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: acdt.org or 254-2621)
when: Sunday,  Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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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.

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