How Does NC #dancelocal? Western NC Edition

April 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

One of the coolest things about North Carolina is the variety of landscapes and regions throughout the state. This week we are moving away from the beach and into the mountains as we explore what it’s like to #dancelocal in Western North Carolina! We spoke with awesome artists–Lindsey Kelley, Emily Daughtridge, Alex Smith and Laurie Atkins–about dancing in Asheville and Boone.


Small | Experimental | Edgy

with Lindsey Kelley

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

NCDF: What is it like to dance here?

Lindsey:  Asheville is my dance “safe place.” The community is extremely supportive of local artists, which encourages us to do our thing with little to no pressure.  I am self-motivated, so dancing and creating here works for me.  I have the freedom to dance how I like with whom I like, which is an amazing feeling as an artist.  Being a choreographer, I have had continuous opportunities to create and perform my work in the area since I moved here 3.5 years ago.  That makes me very happy and fulfilled.


The Diana Wortham Theatre photo courtesy of

Some great places to take class in Asheville are Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance in the River Arts District, Asheville Ballet, and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre. The Diana Wortham Theater is a beautiful professional theater in town and Lindsey’s favorite. The BeBe Theatre is an intimate, black-box style venue, which is very popular for dance and theater.

NCDF: Are there any other exciting arts things going on?

Lindsey:  Oh tons!  Many great local bands and musicians are here, Doc Aquatic being one of my personal faves.  Lots of local potters, jewelers, thespians. There are also many local arts festivals, which adhere to multiple art forms.  The Asheville Fringe Festival, {Re} Happening, LEAF and the list goes on… pretty exciting!

The Asheville Fringe Festival photo courtesy of

The Asheville Fringe Festival brings together art of all kinds and aims to provide artists with the opportunity to explore, collaborate and perform. They will be accepting applications for the 2015 festival in July!

From Latin to contact improvisation to Contra dancing,  Asheville is quite eclectic in its wide range of arts activities available for the community. shares information about all types of dance events, classes, workshops and performances and is updated daily! What a great source of dance information for the Asheville community.

NCDF: What is your favorite non- dance related thing about living here?

LindseyOh man, I love to eat!  Asheville has some incredible local restaurants.  We are really quite fortunate to have such good eats.

Biltmore Estate photo courtesy of

Biltmore Estate photo courtesy of

Some popular eats in Asheville are Tupelo Honey Cafe, The Market Place, Red Stag Grill, The Swag and The Grove Park Inn. There is also the option of eating at the historic Biltmore Estate!

Lindsey Kelley Photo by Quinn Batson

Lindsey Kelley photo by Quinn Batson


Enthusiastic | Burgeoning | Potential

with Laurie Atkins, Emily Daughtridge and Alex Smith

NCDF: What kind of exciting arts-related things are going on in Boone?

Laurie: Boone has a rich cultural history of traditional Appalachian music and dance that continues to thrive. The university [Appalachian State University] supports a performing arts series that brings in outside touring artists and internally has active and visible art, music, theater, and dance departments. Summer festivals include Horn in the West and Appalachian Summer Festival.

There are so many organizations in Boone making a difference in the community! Emily mentioned The Hayes School of Music, Boone Healing Arts, Neighborhood Yoga, Northwestern Dance Studios, Studio K and Boone Country Dancers among many other organizations.

The Now & Next Dance Mentoring Project  is an organization which aims to develop leaders in dance and movement education through workshops, teacher training programs, support for the creation of new dance works, and online mentoring for college dance majors, adolescent girls, and professional dance artists. The Watauga Arts Council  is making the arts a presence (as their slogan says) in the Boone community. Their building “ArtSpace” is equipped with 4 galleries, 9 classrooms and an abundance of arts-related activity space.

NCDF: Is there one dance/style that seems to be emerging?

Emily: The dance scene is quite diverse.  All of the following forms (and probably more) are happening regularly in Boone: Modern Dance, Ballet, African Dance, Conscious/Contemplative Dance, Contra Dance, Clogging, Flat Footing, Buck Dancing, Liturgical Dance,  Shag, Swing Dance, Salsa, Ballroom, Belly Dance, and Capoiera.

