How good are you at sizing up potential talent and star-making qualities? You can try your luck at this year’s American Dance Festival, opening Thursday for six and a half weeks of performances and events.
The soon-to-be-famous can often be spotted among the hundreds of students who attend ADF’s classes each summer. In addition, ADF administrators often get wind of young men and women with early indications of special artistry and invite them to participate in the festival.
While not all attain the fame of a Madonna (she was an ADF student in 1978 – see David Menconi’s accompanying story), many become tops in the modern dance world and sometimes reach beyond that.
Chinese-born American choreographer Shen Wei’s choreography of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony made him known to millions. His first exposure to modern dance was in ADF’s 1987 program in China with teachers from the festival. In 1995, he sent a videotape of some work to then-festival director, Charles Reinhart. After watching it, Reinhart immediately made room for him on the festival’s annual program, now called “Footprints,” for which up-and-coming choreographers create new pieces using ADF students. But those witnessing his works back then were likely not prepared for the visionary pieces Wei and his newly formed company produced on ADF’s 2000 season, which catapulted him into modern dance’s top tier. He’s been a favorite at the festival ever since, and Shen Wei Dance Arts returns this year to open ADF with a three-day run.
This year’s festival programs provide many opportunities to guess who will be the next Madonna or Shen Wei. Festival director, Jodee Nimerichter, suggests signing up for one of the free ADF tours (eight times a week over four weeks), which include time to observe students in their classes. Several dozen students will be selected to dance in the “Footprints” program, giving class visitors a chance to confirm their hunches. Nimerichter remembers her reaction to seeing student Ardyn Flynt in “Footprints” last year. “She’s phenomenal, and she’s only been dancing for two years. Many people who’ve been dedicating their lives to dance can’t move like her.” Flynt returns as a student again this year.
A number of companies and choreographers this season are still in an emerging stage, offering further chances to speculate about who might be the next luminary. Some of Nimerichter’s recommendations include Los Angeles’ BODYTRAFFIC, a company that encourages new choreographers to incorporate everything from autobiography to break dancing; France-based Company Wang Ramirez, made up of one man with a hip-hop background and one classically trained woman; and Anna Sperber, one of this year’s “Footprints” choreographers and a former ADF student.
But any dancer, choreographer or company can suddenly break out of the pack with a unique style, concept or insight. The fun, Nimerichter says, is being present when that happens. Consult the season details below to be able to boast, “I was there.”
The 2015 American Dance Festival season runs from June 11 through July 25. This year there will be more than 60 performances by 31 companies, including 16 ADF debuts, 10 world premieres, 11 ADF commissions and a U.S. premiere. Look for a preview of each week’s performances in the Sunday A&L section beginning next week. Here’s a venue-by-venue overview:
Durham Performing Arts Center (919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com)
7 p.m. Saturday nights and 8 p.m. all other nights (exceptions noted). $19.25-$58
▪ June 11-13: Shen Wei Dance Arts (7 p.m. June 11)
▪ June 18-20: Pilobolus
▪ June 26-27: Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca
▪ July 2-4: Paul Taylor Dance Company (2 p.m. July 4; no night performance)
▪ July 10-11: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
▪ July 18: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host (Ira Glass with Monica Bill Barnes & Company)
▪ July 24-25: Doug Varone and Dancers
Children’s Saturday Matinees at Durham Performing Arts Center, 1 p.m. $16
▪ June 20: Pilobolus
▪ June 27: Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca
▪ July 25: Doug Varone and Dancers
Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke University (919-684-4444 or tickets.duke.edu) 8 p.m. (exceptions noted). $27-$34.50
▪ June 14-16: BODYTRAFFIC
▪ June 21-23: Heidi Latsky Dance
▪ June 25: Here and Now: NC Dances (7 and 9 p.m.)
▪ June 29-July 1: Dynamic Duos
▪ July 7-9: Company Wang Ramirez
▪ July 12-14: ZviDance
▪ July 21-23: Footprints (new works with ADF students)
Other Durham Venues:
Motorco Music Hall (919-684-4444 or tickets.duke.edu)
June 27-July 1: Awkward Magic (7 and 9 p.m.; 9 p.m. only June 27) $16.25
Cordoba Center for the Arts (919-684-4444 or tickets.duke.edu)
July 7-12: A Body in Places – Eiko in solo performance (7 p.m.) $16.25
Carolina Theatre (919-560-3030 or carolinatheatre.org)
July 15-16: Ballet Folklórico Cutumba (8 p.m.) $32-$62
Go to americandancefestival.org for full details and additional events, including post-performance discussions, faculty and musicians’ concerts, the International Screendance Festival, ADF tours, youth workshops and dance camps, a moonlight yoga celebration, and adult classes.