Great Leaps Forward

NC Dance Festival brings
innovative steps to its 29th season


Twenty-nine years ago, Jan Van Dyke wanted to broaden the horizons of her dance students at UNCG. With the help of colleagues from Duke University, she invited artists from outside Greensboro to launch the North Carolina Dance Festival. For the first couple of years, only UNCG and Duke participated, but interest in the project grew quickly, and the festival started expanding into other areas. “We had sites in Boone at Appalachian State, in Charlotte at UNCC, in Wilmington and Asheville, and [Raleigh’s] Meredith College became a site as well for many years,” says Anne Morris, executive director of Dance Project, Inc., presenters of the festival. A variety of artists representing a myriad of dance styles were selected, but by 2017, the presenters decided to change up the festival a bit to encompass the burgeoning dance scene developing outside the colleges. “We saw that the artists were starting to make works that were more suited for smaller venues or nontraditional performance spaces than just the large proscenium spaces we were presenting on in the colleges and universities,” Morris explains. “So in 2017, we worked the festival into all community sites and we’re self-producing all of our shows at this point.” Each of the nine choreographers at the two-day festival will have from seven to 15 minutes to strut their stuff in modern and contemporary dance. “It really is a snapshot of the dance activity all across the state,” Morris adds.

Among the selected groups in this year’s festival (November 8 and 9) is Winston-Salem’s Kira Blazek Ziaii’s quartet for women, “Keep It Together,” touted for its humor and sweeping legwork. Morris interprets that as “slightly more literal ways of looking at [how] women are connected and keep things together.” The troupe incorporates humor and standup comedy into the performance. “They have athletic partnerings; they have moments where they’re dancing in high heels,” Morris notes.

Greensboro’s Christine Bowen Stevens’ original presentation is a collaboration with a lighting designers. Hanging custom light fixtures from the top of the stage, the act achieves cutting-edge look. “It has an almost industrial futuristic feel to it, and the group work is very sharp, very tightly constructed,” Morris says.

The fest will also do a free daytime performance in the Van Dyke performance space on November 8, inviting Guilford County dance educators to bring their students, with four choreographers presenting, with a Q and A afterwards. “We did it last year and had 250 students ranging from elementary to high school,” Morris says.

She also points to another innovative twist, an art gallery as performance space: “It allows the audience to get really close to the dance, to have a different relationship to it than you can have in a more traditional theater setting.”  OH

— Grant Britt


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