Jane Bowers in work by Emily Daughtridge. Photo by Greg Williams

ASU student Jane Bowers in “Fuerzas Vitales” by Emily Daughtridge. Photo by Greg Williams

NCDF: Where are your favorite places to dance in town?

Laurie: Classes and studio space at Appalachian State University. There are a few local studios that offer a variety of adult classes, however as a full-time faculty member, I tend to stay on campus. Valborg Theatre is a beautiful space on campus that hosts the NC Dance Festival and other school productions. The Turchin Center, a visual art gallery, has been used in the past for informal dance showings in relation to First Fridays.

ASU students in Emily Daughtridge's work. Photo by Greg Williams

ASU students in Emily Daughtridge’s work. Photo by Greg Williams

NCDF: What is it like to dance here?

Alex: There is dance performance that takes place here, and there are emerging dance artists being cultivated within the university system.  The challenge in this area, as I see it, is the facilitation and support for artists to develop and share their work in the local community, beyond the university. 

Alex is on a mission along with a group of local independent artists to change the work space and performance venue challenges that dancers face in Boone. This group is working to create a multi-use facility that is flexible, user-friendly, and can accommodate classes, rehearsals and performances of local and regional artists working in the performing and live arts. Be looking for more information about this exciting project coming soon! Click here to watch a video exploring Alex’s passion for this new project.

NCDF: what is your favorite thing about dancing here?

EmilyI find Boone to be a community of warm-hearted, creative people in a beautiful, scenic setting that inspires me to move.

LaurieMaking connections and collaborating with great people; there doesn’t seem to be just one dance style emerging but rather an intention in focus on creative process.

Emily Daughtridge enjoying the great outdoors in Boone

Emily Daughtridge enjoying the great outdoors in Boone

Sadly, Western North Carolina is the last stop on our virtual tour around the state.  But don’t worry; you can check out the NCDF live as we tour around NC during our 24th season starting in September! We have so enjoyed learning about how awesome it is to #dancelocal in different communities throughout our great state!  A big thank you to everyone who shared their hometown dance stories and pride with us. Keep checking our blog and be sure to keep telling us how you #dancelocal!

How does NC #dancelocal? Wilmington edition!

April 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

“We get to live where everyone else vacations!” says Daniel Smith a newcomer to the Wilmington dance scene. Beautiful beaches, a rich history, and passion for the arts certainly make Wilmington seem like a wonderful place to #dancelocal. This week we explore why artists love living (and dancing) in Wilmington.


“There is deep connection that is built among those who dance together and we are always seeking to nurture that connection in a thoughtful and intentional way”- Brittany Patterson

photo by Ty Parker

Techmoja Dance Company on the streets of Wilmington! Photo by Ty Parker

There is just something about a small town that seems to cultivate a special feeling of community. In Wilmington, this is true for many artists who feel welcomed and at home here. Daniel Smith, who recently started to pursue his passion for dance, feels like he was welcomed into the community with open arms. “I have found that, even though it is a small community, the dancers here are filled with such passion for the arts that it is contagious to everyone who comes in contact with it. The dance community in Wilmington strives to create an environment for artists of all kinds to come together and do what we were made to do: create,” he says. It is a beautiful thing when we feel encouraged to grow and change as artists, something Sam Williams can relate to as she has found a new interest and possibly passion through the support of the Wilmington dance community.  She says, “I just love the open community feeling. Everyone wants you to be your best and that support is invaluable. I am not a big fan of choreographing but with the support I receive here, I am becoming more and more interested in exploring and teaching- it was a huge deal to me that Stephanie Chavez and I choreographed a piece that actually made it into NCDF! I never expected to present work.”

In general, Wilmington always has something going on in its rich arts community. “We have live theatre, live music of every genre, film events, open gallery days just to name a few. There is pretty much something arts related going on everyday” says Brittany Patterson who is part of the Dance Cooperative in Wilmington. The Dance Cooperative is a non-profit studio that is committed to nurturing the dance community by providing affordable classes, rehearsal space and performance opportunities for those under-served artistically, culturally, and economically in the greater Wilmington area.

