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


Tagged: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading How does NC #dancelocal? Wilmington edition! at Follow the Festival.


%d bloggers like this: