Dance company makes big moves

Coaction Dance Collective aims to engage the community through dance.

Coaction Dance Collective members Julee Mahon (left), Emma MacDonald and Gracianna Coscia practice in a studio on Main Campus. Kara Milstein |TTN
Coaction Dance Collective members Julee Mahon (left), Emma MacDonald and Gracianna Coscia practice in a studio on Main Campus. Kara Milstein |TTN

Temple alumna Gracianna Coscia, Emma MacDonald and Julee Mahon have been dancing together for only five years, but their body language shows a sense of lifelong sisterhood within its movement.

Throughout their college career in the Boyer College of Music and Dance, the three built a strong friendship and collaborated together. After graduating in 2013, they performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival with a group of other Temple graduates. Soon after the festival, they decided to keep their creativity alive. They concluded the best way to do that would be to keep collaborating.

“We decided we wanted to continue to do it, but without the fringe this time,” MacDonald said. “It’s a little expensive and just a lot of red tape, so we decided to all get together and figure something out.”

Although many of their classmates moved after graduation, Coscia, MacDonald and Mahon decided to stay in Philadelphia and continue to pursue dance locally. This past May they formed Coaction Dance Collective, a new modern-based dance group with a mission to engage in the community of Philadelphia and reach out to local artists for collaboration.

“Our collaboration is more in terms of the creative process of putting it all together,” MacDonald said.

“So it’s been a process, we’re learning, we just had our first show and got together after to speak about what the next one will be and what it really means to make a collective,” Coscia said.

Coaction Dance Collective held their premiere performance, “The Long and Short of it” this past Saturday Oct. 11 in Pig Iron Studio at Crane Old School. Coscia, MacDonald and Mahon each performed individual pieces telling a personal story through variations of both choreographed and improvisational dance. They collaborated with local artists, including other Temple alumni, who contributed to various forms of art in the show.  The artwork ranged from dance performances, music, a visual gallery and poetry to the artist’s handmade scarves and jewelry that was also incorporated.

Coscia, MacDonald and Mahon said that CDC’s mission statement is to reach out to the community in a way that inspires fellow artists to keep their creativity alive through all art forms.

“All of us have this really big love for Philadelphia and the community, so we wanted to figure out a way to try and keep that revolving in keeping the community together,” Mahon said. “We not only wanted to inspire ourselves, but to inspire other artists and the community, hoping to bring everyone in every aspect together.”

“We weren’t trying to make it about just our work,” Coscia said. “We thought it was really important to reach out to other people who were interested in what we are interested in, collaborating to make work and a whole show with them and what it means to have all these different types of artists who are working around a central theme, like being together.”

Along with reaching out to other local artists for collaboration, Coaction Dance Collective also plans to take action toward service and charity involvement in the Philadelphia community. At its show, the organization displayed information and provided a donation jar for Street Tails Animal Rescue in Northern Liberties, where Mahon used to volunteer. MacDonald said that was also a small step toward what the group intends for the collective’s mission statement.

“That’s a direction we are trying to go in, to make sure that we’re not just involving the artists of the community, but also the people of the community and what’s going on there,” MacDonald said.

She said they were happy to have filled all the space for their first show and plan to expand to a larger area for future performances.

“It’s exciting for us considering it was our premiere performance and I think it is because we involved so many different artists and people of the community,” MacDonald said. “We were able to bring the community together because we were bringing artists together, because we brought ourselves together.”

The dance style of Coaction Dance Collective is based off personal stories and inspirations in the girls’ lives. Coscia, MacDonald and Mahon said their performances each tell an individual story expressing feelings, emotions, family, heritage, along with social and political issues.

“We each have our own way of moving, all people do,” Coscia said. “Even the way people walk, that’s their way of moving. We definitely all have different ways of moving in the world that nobody else has. I think that’s what makes bodies in general so wonderful.”

Coaction Dance Collective is currently working on the girl’s first trio piece and hopes to present another show, as well as, reach out to the Philadelphia community in the near future.

Alexa Zizzi can be reached at

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