Sam Williams thinks the live music scene is wonderful, and that the town is filled with brilliant independent musicians. Whether it is going to see a band play at Ziggy’s, seeing a play or exploring the many street fairs, “there is something for everyone,” Daniel Smith says. Of course we can’t forget to mention Wilmington’s beaches which are a favorite spot for all of our artists. What dancer wouldn’t love to relax on the beach after a long day of class? Sounds perfect to us!

Downtown Wilmington. Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Downtown Wilmington. Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB


Film and Television

“There is a lot of collaboration between dance and film that is taking the art form to new heights.”- Daniel Smith

kate 2

Kate Muhlstein, Stephanie Chavez and Sam Williams during filming for Dance-a-lorus

Wilmington is home to Screen Gems studios, a 50 acre sound stage lot where over 350 film, television and commercial projects have been filmed since 1985. It is very exciting to see TV shows and movies being filmed there throughout the year! On a smaller scale, the Cucalorus Independent Film Festival is something that dancers are always excited to be a part of. This independent non-competitive festival focuses on supporting innovative artists and encouraging change, which provides unique experiences for local dancers. Sam Williams had the opportunity to participate in Dance-a-lorus, a collaboration between dancers and filmakers in the community. The medium of film gives dancers the opportunity to do things that could not be easily done on stage; “one great film shoot was for Tripquatic by Rachael Goolsby and Suzanne Palmer. Rachael ordered mermaid costumes and Kate Muhlstein, Stephanie Chavez and I got to wear them, swimming around in the pool! It was a really fun day and a great way to be a part of the piece.” Sam said.

Places to Dance

“It is really hard to say what the “best” venues for dance are in town because I personally think each space is unique”-Brittany Patterson

Thalian Hall Photo Credit

Thalian Hall Photo courtesy of

The favorite performance spot in Wilmington seems to be Thalian Hall located in the heart of downtown, making it very accessible to audiences. The space is nice for large pieces that need a lot of space and the venue itself has a historical feel to it. Sam Williams finds the history and detail of the theater to be very inspiring. The NC Dance Festival has been held for several years at the Community Arts Center, an intimate space with a community feel. UNCW has a few spaces that dancers love including the Main Stage Theater at the Cultural Arts Building on campus. Tracey Varga enjoys the eclectic nature of the performances and classes offered in Wilmington. ” I think modern/contemporary dance has had an emergence not only in classes offered, but performances ( local and visiting groups).  It is great to see African, Belly, Irish, Ballroom/Tango dancing happening in the Wilmington area”, Tracey says.

As far as taking class, The Dance Cooperative, The Dance ElementStudio 1, The Wilmington School of Ballet, and masterclasses at UNCW were all mentioned as great places for learning! Mirla Criste, who is new to town, found her place at the Dance Cooperative. “I was drawn to the Dance Cooperative, feeling a kinship with their focus on training in a variety of techniques as well as performance opportunities for adult beginners and professionals, and its mission to guide young choreographers,” she says.


“I love the history here!”-Sam Williams

Riverfront with Henrietta III Riverboat. Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Riverfront with Henrietta III Riverboat. Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Being a port city, Wilmington is quite historic, which makes for a fun place to live! Historic downtown has a mile long Riverwalk and lots of interesting “nooks and crannies” according to Sam. “The haunted ghost walks downtown are very entertaining… the Cape Fear area is full of pirate lore as well as buildings and sites specifically related the American Revolution and Civil War, most notably Fort Fisher.” she says. You can explore Battleship North Carolina, take a horse drawn carriage ride, and go on a haunted pub crawl all in the same day! Sounds like there is something for everyone.

Making  a Difference

“The Dance Cooperative has made a huge difference in my life and in the community…”- Daniel Smith

With the welcoming family feel mentioned earlier, it is no surprise that Wilmington is home to organizations striving to make a difference and better the community. The Dance Cooperative is one close to many dancer’s hearts. Sam Williams, the school director, says “At any point in time 30-50% of our registered students are on scholarship; we do not charge parents for their kids to preform and provide costumes at no cost for Emerging Choreographers Showcase and our free recital, Community Dance Day.” Daniel Smith feels that they do exactly what their name says: strive to create a collaborative environment of artists working together instead of competition. Dreams of Wilmington is another non profit organization bettering the community and providing services free of charge to youth in need. Dreams offers programs in the literary, visual, multimedia, and performing arts. Mirla Criste is a fan of  Karola Luttringhaus’s Alban Elved Dance Company which is based in Wilmington and runs the SARUS Festival there. Tracey Varga’s company is called Forward Motion Dance Company. Forward Motion is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide local and regional communities with quality education in the art of dance, as well as enhance the local arts community by providing performance opportunities for area dancers and performance artists.

We have loved visiting the warm, friendly dance community in Wilmington with the NC Dance Festival tour. Unfortunately we have had to make some structural changes to the Festival and will not visit Wilmington this year. We are sad to lose the Wilmington stop, but we hope to be back soon!

Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Credit: Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Announcing the 2014-15 NCDF Season!

April 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

We are thrilled to announce the roster of NCDF Touring Artists for the NC Dance Festival’s 24th season:

Kristen Jeppsen Groves (Fayetteville)

Gaspard Louis/Gaspard & Dancers (Durham)

Diego Carrasco Schoch (Durham)

Sara Tourek (Greensboro)

Leah Wilks (Durham)

These five artists have been selected through a blind adjudication process; 3 reviewers (active dance artists and educators in the region) chose these artists from a pool of 25 applicants, based on the quality of their choreography and suitability for the NC Dance Festival tour.

As we go into our 24th season, we have made some changes to the Festival structure, in part to make the Festival more financially sustainable, and also to be responsive to suggestions from the NC dance community.

We are touring this season with 5 artists, rather than 8 as we have for many years. We are also reducing the number of performances in each site; most sites will present just one night of performances, featuring all 5 touring artists and a few additional artists from each local community. This means you won’t have to choose which night to attend–see all the artists on just one night!

We have also reduced the tour from five cities to four: we will not visit Wilmington this year. We are sad to lose the Wilmington stop, as we’ve loved visiting the warm, vibrant dance community there. Many thanks to the Dance Cooperative for hosting the NCDF in Wilmington for many years! We hope to be back soon.

In every city we visit, we send the professional touring artists into public schools and community studios to teach and perform. We intend to maintain these outreach programs around the state, and it is one of our on-going goals to expand these offerings. However, funding for our programs outside of Guilford County is often limited. Inspired to help us fund additional classes and outreach performances? Make a donation online or contact us for more information.

We are excited to get our planning underway for next season! Mark your calendars and join us when we’re in your part of the state! For more info, visit our website.

Raleigh: September 20, 2014

Boone: October 24-25, 2014

Greensboro: November 1, 2014

Charlotte: January 24, 2015

A first look at your #dancelocal photos

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

We are so excited about the #dancelocal pictures we have been receiving for our photo contest! Here are a few sneak peeks of some entries, and they look awesome! Want to see yourself on the big screen? (and by big screen we mean the tiny screen on your smartphone) Upload your pics to Instagram or send them directly to us!

Isn’t dancing local fun!?

Have you sent in your pictures yet? If not, don’t worry you still have time. Upload your favorite pictures of dance in your community to Instagram or Facebook between March 10-April 10 using the hashtag “#dancelocal” for a chance to be featured all over The NC Dance Festival social media! This includes pictures of you, your favorite artist or anyone dancing locally. Be sure to mention what area of NC is local for you! It’s time to #dancelocal ya’ll!

*If your Instagram profile is set to Private, and you want to participate, send us your images directly at!  When using Fb make sure to tag The NC Dance Festival in your posts!

How does NC #dancelocal? Triad edition!

March 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

The Triad. Three unique cities, each with something special to offer. Here’s what makes the Triad eclectic, inclusive, community-minded, high-quality and friendly.


