ADF director Jodee Nimerichter found a lot to celebrate this summer in addition to the fact that this is the festival’s 84th season.
“I wanted to celebrate the history of being here in North Carolina and the great [NC] dancers/choreographers here as well,” Nimerichter said in a phone interview.
This season marks the 40th year the American Dance Festival has been in Durham.
North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt had been excited about ADF’s decision to leave New London, Conn., after 30 years there and head south to North Carolina. In his 1977 typed letter welcoming ADF. Gov. Hunt had added in bold script: “We’re thrilled to have you here.”
That feeling had been mutual. ADF had chosen Duke University as its new home from some 50 other U.S. invitations. At the time, North Carolina was known as the “State of the Arts,” which included an enthusiasm for the performing arts.
So, this summer, Nimerichter sought to showcase as many North Carolina choreographers/performers as she could, not only at the Thursday, June 3, Opening Night Gala but also in other performances this season.
On Oct. 15, 2016, the ADF director had seen the premiere of Durham native Tommy Noonan’s “John” at Durham’s Living Arts Collective as part of Durham Independent Dance Artists’ third season. She had been so impressed that she has invited Noonan to present the work this summer at ADF (June 18, June 19 at Duke University’s Sheafer Theater.)
“It’s a really strong piece,” Nimerichter said in a phone interview. “It’s incredibly smart and engaging theatrically. It’s funny and not funny. Video played a really strong role.”
A biography about John Travolta had initially inspired Noonan’s work and also sparked a train of thought that led him to late-night TV evangelists, infomercial personalities, motivational speakers such as Tony Robins and personal success author Napoleon Hill, who wrote: “If you cannot be great, you must emulate the great in every way possible.”
Hill’s comment had caused a “light-bulb moment” for Nooman. “I realized that Donald Trump had taken the idea of image projection to the extreme,” Noonan had told The Herald-Sun.
The video projection in “John” includes footage of then-Republican presidential candidate Trump, saying at a rally in Charlotte: “But I promise to always tell the truth.”
This season also features two other North Carolina artists in a shared program June 23 and June 24 at Duke University’s Reynolds Industries Theater. Durham native Bill Young’s Colleen Thomas & Co. makes its ADF debut in a performance of Young’s 30-year-old “Interweaving.” Natalie Marrone’s Raleigh-based company, The Cure, returns to ADF with Marrone’s “Thresh,” chosen from 18 entries. The jury of local arts presenters who chose her work were Aaron Greenwald, executive director of Duke Performances; Sharon Moore, director of NC State LIVE; and Amy Russell, director of programming for Carolina Performing Arts.
One more choreographer/performer who can claim a North Carolina connection appears once again at ADF this season. Mark Dendy, who was born in Weaverville, will present the ADF-commissioned world premiere of dendy/donovvan project’s “Elvis Everywhere” on July 12 and July 13 at Reynolds Industries Theater.
For more information and tickets, see www.americandancefestival.org