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A Day Full Of Dance

LehrerDance: Organically Athletic

Buffalo Dance Festival

The second annual Buffalo Dance Festival is being presented by The Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo on July 31. This celebration of dance was founded last year by esteemed local dancers Jon Lehrer of LehrerDance and Joe Cipolla from the Configuration Dance Theatre. The festival will feature LehrerDance, Configuration Dance Theatre, and the Bill Evans Dance Company.

Artvoice: I read about how you started out dancing. Is it true you took a dance class on a dare?

Jon Lehrer: I’m from Queens, New York and I came to school in Buffalo and I was kind of undecided. I was taking a lot of business courses. I thought I was going to be a business major. I was an athlete and I rowed on the crew team for the University at Buffalo, so I never danced or did anything in the arts— no singing, no acting, nothing. I came up here and starting dating a dancer and we got our grades after our freshman year and she got all A’s and I did not and I said, “Well, of course you got all A’s, all you do is dance.” She bet me I couldn’t get an “A” in a dance class. I did, and that’s how it started. I took her up on it and literally fell in love with it. It was unbelievable... life changing.

AV: What styles would you say your company encompasses?

JL: We call ourselves organically athletic, so what we pride ourselves on and what we’re known across the country is that we’re extremely athletic. You watch us and we definitely bring that edge of your seat excitement. The girls are just as strong as the guys. If I feel like using a jazz step, I do a jazz step. If I want a more modern influence I use that, or break dancing, hip-hop, whatever, it doesn’t matter. I put it all together in this big stew.

AV: Why did you decide to base your dance company in Buffalo?

JL: I was in Chicago for ten years and dancing professionally in New York City for three years prior to that. Any business 101 student will tell you: supply and demand. A dance company is a business—bottom line—it happens to be in the arts. You don’t start a business in the same place where there are hundreds of the same businesses. I’d be fighting for audience and dancers, so I was looking at a few places in more regional cities that had a good arts scene, but wasn’t inundated with professional dance companies. I thought of Buffalo because I went to school here and my wife is from here and has family here. We tour all over the country, and everywhere we go we are proudly waving that Buffalo flag.

AV: Who would you say are your most influential role models in the dance world?

JL: When I started my company I went back to the classic way of doing things. There are not many dance companies in this country that have single choreographers—in other words a company nowadays usually hires different choreographers. That’s not how it used to be back in the day, whether it was Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Murray Louis, or Bill Evans. The companies were named after them and it was all their work. Well, I want the company to be a single voice and have a single style—my style—so my influences go back to that. I’m also a huge fan of John Travolta and Patrick Swayze for just being cool guy dancers.

AV: What can we expect from you and your company at the Buffalo Dance Festival?

JL: We will be doing three of our most exciting pieces that definitely have the “wow” factor. We’re bringing in Bill Evans who is performing and has a huge following. It’s definitely on the modern side and he’s got his classic style and technique, which is timeless. Then there’s the Configuration Dance Theatre, so you have the ballet aspect as well, plus our athletic style. We have classes during the day and performances at night, so it’s a day full of awesomeness. I’m teaching along with Joe Cipolla, Bill Evans, and Tom Ralabate, who is a professor at the University of Buffalo. Eventually, we’d like to bring companies here and show them what a good place we have here and to let Buffalo see great dance.

Visit for more information, or call 716-883-4510.

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