Eclectic adjective \e-ˈklek-tik, i-\ 1: composed of elements drawn from various sources

This seems like the perfect word to describe this dance community, one that draws on the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. The Triad scene has something to offer everyone! From experiencing various forms of art, to a variety of dance venues and people, the Triad is eclectic for sure. Cara Hagan, a fan of all kinds of art, frequently finds herself amazed at the amount of activity there is in the Triad. “I often block out entire weekends, not only to see all the dance concerts at all the colleges, but to see plays, music, film and more,” says Cara. The Elsewhere Museum  in Greensboro is just one example of the unique art going on here. Elsewhere is a living museum that creates new art from old belongings in a three story former thrift store.

Dance offerings in the Triad are similarly varied, ranging from classical and contemporary ballet by the Winston Salem Festival Ballet to West African dance classes and performances by Suah African Dance Theatre. The modern/contemporary dance scene is strong and yes, eclectic, spanning Cyrus Art Productions’ theatrical contemporary dance to experimental dance and music collaborations in local bookstores.

Click to watch the Van Dyke Dance Group's impromptu performance

Click to watch the Van Dyke Dance Group’s impromptu performance


Michele Trumble is a dancer for the Van Dyke Dance Group in Greensboro who finds it exciting when the company performs in a variety of settings (traditional concert, gallery on First Friday  and random guerilla style performances). “It allows us different experiences and to reach different audiences,” she says. Princess Johnson of Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet agrees that dancing in odd places seems to be an emerging trend in the Triad. Sounds like fun! Aside from the collaborative work happening  in the arts, Van Dyke dancer Kelly Swindell feels that the food and locally grown movement is improving and growing. Just another thing to add to the Triad’s eclectic flair!

Inclusive adjective \in-ˈklü-siv, -ziv\ 1: covering or including everything 2 : open to everyone : not limited to certain people

Almost every artist from the Triad mentioned that the collaborative and supportive feel of the dance community was high on their list of favorite things about dancing in the Triad. Kelly Swindell in particular loves that there is respect for the dancer, no matter the age or ability. Other artists love the support they receive. “There are many supportive dance organizations that provide great opportunities to dance artists.” says Jen Guy Metcalf of Terranova Dance Theatre in Greensboro. The NC Dance Alliance is one such organization, providing support across the state. The Greensboro Fringe Festival also offers local choreographers a chance to present new work in the area.

Stephany Rayburn, a graduate student at UNCG, loves the connections she has made within the Triad. “I know most if not all of the alumni from our MFA program who live in NC, which is an invaluable networking tool. So many of them are teaching in local universities or working as independent artists, creating their own works. For me, this alleviates a lot of the anxiety surrounding “breaking into” a dance scene. It seems like if you know one person who dances in NC, you actually know 10,” Stephany says.

Community-Minded adjective interested in helping the wider community; socially concerned

The Triad feels like home to many of our artists. Some described it as “local,” meaning  a sense of belonging to a certain area.Why is that? Our artists feel that the size, people, and values held by the communities in the Triad make it a great place to dance local.

Downtown Greensboro. Source:

Downtown Greensboro. Source:

Cara Hagan, who considers herself an artist of the Triad as a whole, enjoys the size of the community. “My favorite thing about dancing here is that it is a small enough community to know everyone, and be able to know their work, but not so small that one gets bored,” she says. In Greensboro, Michele likes that it has a small city feel but she can still escape into nature on hiking trails or go canoeing at the lakes.

The Triad is community-minded not only because of its size but also because of its attitude. The UNCG Dance Department’s Dancers Connect  is an organization that teaches free dance classes to children every Saturday giving opportunity to students who may not otherwise get to experience dance. The Winston Salem Arts Council and Arts Greensboro are prime arts supporters, providing grants to arts groups and sponsoring annual events such as the 17 Days Arts Festival. Another organization making a difference is the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference. SEA’s mission is to provide practical resources to help aspiring artists gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain a career as an independent artist.

High-Quality adjective 1:  a degree or grade of excellence or wort

 The Triad is home to some high-quality organizations that our artists love to support . Many artists feel lucky to live in such close proximity to Triad Stage, a regional professional theater with locations in Greensboro and Winston Salem. “The caliber of their productions is so high. Preston Lane, Artistic Director of Triad, never disappoints with his many adaptations of famous stories and plays as well as some of his own. If you haven’t been to Triad Stage to see one of their many productions, you should go!” says Stephany. Movies by Movers  is a festival that explores the art of live human motion through the magic of film and digital media, a growing area of interest for many NC and Triad artists.

