Mark Dendy dancing
Every summer the American Dance Festival (ADF) puts Durham in motion with six and a half weeks of cutting-edge modern dance performances that attract an international audience of 30,000 along with more than 500 artists and students in residence. Now in its 76th year, ADF explores “Where Ballet and Modern Meet” during its 2009 season, June 18–July 25. Performances are held on the Duke University campus and at the new Durham Performing Arts Center. See a full performance schedule here.
There are other ways to explore the Festival as well. Free ADF guided tours take place Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between June 22–July 17. They bring participants behind the scenes to watch dancers being trained and work being created. Tours can be arranged for individuals or groups call (919) 684-6402 for reservations.
ADF’s Community Day on July 11 begins with a special matinee performance by Pilobolus followed by artful activities at the Nasher Museum of Art including craft-making with the Scrap Exchange and getting up close and personal with the Paperhand Puppet Intervention.
This year, New York choreographer Mark Dendy adds a new dimension to ADF with two special site-specific performances called Location, Location, Location and a daily video blog, “May We Have This CyberDance?” The site-specific dances—which will involve as many as 110 dancers—take place at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), June 18 to 20 from 7 to 8 p.m. and at Golden Belt, a renovated textile mill now serving as artist studios, galleries, restaurants and offices, July 17 at 7 p.m. and July 18 at 2 p.m.. Dendy gave a preview of what to expect, and talked about why ADF is such a significant event for him and for the community.
“I was so inspired by the Durham Performing Arts Center, by the architecture and the glass and this beaming building that is so stunning when it lights up at night,” Dendy says. “So I’m going to be setting up a ‘treasure hunt’ for movement and dance there.”
Outdoors, Dendy will use DPAC’s landscaping, stairs and the handrails in his dance. Indoors, he’ll use the staircases, the walls, hallways and spaces under the staircases. Dance will also take place in unexpected places like bathrooms and other hidden spots. “The audience can walk around all of these spaces for an hour and explore,” Dendy says. “It will become this living, breathing organism with dance.” The Golden Belt installation, in one room rather than the whole building, will take some of its inspiration from the site’s industrial past. “There were people in there working eight-hour shifts, doing unison movement to create products. So I’m going to pay homage to that in a way, and use some of the nooks and crannies in that room and also the stairs leading up to it.”
For Dendy, the appeal of site-specific work is that it breaks down “the proscenium/audience relationship.”
“In the origins of dance, there wasn’t a tribal box office with a place where the watchers sat and the performers performed,” he says. “It was all in a circle, and there were ritual dances for rain, for crop fertility, for sexual fertility, or for power to go to war—all of these things were danced about. Somewhere along the way it became diversion and entertainment, but modern dance kind of brought purpose and meaning back to it. So it’s a celebration of that, a celebration of the space, and a celebration of the incredible, beautiful dancers that come to ADF every summer as well as the community dancers from the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas.”
Dendy says his Video Blog on the ADF Web site will be “the go-to place to find an interview with a choreographer or a dancer coming into town, to follow a day in the life of a student, and to watch people making dances for the camera every day. People can watch clips about specific dances, dancers or choreographers, and decide what they’re going to see that week.”
A student himself at ADF in 1981 and 1983, Dendy says it had one of the biggest influences on his career. “As (ADF Director) Charles Reinhart is fond of saying, in the 18th and 19th centuries it was an era of music, and people were living in the time of Mozart and Beethoven. Today, it’s an era of dance and we’re living in it. Modern dance is of the 20th century and the 21st century. It’s a vibrant art form that’s happening right now, and being created right now. To be part of that, as an audience member or as a dancer, is kind of a great thing.”
While you’re getting your fill of modern dance in Durham, take a break for a short drive to the town of Carrboro, just west of Chapel Hill, for the 8th Annual 10 by 10 Festival at the ArtsCenter. Running from July 9–12, it’s an international festival billed as “10 plays, 10 minutes, 10 actors, 10 bucks.” From nearly 400 scripts submitted from all over the world, a panel of theatre artists annually selects the 10 short plays for this production.
For more information about what to do and where to stay during your time in the Triangle, visit the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chapel Hill Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and Visit Raleigh.