One, two, triple step

Photo by Jonathan Welch

Participating in Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s 48 Hour Dance Project — a marathon of dance rehearsals leading up to a public performance at the BeBe Theatre — was an amazingly challenging, inspiring and terrifying experience.

Terrifying? Really? Yes! Though I’ve been a dancer all my life, I had no experience with partner dancing (except for a brief stint as a salsa dancer, but the heels just didn’t work for me). So (of course, right?), at last year’s 48 Hour Dance Project, I was assigned to work with a swing and Lindy Hop choreographer, an enthusiastic and patient woman named Heidi Turlington. In the end, though, this is what the project is all about: challenging local dancers to step out of their comfort zone by pairing them, at random, with choreographers of various styles and backgrounds.

Stumbling through the steps, off on my timing and leaning too close to my forgiving partner, I was the worst dancer in the troupe. By comparison, everyone else picked up the movement with grace — frantic feet, exaggerated grins and all. The fear set in after our first nine-hour day of rehearsing. My feet just don’t move that quickly, I thought, before returning to the count. I marked it again, “One, two, triple step.”

Turlington and the other dancers in our female-fronted troupe of six encouraged me throughout; they broke down the footwork and said, kindly, “You’ll be fine, just keep counting.”  Maybe it was another full day of rehearsal, or maybe it was the costume (a black satin skirt and silver pleated tank top that I borrowed from a fellow dancer), that prompted my alter-ego — the courageous, swing-happy version of me — to take over, but somehow, I managed to memorize the material. By show time, I was ready.

The performance itself was unbelievable. In two days flat, dancers immersed themselves in otherwise completely foreign styles of movement. The African dance ensemble rocked; the belly dancers rolled the muscles of their abs, seductively circling their hips and mesmerizing the audience; and the swing dancers, well, we were sassy as can be.

This year, the marathon continues at the BeBe Theatre, where five choreographers are preparing for another wild, frantic and exciting 48-hour challenge. Modern dancer Lindsey Kelley, modern/jazz and hip-hop dancer Leslie Rogers, vaudeville/burlesque dancer Cherry Oh!, ballet instructor Shannon Phillips and modern/Butoh dancer Jenni Cockrell will each choreograph an original piece for the project. Whether you’re a dancer or just a dance-appreciator, the 48 Hour Dance Project is an impressive and highly entertaining initiative, where dancers and choreographers work together to create an unconventional concert showcasing the diversity of dance.

what: Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre presents the third annual 48 Hour Dance Project
where: Held at the BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce St., in downtown Asheville ($15/$12 students. Info: or 254-2621)
when: Sunday,  Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.