The Triad also provides the opportunity for artists to train and become the highest quality dancers. “I personally take a lot of classes at Dance Project due to their variety of adult classes offered and the supportive yet challenging teachers. Classes are a perfect combination of hard work and fun” says Michele. The Greensboro Ballet and Artistic Motion are two other great places to take class. Stephany calls Artistic Motion a wonderful downtown studio; they offer a variety of classes in the performing arts, in addition to their particular specialty: Vaganova training in ballet.

While NC as a whole has many great colleges and universities with strong dance programs, a number of them are located in or near the Triad, including UNC-Greensboro, UNC School of the Arts, Wake Forest University, Salem College, NC A&T University, High Point University, and nearby Elon University. Graduates of these programs often stick around, teaching, dancing, and creating companies of their own, and enriching the local scene.

The Triad is the home to the Hanesbrands Theatre, a 300 seat Winston-Salem venue in which dancers love to perform and watch dance. As the dance scene in the Triad continues to grow, artists are longing for more spaces like this to perform and showcase their work. Princess Johnson is in hopes of a dance facility equipped with state of the art studios and a theatre to meet her ballet company’s needs. Some area venues that do exist are UNCG’s blackbox Dance Theatre, Greensboro Day School’s Sloan theater, and the Studio Theatre in the Cultural Arts Center. Jen Guy Metcalf likes to watch dance at the Carolina Theatre and Aycock Auditorium, which are mostly utilized by bigger dance companies due to their size and rental fees. Artists also mentioned they enjoy the War Memorial Auditorium, a performance space inside the Greensboro Coliseum complex.

Friendly  1. kind and pleasant 

Aside from the many opportunities to dance in the Triad, the friendly people available to dance with are what make many artists excited to dance here. After all, it is the people who truly make up the feel of the dance scene. Greensboro makes it easy for college-aged students like Stephany who says, “Most of the studios in town cultivate a very friendly atmosphere. Dance classes are generally affordable for college students and young professionals which is important for me as I continue to cultivate my professional training.” The people of the Triad are generally accepting and excited about the arts. Kelly loves the family vibe she feels with her fellow dancers as well as the community’s engagement and appreciation for the arts. “The local dance community I work with is my other little family: it is familiar and fun. It is best when there is an engaged and curious audience being a part of the performance,” Kelly says. Kristen Lucas from Winston-Salem says dancing locally means dancing with friends. “Rehearsals are filled with laughter, true collaborative spirit, and mutual desire for the process. Connecting or reconnecting with folks through dance is a nice thing about this town.”

Terranova Dance Theatre in downtown Greensboro. Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf

Terranova Dance Theatre in downtown Greensboro. Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf

We’re loving reconnecting with the major NC dance communities through this #dancelocal series! What other Triad area companies, organizations, or activities do you love? Give them a shout-out in the comments or on our Facebook page!

How does NC #dancelocal? Charlotte Edition

March 17, 2014 § 1 Comment

Charlotte’s Top 10: The best things about dancing in Charlotte


10. Room to breathe.

Charlotte is a great location for many artists who share a love of  both the city and country. Arlynn Zachary loves to live in a place that allows for breathing room where you can have one foot in the city and one foot in the country at the same time. “There is a small-town feel where you get to know most of the other dancers within our community fairly quickly (if you get involved), and a large-town feel when you get to perform in some of the bigger theaters in uptown Charlotte,” Arlynn says.

Charlotte's NoDa Historic Art District Community gallery crawl

Charlotte’s NoDa Historic Art District Community gallery crawl Photo Credit: VISIT CHARLOTTE

Event photography of Charlotte Alive After Five at Charlotte Epicentre

Charlotte Epicentre Photo credit: VISIT CHARLOTTE

9. It’s still Rock n Roll to me. 

A great non-dance related piece of living in the Charlotte area is the music scene. “The music scene in Charlotte is pretty great. My husband is in a band, Sinners & Saints, as are several friends of ours, so I am always going out and checking out live music” Audrey Baran says. She and other Charlotte locals are excited about supporting live music which is why she is using live musicians for her next show!

