North Carolina dancemakers take stage

Jun. 19, 2013 @ 12:55 AM

North Carolina dancemakers make ADF main stage debuts today with work that features women’s stories, Italian traditional healers, a portrayal of friendship and a dance that covers film noir and cross-dressing.
Performances of this Statewide Dance program, presented by ADF and the NC Dance Festival, take place at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Reynolds Industries Theater.
Recently, in telephone interviews, choreographers spoke about their work.
Cara Hagan’s 2009 “Words Apart,” performed by her and her twin sister, Mackenzie Hagan, draws on the real-life journeys of six women in stories that address equality, grief, love and friendship. The choreographer collaborated with The Storyline Project of Winston-Salem in order to connect with the women depicted in this dance. Two stories concern sculptor Jan Detter and daughter Zoe’s grief after their husband/father’s death from cancer. Detter’s art helped her cope. Hagan’s work also chronicles the campaign of activist Dorothy Johnson to convince a Winston-Salem church to integrate. “When she first came to Winston-Salem, she wanted to join the church,” the choreographer said. The dance also tells the stories of Cynthia Jarmillo and life-long friends Dudley Shearburn and Emily Wilson.
Natalie Marrone’s Triangle-based company, The Dance Cure, performs her 2011 “REVOLT,” inspired by Italian Americans’ experiences with folk healing traditions. Her ongoing research on this topic was sparked during a Christmas dinner at her parents’ home in New Jersey. Family members were talking about American doctors and her mother said, “That’s why we never took you to a doctor.” This was news to Marrone, who also learned that they had taken her to an aunt, who was a healing woman, and lived in Hoboken. The first person Marrone interviewed was her aunt’s daughter, in her 90s at the time. Since then, the choreographer has spoken with many Italians living in the U.S. and also done research in southern Italy, where her parents were born.
She’s interested in reviving knowledge of this aspect of traditional culture, lost for the most part in contemporary times when it has been looked at as witchcraft. “Italians were trying to assimilate into American culture and had a shame associated with this tradition. In Italian culture, these women were the doctors of the family,” Marrone said.
The 2010 “A Tribute and Reflection of the Relationship,” created and performed by Lindsey Kelley and Mindy Upin, has a personal twist. “It sort of all became a little memoir of our relationship as friends, dancers, choreographers and good pals,” Kelley has said. They met while performing in New York and have continued their friendship and collaboration since Kelley moved to Asheville two and a half years ago.
The fact that they have different dance styles and aesthetics doesn’t get in the way of creating their duets, Kelley added. “It’s a special bond we’ve created. We’re very open to each other,” Kelley said. “There’s no butting of heads. We really just see eye-to-eye.”
Jacques Brel’s cabaret songs initially inspired John Gamble’s 2008 “Changeant d’Habit de Sexe.” I’ve always liked his music,” Gamble said from his home in Greensboro. He retired last year after teaching dance at UNC-G since 1985. He continues to direct the John Gamble Dance Theater, which performs this work, to Brel’s songs, at ADF. He’s also a fan of film noir, which also informs this work.
And, thinking of actress/singer Marlene Dietrich and actress Katharine Hepburn, early feminists, who wore men’s clothes, Gamble. dressed the all-female cast as men. “It makes you see the work a little differently,” he said. While a number of his more than 70 works have a political bent, Gamble said that this work is not overtly political. He does hope that it encourages people to “being a little more open about how we think about that [cross-dressing],” he added.