Arts » Performing Arts

Dance Festival Takes Flight

A whole lotta dance coming up

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With an impressive lineup of dance troupes at Spoleto Festival USA every spring in Charleston, the American Dance Festival staged each summer in Durham, and the prestigious North Carolina Dance Theatre based right here in Charlotte, it's not an exaggeration to say that the Carolinas have become a hotbed for dance and choreography. Nor is it surprising that Charlotte Dance Festival, after a scrambling launch last season, should quickly secure a foothold and become an anchor event at Charlotte Shout.

"Last year, I got the support of Robert Krumbine, who wanted to get much more dance in Charlotte Shout programming, as I did," says festival director Caroline Calouche. "He supported us in the first year and is still supporting us this year, and we've got the ASC on board this year bigtime."

Just what is the Char-Meck Arts & Science Council contributing to earn Calouche's enthused shout-out? Try $9,000.

Plans to make the second annual Charlotte Dance Festival better than the first began back in January, months before ASC grant funding was secured.

"We sent out word through dance councils and arts councils, from Texas all the way to New York -- really, generally through word-of-mouth and e-mailing," Calouche recounts. "The dance community is really tight-knit, so it didn't take long. We had almost double the applications this year than we had last year."

Adjudications were executed via DVDs submitted by applicants, so Calouche was already announcing festival events and performers back in March. While last year's CDF was similarly split between outdoor free events and a ticketed indoor event, the festival encore will have a higher profile, a deeper lineup and an impressively expanded schedule. This year's festival has an intensive first week, beginning with a free event at high noon on Thursday, Sept. 6, with Dancing in the Streets.

If your expectations of Calouche's lineup are flavored by Charlotte Shout's reputation for brews, barbecue and noncommittal Chamber-of-Commerce fluff, you may wish to brace yourself when Sinergismo begins the festival at Tryon and 7th, near the Spirit Square threshold. The group -- founded in 2002 by sculptor Jon Rajkovich and dancers Gretchen Jax and Jacqueline McCarthy -- is serving up the world premiere of "The Spirit and the Crane." Described as a "live political cartoon," the animation takes calculated aim at the proposed demolition of Spirit Square.

The wandering event figures to wind up at Wachovia Plaza around 2 p.m., with dance appearances by UNC Charlotte lecturer Alice Howes and Iowa Arts Fellowship recipient Lynn Bowman along the way. Not to worry if you're already booked for lunch on Thursday; the street event will repeat on Friday. Special alert: Bowman is a bombshell if the photograph at the charlottedancefestival.org Web site can be trusted.

Outdoor momentum continues on Saturday with a marathon Dance in the Open on the Ray's Splash Planet lawn, Uptown at 5th and Sycamore. A dozen companies from the Southeast region, ranging from Raleigh to Athens, Ga., will tread the greensward -- including delegations from Northwest School of the Arts and Charlotte Youth Ballet.

There will also be a Moving Poets sighting as former poets Sarah Emery and Bridget Marble, co-founders of the new Echo Arts, will offer the first full-length performance of Dreams of Avica. Dance groupies may have caught a glimpse of Avica when a portion of the piece was teased at Artoxication earlier this year. It was scheduled for an unveiling at Hart-Witzen during Artzilla back in March, but Marble hurt her shoulder at the infamous relocation of pluto concert that same week.

"Avica is just a name that we made up," says Emery, describing the collaboration. "It's a fantasy-like dance. We're spritelike creatures, not very human, but very flirtatious. Bridget has done really interesting costumes. She's made some wigs from lots of colorful yarns, and we're also using balls that have tails of yarns that we'll be throwing through the air. We also use a backdrop that we'll be passing in and out of. A really colorful dance, a lot of fun, and interesting lifts that we'll be doing with each other."

The first of three ticketed events at Booth Playhouse, Dance Charlotte! is something of a misnomer, since seven of the nine companies on the bill hail from outside our city limits. That would be eight of nine if you count the festival director's Caroline Calouche & Co., officially based in Gastonia.

Other companies on the program include Amaranth Contemporary Dance from Richmond, Virginia (performing "F.D.P."); Anabella Lenzu/DanceDrama from New York City ("Che Tango"); Robert Kitsos from Athens, Georgia ("MIYA"); South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company from Columbia, S.C. (Act 1 of Martha Graham's Sketches of Chronicle); Core Theatre and Dance Company from Columbia, S.C. (Still feel the presence -- Part 2); Jane Franklin Dance from Arlington, Va. ("Ring"); and the new E.E. Motion group, based right here in Charlotte ("So Far").

Moving Poets mourners can also be consoled with the first of two appearances by the Wilmington-based alban-elved dance company/KAROLA L‹TTRINGHAUS, performing "At Arm's Length."

Luttringhaus and her elved will be even more spectacular at the Charlotte Dance Festival finale, Aerial Dance Concert on Sept. 14-15. It's been five years since Luttringhaus first stunned Charlotte audiences when she appeared tantalizingly at Poets 6/15. Since then, we've seen similar aerial wonders from Cirque du Soleil. The company, originally founded in Luttringhaus' native Berlin a decade ago, did a heralded Moving Poets encore in 2004 when elved conspired with Till Schmidt-Rimpler on Arabian Nights.

Calouche considers Luttringhaus among the créme-de-la-créme in aerial dance. To come up with the other companies in the concert, Blue Lapis Light (from Austin, Texas) and Canopy Studio (from Athens, Ga.), Calouche has done some prospecting at the annual Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, Colo. Forgive them, but out there in the shadow of the Rockies, they seem to think that aerial dance has something to do with mountain climbing.

"Aerial dance can look like a circus, or it can look too artistic when it doesn't use the apparatus enough," Calouche cautions. "So we chose pieces from the companies' repertory that blended together and showed off their best qualities ñ and a variety of apparatus. Goodness, we have fabric, trapeze, webbing, cubes in the air, lots of variety."

If you can't wait till next week for this aerial spectacle, there's ample eye-food this week at the Booth as the Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company perform on Sept. 7-8. The New York City company bonds most intimately with the Carolinas at the Saturday evening performance. That's the one night they will share the stage with Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble, a group birthed at the American Dance Festival more than 20 years ago.

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