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Dance spotlight on Jessica Marino

Jessica Marino
Jessica Marino
Renee Rosensteel

Pittsburgh has become a thriving community for contemporary dance, rivaling other major cities in the amount of work we produce. Talented artists locally and nationwide are settling down in what was once considered a “steel town,” but is now clearly an artistic hub.

Dancer, choreographer, agent, and teacher, Jessica Marino, moved to Pittsburgh from outside of Philadelphia to pursue a degree in dance from Point Park University, and has since made a thriving career out of her many creative talents. In fact, before she even went to college, Marino had a career performing with Dance Visions, an Isadora Duncan company in Long Island, NY. When she was struck with a need for change, she began to explore her options, and decided on Pittsburgh.

After graduation, Marino began performing with various companies around town. And like most dancers, she added teaching jobs and other related work to supplement the less than desirable artist income.

The most intriguing teaching gig Marino has is her work at Propel in McKeesport. She and lead teacher, Kerra Alexander, built a dance curriculum within the school’s integrated arts program. In 8-week sessions, they teach kindergarteners, 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th graders how to “self-regulate” through movement. In three segments per class, they teach the kids something active and cardiovascular, then move on to a concept utilizing their creativity and personal experiences, and finish with different styles of choreography, from contemporary to hip-hop.

Of the program, Marino says, “We aren’t teaching them what is right and wrong, but to think for themselves. The kids don’t choose to be in the class, but the fun part is watching the kids who didn’t think they were going to like it turn around.”

In addition to teaching for Propel and other schools/centers, Marino works as an agent with River City Arts Management. The agency has twelve companies nationwide, for which they book and produce showcases. Marino acts as a liaison between the presenters and companies.

Her work in Philadelphia remains close to her heart. Remotely, she has co-directed and project-managed an organization called the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange. This year, they produced their second dance festival, SpringUP, with over 130 dancers in attendance. The festival hires teachers of various styles from New York and the greater Philadelphia area, and also offers performance opportunities to participants. The festival is free of charge to the community.

On the performance end, Marino continues to work with many local artists, and has quite a few shows coming up this summer and fall. For PrideFest, she will be performing under Staycee Pearl’s direction in a potential duet. Also under Pearl, she will be dancing in a group piece this fall, called “Playground.”

In a site-specific work at the Pittsburgh Aviary, choreographed by Shana Simmons, Marino will be project managing and dancing. And her solo work will be presented with Nova Scotian poet, Three Birds, accompanied by Spanish guitar. The poem and performance piece, “Glacier Tears,” celebrates “the vibration of life” and references a glacier that is currently melting in the Andes.

Lastly (performance-wise), Marino will be dancing in two of Continuum Dance Theater’s fall shows, “Empire” and “Table.”

And then there is her choreography.

For the last four years, Marino has been choreographing the all-school music at the Center for Theater Arts. This June, “Camp Rock” will feature about 150 students ranging from 1st to 8th grade. The musical is set in present day and the dancing will also have a modern flair.

The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh will also be using Marino’s choreographic talents, in their summer production of “The Merry Widow.” This will be Marino’s first opera experience. She says the challenge will be refreshing. Of the 35 performers, only a handful have dance experience. She says, “It’s easy to play to a trained dancer’s virtuosity, but to use people with other strengths will help me think about the movement more honestly.”

Marino is constantly changes hats (or shoes), and she firmly believes that versatility is important for every artist. She says, “I go through ebbs and flows as far as what I may prefer; to be constantly putting myself in different situations helps me fuel the work I am most at home with.”


“Camp Rock”

June 6th and 7th, Center for Theater Arts

Click HERE for updated details.

Staycee Pearl Dance Project


June 15th

Time and Place TBA, click HERE for updated details.


Fall ’14, Dates TBA

Click HERE for updated information.

“Glacier Tears” Collaboration

June 26th, time TBA

Point Breezeway on Reynolds St. in Point Breeze

Click HERE for more details.

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh

"The Merry Widow" - Opera Theater of Pittsburgh SummerFEST

July 11th at 7:30 p.m., July 19th at 7:30 p.m., and July 27th at 2:00 p.m.

Art Deco Theater at the Twentieth Century Club

Click HERE for more details.

Continuum Dance Theater


August 8th - 10th

Off the Wall Performing Arts Center in Carnegie


Fall '14 - Dates and times TBA

Click HERE for updated information on CDT's events.

Shana Simmons Dance

Aviary Site-Specific Piece

Fall '14 - Dates and times TBA

The Pittsburgh Aviary

Click HERE for updated information.

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