Nightly entertainment at the NC Music Factory in downtown Charlotte, NC

Nightly entertainment at the NC Music Factory in downtown Charlotte, NC Photo Credit: VISIT CHARLOTTE

8. Improvisation Station.

Along with the popular modern/contemporary dance scene in Charlotte, one thing that is really heating up is contact improvisation. Audrey Baran  is helping to organize a quarterly Improv Jam with some friends to build community involvement and a safe space to play.

7. Class Time.

Practice makes perfect! Charlotte is home to Open Door Studios,and  The School of NCDT, which is a beautiful facility and performance space. Central Piedmont Community College offers classes with Humphrey-Weidman dancer Mary Ann Mee, who Audrey Baran calls “a hidden gem.” UNC-Charlotte, a long-time host of the NC Dance Festival, also boasts top-notch faculty and a variety of classes, performances, and outreach ventures.

Open Door Studios Photo credit:

6. Giving back.

There are a lot of organizations in Charlotte with kind hearts who believe in giving back to the community and beyond.  Triptych Collective make socially-engaged performance art and incorporate outreach and volunteering into their process. TAPROOT hosts “Incubator” events, where artists from various disciplines can share work and get feedback from the crowd. Open Door Studios and Kim Jones of UNCC both offer free classes to students at Our Bridge, an after-school program for refugee and immigrant children. These groups  do most of their work in collaboration with other artists of multiple mediums, and other art (and non-art) organizations. Building the greater community is definitely a top priority in each of these groups.

5. Inspiration.

“It is hard not be inspired by everything happening!” Says Audrey.

Arlynn says, “I am involved with most of the dance organizations/companies in Charlotte in some form or another, and being able to work with such wonderful people who have been so generous and driven, is what has kept me in Charlotte. There is a place for dance here – we are making it happen – that is my favorite thing.”

Caroline Calouche believes The Charlotte Dance Festival is an important inspirational force in the city. She says, “I believe the Charlotte Dance Festival has helped the community give opportunities to rising choreographers.”

Photography by: Kathleen Temple, ArtsFest, Inc. Design by: Leanne Moore

4. Hot Performance Spots.

Charlotte is home to both old and new performance venues which make it a historical and trendy place to dance! The beautiful Theatre Charlotte has been around for over 80 years. The Chop Shop is an awesome warehouse-turned-performance-space, where  Dance Under the City Sounds will be shown on June 11th. Performing in “unconventional” spaces seems to be a trend in Charlotte. Caroline Calouche enjoys dancing outside in the parks and plazas uptown. Upstage and Petra’s are both cabaret-style venues perfect for intimate performances. And of course, larger theaters like Booth Playhouse, Spirit Square, and Knight Theater are amazing to perform in.

Charlotte in bloom in spring 2011

Knight Theater Photo Credit: VISIT CHARLOTTE

3. Emerging Companies.

While the Charlotte area has long been known for ballet through the North Carolina Dance Theatre, over the past 3 years Modern and Contemporary companies have begun to be a strong presence in the community. When Caroline started her company Caroline Calouche&Co. 8 years ago, there were only 3 companies in Charlotte. Those 3 are still there in addition to many more independent and collaborative companies that help inform people about dance.  Popular companies include: Moving Poets, Echo Contemporary Dance Company (recently re-located to Boston), Triptych Collective, Taproot Ensemble, Baran Dance, Deep Water Collaborations, and THE MARK dance company. For the thrill seekers, Charlotte also has a hand full of reputable aerial studios.

Moving Poets_Sarah and Javy_digital

Moving Poets Photo credit: Jeff Cravotta

2. The Arts are Alive.

As artists we love areas booming with any form of art and Charlotte does not disappoint in this category. Every weekend you can find gallery crawls, incredible bands both locally and nationally, and plenty of art exhibitions. One of Sarah Emery’s favorite spots is the McColl Center. This contemporary art center is located in an old historic neo-gothic church Uptown. It brings in various artists for periods of residency. It is open to the public with over 5000 sq. ft. of gallery space for exhibitions, open studios, workshops etc.

