WHAT: Presenting Denver Dance Festival
WHERE: The Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E. Iliff Ave., Denver
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24
TICKETS/INFORMATION: www.presentingdenver.org/pd-dance-festival/ and www.newmantix.com/pd
Attend many festivals and large parties around the metro area, and there’s usually a dance component to them — everything from cultural and traditional to more modern styles.
But that is just a taste of Denver’s growing dance scene, so Meredith Hutson, executive director of Presenting Denver, wanted to find a way to showcase the many facets of the form.
“The dance community has a lot to offer, and we’re working to make the area a dance hub,” Hutson said. “We’re doing that by increasing accessibility of dance information and wanted to be able to show people the range of talent.”
Presenting Denver partnered with The Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts to host the first Presenting Denver Dance Festival, which will be held on June 23 and 24. Performances will be held at the Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. in Denver.
Festival Artists were selected by a pool of jurors, including Darrell Anderson, visual artist; Laurence Anthony Curry, actor, dancer and choreographer; Mary Louise Lee, First Lady of Denver and accomplished performer; and Stephen W. Seifert, former Executive Director of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.
The Main Stage concert, “New and Now,” will take place on both days in the Byron Flex Theatre. “New and Now” will be a concert of world premieres by Colorado artists Chadash Contemporary Dance Movement, Edgar L. Page, Gregory Gonzales, Hannah Kahn Dance Company, Helanius J. Wilkins, Kristen Demaree, Moraporvida Contemporary Dance, and The Schiff Dance Collective.
“It’s been a really great process for me, especially since I am also writing my own music and doing the costumes,” said Demaree. “This kind of project is one I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity before.”
For her world premiere piece, Demaree is taking ballet back to its roots by incorporating older dance forms like the tarantella and medieval dancing mania.
Kahn said the chance to premiere a completely new work is rare and thrilling opportunity — and more than a little nerve-wracking.
“My work is usually pretty abstract, and this one is as well, but I would say it’s not a typical piece for me,” she said. “We don’t know if our pieces will be effective, but it’s an interesting challenge.”
In addition to “New and Now,” there will be a performance of “No Walls” at the Boettcher Center Lawn at 4:30 p.m. on June 23. This free, family friendly, outdoor concert will feature new and previously created works by additional local artists David Taylor’s Zikr Dance Ensemble, Mary Lynn Lewark, Maureen Breeze Dance Theater, Nile H. Russell, Nu-World Contemporary Danse Theatre, Parasol Arts, and Thomas Dance Project.
“As a choreographer, it’s a luxury to be able to just focus on the word side of things, instead of marketing and all that,” said Lewark. “It can be really daunting to put on together a show on your own, and it can be a leap of faith for the dancers.”
As the owner of Between the Bones dance studio, Lewark has recently been looking for ways to blend the forms of ballet and gaga, an Israel style of dance. The performance she’s doing is called “Bone House North,” and is inspired by words and images from Seamus Heaney’s poem “Bone Dreams.”
Kevin Gaël Thomas, artistic director and choreographer of Thomas Dance Project, has firsthand experience with Denver’s festival circuit, since he created the Thomas Dance Project to perform at these events. But he’s also performed as a soloist with the Colorado Ballet.
“I want to create choreography that can inspire the community and serve a greater purpose,” Thomas explained. “I’m not a politician or a doctor, but I think using art to create humanitarian works can serve that larger purpose.”
For his contribution to “No Walls,” Thomas will be performing “Requiem,” which uses the music of French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt to express the sorrow and loss of the Holocaust.
For all the choreographers and dancers, the festival isn’t just an opportunity to perform — it is also a chance to connect with peers and new audiences alike, and further along the goal of making Denver a dance hub.
“This is a great opportunity for all kinds of dancers to come together,” Demaree said. “I hope audiences will want to investigate and celebrate Denver’s dance world after seeing all we have.”
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