Editor’s Note: The following column was written by Andrea Lawson, performing arts director for the N.C. Arts Council. She enjoys working with music, theater, dance organizations and individual artists. Andrea has a Master of Fine Arts in arts administration from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Arts in music from Cleveland State University. She is a classically trained violist and studied with now retired Cleveland Orchestra member Lucien Joel, who was chosen by the great George Szell. She has had the honor to work with some amazing artists, choreographers and arts administrators in the performing arts field. Andrea’s inner dancer was exposed June 25, 2009, at the American Dance Festival during Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s performance of Decadance by choreographer Ohad Naharin, where she was one of many audience members chosen to come on stage and participate in a section of the work. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the choreography of Naharin from my seat and then through my feet on stage with the dancers of Cedar Lake,” Andrea recalls.
I like to describe myself as an inner dancer. This is one of my favorite times of the year because the American Dance Festival kicks off its 78th season overall and its 34th season in Durham.
The opening gala was Thursday, June 9, at the Durham Performing Arts Center where we all participated in celebrating Charles Reinhart’s legacy and leadership of the ADF since 1968.
Every season, there’s something special about the ADF. This year, I’m excited about the world premiers from companies as far away as China, Israel, Belgium — and the companies are all taking the stage in Durham.
Let me give you a few of the highlights from the opening gala.
Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble is the hometown favorite. The AADE was founded at the American Dance Festival, which seems fitting since Charles Reinhart was Chuck’s mentor.
It’s not an AADE performance without Baba Chuck’s call and response of the Ago and Ame and some audience participation. If you haven’t attended a performance, here’s what happens: Baba Chuck calls out loudly “Ago,” which means attention, and everyone yells back “Ame,” which means I’m listening.
During opening night, Chuck taught arm movements to the audience as a salute to Charles, who is retiring this year. We then used this graceful expression at the end of the performance to thank Charles. This was a perfect Durham way to welcome everyone to this opening celebration!
It’s always great to have that AADE experience, but even better to see so many of the original dancers and drummers performing Honoring the Legacy. It was like the start of old home week or your family reunion! AADE Elders escorted Reinhart to the front of the stage as AADE performed for him and us. Seeing those dancers move and feeling those rhythms, you could see the joy and love for the art form and for Charles Reinhart.
Next, Mark Dendy performed I am a Dancer! This was Mark Dendy in drag as Martha Graham. He was convincing as the famed choreographer. I had heard of this piece before and was so glad he did it on opening night. He was excellent as Martha Graham, and the audience got lost in the dance. He was able to channel Graham — providing the audience a glimpse of her career by executing some of her famous moves and words.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
This group performed an excerpt of Three to Max, choreographed by one of my favorite choreographers, Ohad Naharin. The movements used almost every body part. The shapes of the movement were sensual but also strong. I can imagine the intensity of the rehearsal process they had with Naharin’s “Gaga” method of movement.
Scottish Dance Theater
I have to tell you all that Drift was my favorite work of the night. I’m always game for seeing companies that are new to the ADF. I was hooked by the dancers’ fluidity of motion. The male dancer moved with such power and ease, with nice rhythmic sweeping legs. He was joined by the female who had the same ease. Then the lighting changed. The music changed. The movement became more distinct and stronger. The intensity was incredible. The audience gasped as the woman dancer executed her first lift and jump. It was followed by more amazing jumps and lifts. You don’t want to miss the Scottish Dance Theater if you can help it.
And this was just opening night. There are 13 companies to perform, a musicians’ concert, the faculty concert and the Hollins University/ADF M.F.A. performances still to take in this summer. So if you have always been thinking about checking out the ADF — get to it!
To read more about Charles Reinhart, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/arts/dance/american-dance-festival-charles-reinhart-tribute-review.html.
For another opinion on the ADF gala, check out http://www.worlddancereviews.com/dance/view.php?page=vur&id=398.