At 83, the American Dance Festival can be justly celebrated for reaching such an impressive age in today’s competitive and financially challenging times. But ADF doesn’t rest on its laurels. Director Jodee Nimerichter and her staff continue to seek out new, cutting-edge dance companies and choreographers to present along with established favorites.
Beginning its 38th season in Durham on Thursday, the festival’s formula for balancing the new with the old, the stark with the beautiful, and the challenging with the amusing, makes the well-worn phrase “something for everyone” a truly apt description.
This summer, in eight different venues on the Duke University campus and in downtown Durham, audiences can experience performances that focus on the lyrical movement of bodies, present historical and political events through dance, tell personal stories of the choreographers and incorporate original, live music.
Here’s a guide to selected performances, categorized by their appeal, from beginners to dedicated fans.
For the novice:
5 X 5, an evening of five short pieces by five choreographers, offers first-timers a sampler of modern dance’s range. Works include Gabrielle Revlock’s solo that imbues the hula-hoop with a life of its own, Brian Brooks’ eight dancers soaring between order and turbulence, and Dafi Altabeb’s emotional examination of a couple’s relationship.
For the whole family
Pilobolus, the festival favorite, has a family matinee of its full-length evening program, “Shadowland,” minus the nudity. Part shadow play, part dance, part circus and part concert, the playful and surprising visuals were conceived in collaboration with Steven Banks, lead writer for “Spongebob Squarepants.”
For the celebrity spotter
Savion Glover, the Tony Award-winning choreographer and reigning king of tap dancing, joins legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette and his quartet for an evening of cadences and rhythms as they challenge and connect with each other.
For the contemporary music fan
RIOULT Dance NY’s premiere of “Women on the Edge” interprets three heroines of the Trojan War, enhanced by commissioned scores from noted American composers Michael Torke, Aaron Kernis and Richard Danielpour.
For the ‘seen it all’ aficionado
Sara Juli performs her 2015 solo show, “Tense Vagina, an actual diagnosis” in Durham’s Motorco Musical Hall. The relaxed setting suits this hour-long exploration of the wonder, challenge, monotony and humor of motherhood in movement, song and text.
And to get the most out of this summer’s offerings, here are some “mosts” to consider:
Most daring: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s “Analogy/Lance” is an unsparing look at the life of young man in the underworld of drugs, club culture and the sex trade.
Most theatrical: Provincial Dances Theatre’s Tatiana Baganova brings back her “Sepia” from 2010, a completely mesmerizing piece in which sand is used in sadistic, sensual and cleansing ways by alien-like creatures in ritualistic couplings and battles.
Most unusual performance spaces: Durham’s 21c Museum Hotel (which hosts a solo by Koma Otake that creates a meditative environment among his sets, paintings and lighting) and Sarah P. Duke Gardens (Vanessa Voskuil interacts with the site in visually arresting, often surrealistic ways).
The 2016 American Dance Festival season runs June 16-July 30, with 61 performances by 26 companies offering five ADF debuts, nine ADF-commissioned world premieres and two U.S. premieres.
Here’s a venue-by-venue overview:
Durham Performing Arts Center
919-680- 2787 or dpacnc.com
8 p.m. Fridays; 7 p.m. Saturdays (except as noted). $22.50-$62.25
▪ June 16-18: Pilobolus (7 p.m. Thursday, June 16; family matinee, 1 p.m. Saturday, June 18)
▪ June 24-25: Stephen Petronio Company
▪ July 1-2: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
▪ July 8-9: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
▪ July 11-12: Lar Lubovitch Dance (7 p.m. Monday, July 11; 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 12)
▪ July 22-23: Company Wang Ramirez
▪ July 29-30: Paul Taylor Dance Company
Children’s Saturday Matinees at Durham Performing Arts Center (one-hour programs for $16) at 1 p.m.:
▪ June 25: Stephen Petronio Company
▪ July 9: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
▪ July 23: Company Wang Ramirez
Duke University venues
919-684-4444 or tickets.duke.edu
Page Auditorium, 8 p.m. $35-$55
▪ June 20-21: Savion Glover and Jack DeJohnette
Reynolds Industries Theater, 8 p.m. (except as noted). $27-$34.50
▪ June 21-23: Kate Weare Company
▪ June 28-30: 5 X 5
▪ July 5-7: John Jasperse Company
▪ July 10: ADF Faculty Concert (2 and 7 p.m.; $10.75)
▪ July 14-16: Provincial Dances Theatre (7 p.m. Saturday, July 16)
▪ July 18-20: RIOULT Dance NY
▪ July 25-27: Footprints
Baldwin Auditorium, 7 p.m. $10.75
▪ July 3: ADF Musicians Concert
Sheafer Theater, 7:30 p.m. $19.50
▪ July 19-21: Trajal Harrell
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 7 p.m. Free
▪ July 28-30: Vanessa Voskuil (4 and 6 p.m. Saturday, July 30)
Other Durham venues:
Motorco Music Hall
919-901- 0875 or motorcomusic.com
▪ June 22-24: Sara Juli (7 and 9 p.m.; $19.50)
21c Museum Hotel
919-684- 4444 or ticket.duke.edu
▪ July 12-14: Koma Otake – The Ghost Festival (8:30 p.m.; $19.50)
Go to americandancefestival.org for full details, including discounts for children, students, ages 18-30 and seniors. Check out additional events, including post-performance discussions, awards ceremonies, faculty and musicians’ concerts, free dance movies, ADF tours, youth workshops and dance camps, a community yoga celebration and adult classes.