Durhamites, especially if they happen to be around Duke University’s campus, this week begin to see and hear what have become common sights and sounds of summer, courtesy of the American Dance Festival.
As ADF puts it on its website:
“If you live in or visit Durham, ADF is a part of your life. You hear the African drum circle on your morning jog. You point out the graffiti-covered ADF bus to your kids. You watch dancers practice their footwork in the grocery checkout line.”
The public dance performances by which many throughout the region know ADF start Thursday, but the festival is, as the festival’s description suggests, interwoven with our community in many ways.
Each summer, 420 students from 20 countries and 40 states, along with 70 faculty members, spend an intensive six weeks here, polishing their modern-dance abilities, connecting with mentors who may greatly influence their nascent careers in dance and generally igniting their and audiences’ passion for this most American of dance forms.
Those students do more than just add to our community’s coolness. They and the 26,000 people who will fill the seats at Durham Performing Arts Center and at campus venues for the public performances pump some $7 million into our economy.
The ADF – like other signature cultural events such as the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival – draws national attention to our city.
The New York Times’ Roslyn Sulcas, writing in 2011 about the end of Charles Reinhart’s long tenure at head of the festival, called Durham “a major summer dance destination.” Reinhart, she wrote, “transformed the small, homespun festival, begun in 1934 by modern-dance pioneers at Bennington College in Vermont, into an international destination for modern dance.”
The festival’s international footprint stretches far beyond what we see in Durham each summer. “Since 1984, 457 choreographers, teachers, and dancers from 88 countries have come to ADF through the International Choreographers Residency program, mini-festivals have taken place in China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and linkage programs have gone to over 20 countries,” the festival’s website notes.
Reinhart moved the festival from Vermont to Durham 37 years ago.
His successor, and for many years before his retirement the co-director, Jodee Nimerichter has built upon and expanded that legacy, and a year ago she and the festival’s board launched a $3 million fundraising campaign to underwrite their soaring ambitions.
The campaign, which extends through the end of this year, will enable the festival to expand community classes, outreach and involvement; start “intensive” workshops here and abroad; organize new international minifestivals, and offer choreography residencies.
Durham never has been a stranger to the world stage. The tobacco giants that defined the city for generations traded around the globe. The university birthed by a tobacco fortunes and the research park created here in part because of that university have long ensured our international reach.
The ADF is a prestigious addition to that reach – and is a great deal of fun to have in town.