If you're a dance-maker in this region, the road has not been easy. "I got here in 2011," Kristi Vincent Johnson says. "If you're an independent artist, you're wondering, 'What's going on? Where are the dancers? Where can I present my work? And if I don't have enough material or money to produce an evening-length work by myself, how can I present it?'"
Johnson and other regional choreographers have been busy devising answers to these questions. This fall sees the launch of several initiatives dedicated to informing, organizing, supporting and presenting independent dance artists.
Johnson's TRIANGLE DANCE PROJECT is a one-stop online information source, with comprehensive listings of studio spaces, productions, auditions and master classes on its Facebook page and website. On Oct. 4, the project presents Emergence, its first adjudicated showcase of emerging Triangle choreographers, at PSI Theater.
Following a spring call for choreographers, TOBACCO ROAD DANCE PRODUCTIONS has chosen a quintet for a series of private work-in-progress showings with mentors this fall, leading to a public show in January at Common Ground. Co-founder Stephanie Blackmon Woodbeck says, "By introducing feedback from others at multiple stages of the process, we hope to push people out of their comfort zones and enhance the experience and the final products in January."
The new artist-support organization CULTURE MILL begins its first year with an unorthodox "Open Retreat," a free series of seminars Sept. 20–21 in Saxapahaw. Movement technique classes, plus sessions on knee health and business skills for artists, will be punctuated by a work-in-progress showing and open discussions. The group is also sponsoring a series of residencies for regional artists.
"We're trying to imagine the creative process differently," says co-founder Tommy Noonan. "By creating space and time where people in different fields can assemble, innovation can happen."
DURHAM INDEPENDENT DANCE ARTISTS (featured in the Aug. 13 INDY) launches its first season with real.live.people.durham's it's not me it's you (Motorco, Nov. 8–9), Justin Tornow's COMPANY in The Weights (The Carrack Modern Art, Dec. 13–14) and Noonan's Brother Brother (Carrack, Dec. 19–20).
And ADF's LOCAL LOOK AND LISTEN series of informal in-progress showings and talks with regional choreographers resumes in October at their Broad Street studios.
DANCE: 11 TO SEE
INDY dance critic Kate Dobbs Ariail picks her must-see dance shows for the fall.
THOMAS DEFRANTZ: WHERE DID I THINK I WAS GOING? [MOVING INTO SIGNAL] (PSI Theatre, Aug. 28–29)—Presented by Slippage, this "dance technology interface work" features live-processed digital information for multi-talented Duke professor Thomas DeFrantz to move around. Since he makes riveting body-pictures just walking through life, he should be as electric as the A/V equipment on stage.
TALES FROM THE COSMIC OCEAN (Memorial Hall, Sept. 5)—As the South Asian population of the Triangle burgeons, an increasing number of fabulous Indian performers are being presented here. This Carolina Performing Arts show features the first female practitioner of Yakshagana, the 700-year-old South Indian dance-drama form, as Vidya Kolyur and her troupe perform scenes from ancient Sanskrit epics.
DIRTY DANCING (Durham Performing Arts Center, Sept. 16–21)—Based on the 1987 movie partially filmed in North Carolina, the storyline's not too complicated and the dancing is hot. Great entertainment from the SunTrust Broadway Series.
NC DANCE FESTIVAL TOUR (Jones Auditorium at Meredith College, Sept. 20)—This annual N.C. choreographers showcase includes five troupes, some new to the touring event. Durham powerhouse Leah Wilks presents, as does Gaspard & Dancers, offering a rare opportunity to see Gaspard Louis dance his own work, Rubix.
DORRANCE DANCE: The Blues Project (Memorial Hall, Sept. 25–26)—Chapel Hill native Michelle Dorrance grew up to be a scintillating tap dancer and brilliant tap choreographer leading a dynamo troupe. If you see only one dance this fall, this Carolina Performing Arts event should be it. Joy guaranteed.
GASPARD & DANCERS (Reynolds Theater, Sept. 25–26)—Haitian-born Durham resident Gaspard Louis premieres the final section of his trilogy on the Haitian earthquake at his company's 5th annual concert. Fresh from the rehearsal studio, this will form an intriguing contrast with Louis' smaller-scale Raleigh performance a few days prior.
CAROLINA BALLET: DRACULA AND THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (Fletcher Opera Theater, Oct. 9–26)—The company reprises this visually dramatic program in time for some pre-Halloween horror, with live music by NCSU's talented J. Mark Scearce.
RENAY AUMILLER DANCES: IT'S A RAD RAD REVOLUTION (Motorco Music Hall, Oct. 11)—More creative techno-dance from Aumiller, who uses a video game as a choreographic tool. Wear your good workout gear and you can join in. Special phone-in guest: SIRI.
LUCKY PLUSH PRODUCTIONS: THE QUEUE (Titmus Theatre, Oct. 24)—In this playful, zany dance-theater work at NCSU Center Stage, airport travelers get into each other's business while waiting, supported by "neo-vaudevillian" musicians, The Claudettes, on drums and piano.
COMPANHIA URBANA DE DANÇA (Reynolds Theater, Nov. 7–8)—The aesthetics of multi-source street dance from Rio come to Duke Performances. Expect extreme physicality—no fancy machines needed for these action heroes.
BATSHEVA DANCE COMPANY: SADEH21 (Memorial Hall, Nov. 21)—Ohad Naharin's work with the 50-year-old Batsheva has made the Israeli company an explosive global force. Count on seeing a stage full of powerful bodies take Naharin's ideas—and their own technique—to the limit of human capacity.