A dance by any other name

What exactly is dance? Sure, we all know about moving to a beat, but in the larger, artistic sense of the word, dance is a little harder to define.

The art of movement: The Nelson Reyes Dance Company has a decidedly innovative and modern take on dance.

From the deeply internal, careful practice of Japanese butoh, to the fast, isolated movements of break-dancing, the human body is capable of a great range of expression. Maybe that’s why dance is so exciting, and at the same time so hard to conceptualize.

And, as any dance lover will tell you, the best — and perhaps only — way to understand dance as a creative medium is to see it live, and in as many forms as possible. This week, the North Carolina Dance Festival presents an introduction to dance in its many forms.

More than a dozen dance companies will participate, offering a taste of dance and movement theater from a variety of traditions. While all of the companies are based in North Carolina, several have international roots.

“Every kind of dance is appreciated in this festival,” says Susan Collard, festival coordinator and the co-director of Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre/The White Dog Project. “This is an chance to discover what dance can be — it’s an opportunity to see what this performing art is all about.”

Somber, sober and strong: The Legacy Butoh troupe presents haunting works in this dramatic Japanese dance form.

Collard, one of many local choreographers involved in the festival, will present a work of modern dance titled “Requiem de la Mela,” which she describes as a “lyrical, beautiful piece about mourning that explores the essence of loss.”

Other performances include Japanese butoh movement theater by Legacy Butoh, and pieces by Garth Grimball and Katie Feiock. Notably, there will also be a performance by Asheville break-dancing group Hunab Kru, which presents “positive and conscious hip-hop” with a performance titled “The Drummer is King.”

“Our style of dance is perhaps best described as street art, but this festival allows us to present our discipline on the professional stage,” says Joe Adams, a member of Hunab Kru. “Collectively and individually, our group has a strong modern-dance influence, as well as being driven by the tradition of B-boying [break-dancing]. I think that festivalgoers will not be given an experience that will soon be forgotten.”

The festival not only showcases local and regional dance, but also international companies which have relocated to our state. The alban elved dance company, founded in Berlin in 1997 and a current resident company at UNC-Wilmington, will perform a high-energy piece reflecting the philosophies that gained the company international praise.

“We create athletic and theatrical contemporary dance works, which seek to shape meaning from a rich array of emotional experiences,” say Karola Lüttringhaus, the company’s artistic director. “The company challenges the definitions of feminine physicality and thereby redefines expectations.”

Powerful and passionate: The alban elved dance company presents memorable works of energetic and emotionally charged movement.

For the festival, Lüttringhaus has prepared a solo performance, “Facettes of the I,” which she describes as “14 minutes of very physical dance [that] explores various aspects of the self.”

Another troupe with an interntational origina, the Reyes Dance Company, brings a Latin flavor to the festival. Founded by innovative dancer and native Cuban Nelson Reyes in 2002, the company will present a work entitled “Nuestro Mar.” Reyes describes the piece as being “filled with the spirit of Cuba,” and says that it tells the story of “three women of Havana who leave the country by sea [and focuses on] their journey crossing the sea in a raft.”

Reyes says that he’s honored to bring this piece to an American stage, and hopes “that my audience can feel the message and put their heart into this story.”

As both a celebration of dance, and, as Collard puts it, “the diversity and of creativity in our community,” the festival is a rare chance to experience a wide selection of movement-based theater firsthand.

who: North Carolina Dance Festival
what: A dance event embracing many styles and traditions
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Friday and Saturday, Feb. 29 and March 1 (www.dwtheatre.com or 257-4530)


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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