Arts scene enriches youth, adults in New Brunswick

When you take Exit 9 off the Turnpike, you’re led to a route rich in the arts. A road from schooling to the stage.

Seventeen-year-old Bria Vainquer focuses at the barre as she prepares to perform a piece she choreographed. Each plie, pirouette and pointed toe is purposeful.

“Having them really instill that technique, it’s made me grow. When I go outside InSpira it really shows,” she said.

Since the age of four, she’s perfected her skills at InSpira Performing Arts and Cultural Center, an African-American owned studio in New Brunswick where nearly 300 students have endless possibilities.

“We do ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and modern and in the modern technique, we do Horton technique, we do Graham technique and we do Limón technique,” said InSpira Dance Academy owner Kristine Smith.

Smith says the studio’s mission is to prepare students for a world beyond New Brunswick.

“We want to instill future values in them about giving back to the community,” Smith said. “They’re our future leaders. We instill that in them when they come through the doors of InSpira because our kids need it.”

Through partnerships and scholarship programs, they’re all college-bound. And, conveniently, Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts is nearby.

It’s an intimate campus setting where musicians, dancers, thespians and visual arts students can fine tune their craft. It’s the university’s unique and intensive approach to conceptual creation that attracted Enrique Figeredo, an MFA visual arts student.

“I’m just really trying to dig into the community here and work with everyone, learn as much as I can. It’s a transient town, it’s an important historical town but its transient because the university is here,” Figeredo said.

Some graduates are cast in the Crossroads Theater Company — a Tony-award winning group celebrating and producing work that tells the stories of African-Americans.

“It’s kind of like a crossroads of all of these industries, where you can then say that the arts can play important role in providing this glue, so that we can put on plays and tell stories that have can have impact,” said Crossroads artistic director Marshall Jones.

The company will be on the road while its state of the art New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is constructed, right next to the legendary State Theater where Glen Burtnik has played sold-out shows.

“My first time playing one of my own shows in this beautiful house blew my mind along with my friend, we put together a group called the slaves of New Brunswick and I wrote songs about New Brunswick,” Burtnik said.

He sings, “The place I’m from is on the Raritan River, south Manhattan maybe 40 miles. That trip to California really made up my mind, I turned around and headed home to exit number 9.”

Exit 9, the gateway to talent and greatness in New Brunswick.