SPARTA — Few things could be better than a life filled with dance, as Sparta resident Lea Antolini well knows.
Antolini, Assistant Professor of Dance at Centenary College and Sparta Lake resident since 2003, was awarded the Jete Award on June 28 at the Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick.
The Jete Award is presented by the Dance New Jersey organization to a candidate who has made “a leap forward” — from which the word ‘Jete’ is roughly translated in French — for New Jersey dance.
Dancing career“I started dancing when I was eight years old,” says Antolini. “My older sister is a musician and there was always lots of music in our house. When I turned eight, my mom took me to dance lessons.”
And that’s when it all began. She danced all the way through college at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she majored in Musical Theater and Classical Voice.
During that period, she also became more interested in modern dance. After obtaining an MFA from Brandeis University, she moved to New York City and eventually settled in Sparta, her husband’s home town (she is originally from Vineland).
Her teaching career started at a Montessori school, where she taught young children. Eventually, she started at Centenary and was working there full-time by 2008. For the past three years she has been hosting the Centenary Stage Company’s (CSC) Dance Fest, which is partially funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Still, her nomination for the Jete Award caught her by surprise.
“I don’t know how it happened,” she says. “Somebody must have nominated me!”
Keeping busyAs might be expected, Antolini keeps a busy schedule. When not teaching at Centenary, she is Assistant Director and Choreographer for Blessed Unrest, an off-Broadway theater company that uses all new material. Additionally, she teaches yoga at Yoga Youniverse on Woodport Road, and she will be playing the lead role in Peter Pan at Centenary this fall.
Antolini offers advice to prospective dancers.
“Be diligent. Work hard and always be open-minded to new styles and different teachers," Antolni said. "I stress to all my students to perfect your technique. Not only does it make you a better dancer but it keeps you healthy, too!”