Linda Mensch – Feb AOTM Interview – Part Two!

All About The Dance…

Photo by JoEllen Kelly
Photo by JoEllen Kelly

SAC ~ What made you want to do this? What started it?

Linda ~ I started dancing when I was 7 and never looked back, never thought of stopping. My first dance class consisted of ballet, tap, jazz, and baton twirling all in one hour. I LOVED it! After class was over Mrs. Dirken, my dance teacher, would have us line up as she hand wrote in each of our notebooks the ballet terms we just learned and the tap step we just learned. I wish I’d kept that notebook.

When I was in junior high school, my physical education teacher saw my interest in dance and got me out of school once a week with 2 other high school girls and took us to NYC to Cunningham studio – my intro to Modern dance. It was different and challenging I was hooked. Then I found myself at Fokine Ballet Camp where we went to several shows at Jacobs Pillow where I saw my first Modern dance performance… so weird , so much to talk about when we came out of the theater. I wanted more, more, more…

My mom found The Center For Modern Dance in Hackensack, NJ., where I studied until graduation then continued to Bard College as a dance major. I had a dance company up and running after Bard for several years performing in theaters, parks, schools etc. Menschwerks performed in the NY-NJ area, in Boston and in London, England. I also performed with Dinosaur Dance Company, Spoke the Hub dance company, Aileen Passloff among others.

Photo by Diane Pell
Photo by Diane Pell

The plan was to have a Modern Dance company, to tour the world. Well, I built the company and got to perform. I worked with some inspiring dancers who made my choreography grow to new levels. Teaching became my passion unexpectedly.

Dance Inventions
Dance Inventions

My first teaching job was for blind senior citizens. I loved working with them. I created a dance film where they danced to Keith Richards singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. That began my love affair with the process of teaching. I went back to The Center for Modern Dance (where I studied from age 14) and I began training to become a teacher. I learned something so valuable there – that it wasn’t all about learning the steps – you also really needed to understand where students were developmentally and emotionally. I also worked with special needs students which, later in my life, became another big part of my teaching career. I taught for many years at Gowanus Arts Exchange, and Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn and in area preschools. My days were full of teaching dance and driving back and forth in NY and NJ and I loved every minute.

b and w classesEventually, I ended up moving to Warwick. My first job here was running a summer arts program at Warwick Valley Community Center. After, I taught classes within the Clocktower gym. I had 30 students at that point and with a bit of nudging from a friend I opened the Moving Company on Main Street above The Toy Chest and immediately had 60 students. I hired lots of interesting teachers over my 10 years there and saw lots of students go on to dance professionally or do other interesting things with their lives. I feel so grateful that so many of them have stayed in my life. The Moving Company, true to its name, has had many homes, and has been happily housed at Vastu for the past 4 years.

Photos by JoEllen Kelly
Photos by JoEllen Kelly

linda instructing

SAC ~ Do you have a favorite choreographer?

Linda ~ I like a lot of choreographers for different reasons. I always liked Twyla Tharp. Her choreography had ease within its complex technical movement. The subjects were interesting. There are so many great companies I admire; Yvonne Rainer, Jose Limon and many more.

"Passage" Photo by Hannah Maxwell
“Passage” Photo by Hannah Maxwell

SAC ~ Who influenced your work?

Linda ~ So many amazing teachers – particularly Marya Warshaw and Aileen Passloff. Both made us think inside, outside, and around the box. Their lessons still come up and make me say, “OH I get it now!” So thought-provoking.

Photo by JoEllen Kelly
Photo by JoEllen Kelly

SAC ~ What is the most difficult part of the process?

Linda ~ The difficult part might be starting, even though it still tickles me. The process is not all fun, it’s sometimes uncomfortable. Early on I learned to ride those times and have faith in the process.

 SAC ~ What about the process is the most fun?

 Linda ~ When the dance begins to have its own life, when the dance tells me what to do next…when the flow takes over.

Performance at Seligmann Center, Sugar Loaf, NY
Performance at Seligmann Center, Sugar Loaf, NY

 SAC ~ What inspires you?

Linda ~ These days I would say anything (can inspire) – a space, a headline, the way a crowd weaves. One of my favorite pieces I performed was called “Lily’s Planet” about a 3-year-old girl playing alone in her room with her doll who was not sure if it was real. The piece was based on real interactions with my friend’s daughter, things she said, how she moved. Another piece “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Barbie” (which also inspired a New Yorker cartoon by Danny Shanahan) was about being single at age thirty depicted through the use of Barbie dolls – Wedding Barbie, Spanish Barbie, Ken was Can’t Be Barbie, etc. Both pieces were danced to the music of Night Ark, an instrumental jazz quartet – with some of the music performed live.

Linda Mensch and Patty Cook ~ photo by JoEllen Kelly
Linda Mensch and Patty Cook ~ photo by JoEllen Kelly

The Moving Company is a thriving part of Warwick’s cultural community. Performances by the company can be experienced in many settings in and around Warwick. In the past, as participants in Warwick’s annual Arts Festivals, you would have found TMC dancing at Scheuermann Farm, at Railroad Green or in Sugar Loaf, NY (below), on Main Street or at Winslow Therapeutic Riding Center. The Moving Company Summer Arts Program dancers performed on the Carriage Path steps, followed by an art show in the adjacent Tuscan Cafe’ (now Sugar Shack Cafe’), and held an art show in Port Of Call (now Millspaugh Furniture). Working with community is something that comes naturally to Linda and her company and something she welcomes doing more of in the future.

‘Warwick Dances’ – part of the Warwick Summer Arts Festival, The Moving Company invited Warwickians to dance…and dance they did!  Check out the video here:

Below are photos from other performances…

Water dance Barn Yard dance

Pillow Dance - recital performance at Seligmann Center, Sugar Loaf, NY
Pillow Dance – recital performance at Seligmann Center, Sugar Loaf, NY

The Moving Company will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2017. Watch for a Facebook events page for details!

For more information about The Moving Company Dance Center visit the website and Facebook page:

Moving Co new logo

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