Dance Festival celebrates 20 years



Article Published: Nov. 18, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

For the 20th year, they'll come from all over the state to pirouette across the stage as the N.C. Dance Festival returns to Valborg Theatre.

Eight touring companies; four local dances; and a full house.

At least, that's what organizers like dance professor Susan Lutz are hoping for.

"A lot of companies that are coming in are ones that have not previously been in the festival," she said. "That's always really exciting, and also exciting for our students, not only to see them but meet them backstage and dance alongside them and network a little bit."

Along with acclaimed known acts like NCDF founding dancer and UNC-Greensboro faculty member Jan Van Dyke and Durham-based Gaspard and Dancers, Appalachian State University dance students will have the opportunity, not just to pirouette across the stage themselves, but to choreograph group numbers. Students Samatha Filipowski, Courtney Diepold and Jackie Bryant have each choreographed a dance specifically for the festival.

"Each night is a different performance," Lutz said, "except the local stuff is the same each night."

In addition to the student choreographers, seasoned ASU faculty veteran Regina Gulick-James has prepared a piece for the festival.

"I'm using the music of Jeff Beck, and it incorporates a little bit of jazz with modern and with a ballet base," Gulick-James said. "It's moving energy that's nonstop."

The piece is called "Prana," a yoga term.

"It is the energy, the life source that is constant," she said.

Though Gulick-James is no stranger to the choreographer's hat, each new piece represents a new opportunity.

"All of the dancers I'm working with are new to my work," she said.

Couple that new energy with new light design, courtesy of John Marty, and it's a piece that promises to thrill audiences. "It's moving energy that's nonstop," Gulick-James said.

And it's just one of the acts, all of which Gulick-James is excited to see.

While the uninitiated might expect a static show, it's anything but. It's high energy that's contagious, and audience members might be surprised at just how much fun they have at the festival.

"It's eclectic," Gulick-James said. "Every piece is different. There's contemporary music ... familiar movement and, now that we've got so many of these dance shows on TV, I think the audiences, even if they've never taken a dance step before ... they will find some connection, something they can resonate with."

And, since the show is different each night, you can buy more than one ticket.

Thursday's performance features the Kearns Dance Project from Burlington and Code f.a.d. Company from Raleigh. Friday's performance includes Ashley Suttlar Martin from Southport, E.E. Motion from Charlotte and 87 Dance Productions from Winston-Salem.

Saturday's performance has a special treat: A recreation of Van Dyke's 1992 piece, "A Little Late Afternoon Music," employing ASU faculty dancers Laurie Atkins, Emily Daughtridge, Sherone Price, Holly Roark and Alex Smith.

Additionally, Gaspard and Dancers from Durham and ALBAN ELVED DANCE COMPANY, based in Berlin, Winston-Salem and Wilmington, will perform.

The N.C. Dance Festival happens from Nov. 18 through 20. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for faculty, staff and seniors and $6 for students and youth ages K-18. To purchase tickets, call the Valborg Box Office at (828) 262-3063 or visit theatre.appstate.edu/performances.

Valborg Theatre is located at 480 Howard St. behind the Turchin Center.

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