The North Carolina Dance Festival celebrated the end of its 25th season Friday and Saturday at UNC-Greensboro’s Black Box Dance Theatre .
The festival tours throughout North Carolina as a vehicle to establish a network for professional artists, expand accessibility to dance, and build contemporary dance audiences throughout the state.
Anne Morris, festival director and Dance Project co-director, introduced the festival and paid tribute to the founder and longtime Director Jan Van Dyke, who died on July 3 .
Veteran NC Dance Festival artists took the stage Friday night, starting with Martha Connerton’s “Las Hermanas del Corazon.”
The work was created in collaboration with the dancers and a computer program designed by Bill Young that issues random points of body contact. The duet added layers of performance onto the commands, moving from jarring points of contact into a seamless flow of weight sharing, illustrating the process of finding connection out of random points of contact.
Holly Holmes took the stage next in “forevermore,” a solo choreographed by N.C. State Dance Program Director Robin Harris and inspired by Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Renascence.” Holm’s dress and heels give a formal feel, but her slow dragging movements and the heavy music by Bach suggest mourning rather than celebration. Weaving the containment of baroque with the structure and carriage of ballet, and allowing the abandonment of contemporary movement to burst through, Harris creates a solo that is haunting and well performed by Holms.
“And Back Again,” Jan Van Dyke’s last choreography work, was restaged from its premiere in the Greenhill Gallery earlier this year. A sense of security and caring is juxtaposed with suppression and manipulation as the four dancers lean on their partner’s shoulder in a demonstration of trust before quickly reaching out and pushing their partner’s face to the floor. The added drama of darker lighting and practiced precision from the performers brought a new intensity to the work.
Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s Susan and Giles Collard, in collaboration with Mexican choreographer Jaime Camerena, used text and dance to create a movement portrait of Sor Juana de Asbaje, a 17th century Mexican nun who was a pioneer for female rights, in the work “The Tenth Muse: act 1.” The trio performed well together through intricate partnering and subtle pauses, but it was clear the work was a small part of a much larger piece (to be performed in Mexico in 2016) as this particular performance felt short and ungrounded.
“‘Til the Cows Come Home” closed the festival with delightfully twisted choreography by Gerri Houlihan with Pamela Piertro and Jenn Nugent. Performers Renay Aumiller, dressed in black, and Allie Pfeffer in red, scooped, lifted, and twisted through a quirky partnership.
The dancers support, frame, struggle and pull each other through the space in a beautifully connected and, at times, funny, duet. The partnership is left wide open for interpretation, and my mind wanders to a hero (or villain) vying for power and friendship.
Once again, the NC Dance Festival has brought contemporary work from across the state together in an evening-length performance that celebrates the talent and creativity that resides here in our own state.
Michele Trumble earned a master’s of fine arts from UNCG and works as a professional choreographer and performer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.