. Before he takes her back he decides she must go through Agni Pariksha, again, to prove her purity once more. She decides, not this time.

So often Hindu mythology idolizes how quietly women sat and devoted they were to their husbands. Through Kathak (North Indian classical art form characterized by spins, vigorous footwork, and graceful postures) dance and storytelling, I want to discover who Sita really was.

About the Choreographer: Shivani Badgi is a New Jersey/New York based dancer with 18 years of dance experience in Kathak, Ballet, Bollywood, Jazz, Contemporary, and Hip-Hop. She began her training in dance at the age of five under Guru Padma Khanna at Indianica Academy. She furthered her dance education at Joffrey Ballet School, Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University, and Broadway Dance Center. She has had the opportunity to perform on reputable stages at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center during the 50th Anniversary of Lincoln Center, at Warwick Castle and Island Gardens for the American Alliance of Performing Arts London Invitational, Diwali at Times Square with Terence Lewis, and the lead of “Paro” in Hypokrit Theatre Company and Junoon Performing Arts’ dance ballet “Devdas”. She now runs her own Kathak and Bollywood dance school, The Gurukul. The Gurukul is a dance school which aims at providing authentic dance education in a creative environment. We combine the principles of Classical (Eastern) and Modern (Western) dancing to give students a well-rounded dance education.

Dancers: Shivani Badgi, Ria Paladugu, Nakiya Mejevdiwala, Jeeya Tyagi, Janya Tyagi, Isha Gawas-Sarma


Title of Piece: Flakiness in the City
Description: This piece inspired by “how crazy busy it can be living in NYC”. The 4 dancers coming + going out of each other’s lines reflected how people can be flaky in New York. A lot of times people cancel appointment very end, doesn’t answer emails and phone calls. It’s so hard to find real friends. There is one lead lone dancer who is showing the loneliness of NYC during the struggle of finding why I am here.
About the Choreographer: Yuki Ishiguro, a Japanese native, discovered Break dance on the street during college. Since then he has learned many forms of dance. Yuki graduated from Ritsumeikan University in Japan with BA in business, but he chose to work as a professional dancer. After working with Japanese ballet company, Yuki moved to New York. Yuki studied contemporary dance at DNA (Dance New Amsterdam) and studied with unique street performers such as Kenichi Ebina, well known as a winner of America’s Got Talent season 8. From these trainings and his own practice Yuki created his own dance style and signature movements, which has been praised by dance reviews.

Yuki has worked and toured with several dance companies in the U.S. – Roxey ballet, Catapult entertainment, Emery LeCrone dance, etc. After those careers he went on to study choreography and started his own company, Yu.S.Artistry, in 2018. His work has been presented at Booking dance festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Long Island fringe festival, Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, among others.

Dancers: Yuki Ishiguro, Harmony Ketchum, Ayaka Taniguchi, Malia Lam



Title of Piece: Messages

Description: Messages is a new music and dance collaboration developed for Higher Ground Festival, with official premiere on June 29th, 2019. The piece is choreographed by Julia Bengtsson in collaboration with Mauricio Vera, and set to music by Neil Rolnick.
Composer Neil Rolnick’s notes about the music:
“As my wife, Wendy, was dying in August 2018, I promised her that I’d continue writing and performing and touring as always, and that I would bring her spirit with me wherever I go. Several nights after her passing, I awoke in a panic, unable to remember the sound of her voice. After a futile search through my studio for recordings of her, I figured out that I could un-delete voice messages on my phone. I salvaged 6 months of messages, beginning before she fell ill. They don’t contain a lot of information, but their very existence is powerful for me. After I began performing and touring again, I realized that I needed to use the voicemails to make a piece which I could play in solo concerts, so that I can literally bring her with me and share her spirit as I go forward.”
The creation of Messages was supported by Geoffrey Fallon.
Follow @Higher Ground Festival on Facebook and join us at the premiere on June 29th, a free performance!

About the Creators:

Julia Bengtsson (Dancer, Choreographer)
Julia Bengtsson is a Swedish dancer and choreographer based in New York. She received ten years of training from the Royal Swedish BalletSchool and she was a Scholarship Student at the Joffrey Ballet School, New York.
Julia Bengtsson’s works range from classical ballet, to contemporary, to dance film. Her choreography has so far been performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alvin Ailey Dance Center, The Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, Higher Ground Festival, New York Presbyterian Hospital Auditorium, Dixon Place, and The Modern Dance Theater in Sweden. She is a board member of Higher Ground Festival.
As a dancer, Julia Bengtsson has worked four seasons with Connecticut Ballet and performed with the company at The Palace Theater in Stamford and other venues. She has also performed soloist roles at Sweden’s two finest theaters; the Gothenburg Opera and the Royal Swedish Opera House. She is also a guest performer with companies including Victoria Ballet Theatre, Artists by Any Other Name and New York Baroque Dance Company.

Mauricio Vera (Dancer, Choreographer)
A native of Chile, he began his studies in 1998 at “Ballet de Santiago”. Under the artistic direction of Ricardo Bustamante and Marcia Haydée of the “Ballet de Santiago”, He participated in several South America TV productions. In 2006 he continued studying at the “National Ballet of Cuba” of Alicia Alonso and the”Fundacion of Julio Bocca” in Argentina. After moving to the United States he trained at “Steps on Broadway” in NYC. He then worked with “Charleston Ballet Theater”, in South Carolina and with the “State Street Ballet” in Santa Barbara, CA, where he performed soloist and principal roles for six years. Mauricio is currently dancing his sixth season with Roxey Ballet.
Mauricio has worked with choreographers such as Marcia Haydee, Ivan Nagy, Ronald Hynd, Mark Roxey, Willliam Soleau, Rodney Gustafson, A. Prokofviev, J. Pinto, E. Zendejas, and the choreography of; J.Cranko, G. Balanchine, Sir K. MacMillan, Maurice Béjart, and Vicente Nebrada. Mauricio received accolades from Christina Applegate during Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance and tickets to the next round, in LA.

Neil Rolnick (Composer)
Composer Neil Rolnick pioneered the use of computers in musical performance, beginning in the late 1970s. Based in New York City since 2002, his music has been performed world wide, including recent performances in China and Mexico and across the US. His string quartet Oceans Eat Cities was performed at the UN Global Climate Summit in Paris in Dec. 2015. From 2016 to 2019 he received support from CEC ArtsLink, the Bogliasco Foundation, New Music USA and NYSCA. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s he developed the first integrated electronic arts graduate and undergraduate programs in the US, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Though much of his work connects music and technology, and is therefore considered in the realm of “experimental” music, Rolnick’s music has always been highly melodic and accessible, and has been characterized by critics as “sophisticated,” “hummable and engaging,” and as having “good senses of showmanship and humor.”

Dancers: Julia Bengtsson and Mauricio Vera
Music performance: Neil Rolnick



Title of Piece: Chango (B)
Description: This piece is a Afrocuban Salsa piece with a mixture of Rumba, Afro-Cuban, and On2 New York City Mambo. This was created by four different teachers, each one was assigned to a specialty I’m basically Victor Hernandez pieced it all together with his many years of expertise.