Organization 2020

Homeward (Bound) at PCCC

The Ensemble trains and compensates pre-professional teenagers from the Paterson area—under-served teenagers, who take free dance classes and perform alongside professional alumni and guest artists.

The company repertory is created by Artistic Director, Nicholas Rodriguez, and guest choreographers, who explores themes of urban and cultural identity, as well as social justice and reform themes.  The dance and performing arts training emphasizes professionalism, research, social emotional support, and arts-education.

Company members also teach novice dancers, and the troupe performs locally and regionally.

Dancers from RPHS in Rodriguez’s “Homeward (Bound)” 2019, a dance-work about unaccompanied minors in detention at the U.S. / Mexican border. 


In 1973, Ralph Gomez, a drama teacher and arts activist, founded the Inner City Ensemble in Paterson, NJ.  The grassroots initiative, which began humbly in church halls, focused on arts training and nurturing at-risk youth.  Over time, the Company secured a home and garnered national attention as a model youth arts organization.  At its peak, the Ensemble offered free training for company members, low-cost community classes, and teaching and performing opportunities for its alumni.  The original troupe performed at Town Hall, the Theater at the Riverside Church, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and other prominent New York City venues.  The Ensemble disbanded in 1986 after the untimely death of its founder, Ralph Gomez.

Programs & Goals

The newly formed organization re-incorporated in 2010, and began offering dance training at the Paterson Museum in conjunction with exhibitions. Since its re-establishment, Artistic Director, Nicholas Rodriguez, has taught free dance classes to hundreds of children at Paterson Public Schools, and the Company has received weekly training and rehearsals. 

The Summer Dance Intensive began as a pilot project at Rosa L. Parks School of Fine & Performing Arts (RPHS) in 2016, and has occurred for three years to date.  In 2020, the schedule will include in-school technique classes and rehearsals at RPHS as part of the Paterson Dance Annex.

2020 and beyond:
PHS Dancers in Erin Pride’s Home Poem & Dance section of “Homeward (Bound)”

The new Company has performed at the Paterson Museum, the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park—Art in the Park Showcases, and other area venues.  In 2018, William Paterson University co-produced The Law, Society & Race: a Dance-Theatre Response, created by Mr. Rodriguez.  

The centerpiece of the residency was Where Have You Gone, Trayvon?  In 20219, the Company premiered Homeward (Bound), a dance-theatre work uses text, music and dance to address the plight of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexican border. Co-choreographed by Nicholas Rodriguez, Erin Pride, and other guest artists, the work will be expanded before touring New Jersey venues in Fall 2021.