Wells Fargo Community Celebration in Charlotte, NC

The Mint Museum Community Celebration in Charlotte, NC Photo credit: VISIT CHARLOTTE

1.Teamwork makes the dream work.

The people of Charlotte are what really stand out in making it a great place to live and dance! Sarah says her favorite thing about dancing in Charlotte are the dancers and their tight knit groups, “We are working hard to collaborate among dance companies in support of the bigger picture…dance in Charlotte. There is not a lot of “us and them.” Audrey says, “I love that Charlotte is small enough that the dance community is closely knit and everybody knows everybody else, but large enough that there is lots of diversity and opportunities for dance are constantly popping up. The city is growing in so many ways, and it’s exciting to see dance and the arts be part of that growth.”

Many thanks to the dancers who gave us the inside scoop on the Charlotte dance community!

What’s on your top 10 list about dancing in Charlotte? Don’t forget to send us your #dancelocal images for our photo contest–details here.

From the Artist: ShaLeigh Comerford on Re-creating

March 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

To continue our focus on dance in the Triangle, here is a guest post by ShaLeigh Comerford. ShaLeigh and her company ShaLeigh Dance Works toured with the NCDF during the 2013-14 season, and she is currently active in the Durham area.

Here, ShaLeigh writes about her experience recreating an old piece–Dedicated to [ ] because of [ ] (and vice versa)– with a new cast.

Photo Credit: Steven Schreiber

Photo Credit: Steven Schreiber

Re-Creating Dedicated

We were daunted by the fact that this piece had a full life in 2007 with a mostly different cast. How could we bring it to life when the dancers were all learning it from the outside in? I presented the skeleton. We learned the phrases. We learned it like a map, a series of destinations. But it’s a fragile creature and it begs for more. It cannot just be portrayed. It must be lived but it cannot be defined. With too many words, it leaves the terrain of dance and enters into a narrative better fit for a book. I wondered if it was possible. It was my first time re-staging this work on a full cast of dancers that were not there for its creation. How could I possibly find the details and subtleties? What moved the dancers? It once was risk. With the new cast, it was clarity and understanding. But the questions were very difficult to answer. It had to be discovered. It couldn’t be told. I had to figure out how to create the environment for something new to emerge … something beyond the motions. In response, our ensemble work became stronger. We were able to hone in on every subtlety of physicality … it was admittedly my crutch at the start. It was the sensation that was hard to pin point. I was asking them to live fully inside a narrative that was undefined … a moment of circumstance. Within this lived a great vulnerability … a humanity I had hoped to keep. But it kept vanishing. It wasn’t until our 4th show on the tour in Charlotte that we finally discovered the new life of this piece. In one fell swoop, after a long break and literally working for over a month on a different project in another country, that it all came back. I had to let go. I had to ask more questions. I had to let them own it. I had to see what was emerging beyond my intentions, beyond my expectations. I had to use new eyes. I had to see them: this new family of artists inside this work. I had to give it to them. The work was done. It was finished in 2007, but to be alive it had to become something new. Perhaps none other would see the difference quite as stark as the work’s choreographer … but to me the version born in Brooklyn circa 2007 and the version born in Durham 2013 were worlds apart. And that was not a bad thing. The humor developed in astonishing ways and we were finally getting laughs again. The text took new form. It drifted around its purpose in ambiguous ways but somehow managed to reach its destination in a more poignant manner. The dancers took hold and defined their characters inside of several ever-vanishing mini narratives. They found a character they could not only portray and relate to but could in turn comment on with their movement choices. The transitions became their chance to react to the conditions. And the piece took its first breath of life. For it was not in its telling that this work had anything to say, but it was in its crumbling: a fragile state of ever-shifting perspectives. And we noticed this … upon audience after audience. They tended to hold their experience like a secret. Something even they did not want to define. People would often tell me of their fondness for this piece but one on one and with a whisper.

-ShaLeigh Comerford


Did you see ShaLeigh’s work, “Dedicated,” on the NCDF tour? How did it speak to you? If you are a choreographer, have you ever recreated a dance on a new cast?


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