Durham County

American Dance Festival to feature 71 performances by 30 companies

American Dance Festival director Jodee Nimerichter’s desire to bring Monica Bill Barnes Company’s “Museum Workout” (pictured) to the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh played a major role in expansion of the 84th season of the famed festival to eight weeks beginning Saturday, June 3.
American Dance Festival director Jodee Nimerichter’s desire to bring Monica Bill Barnes Company’s “Museum Workout” (pictured) to the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh played a major role in expansion of the 84th season of the famed festival to eight weeks beginning Saturday, June 3. Special to The Herald-Sun

For the first time since the American Dance Festival came to Durham 40 years ago, this season offers eight weeks of performances — Saturday, June 3 through July 29 — instead of the usual six and a half.

ADF director Jodee Nimerichter’s desire to bring Monica Bill Barnes Company’s “Museum Workout” to the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh played a major role in the longer span of this the ADF’s 84th season.

“The best time for the company, ADF and the NC Museum of Art to collaborate on this presentation was early June,” Jodee Nimerichter wrote from Dublin, Ireland, in an email.

So, this season will open on Saturday, June 3, with Monica Bill Barnes and the company’s associate artistic director/dancer Anna Bass leading 15 “tour-goers” at a time in the “Museum Workout” gallery visits to art selected by collaborator Maira Kalman.

Those attending should wear comfortable clothing and footwear and be prepared to move to music that ranges from disco to Motown as they travel from gallery to gallery during the 65-minute “workout” that takes place four times a day through June 5.

After their “Museum Workout” ends at the Raleigh museum, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass head for the Durham Arts Council’s PSI Theatre where from June 6-9 they’ll perform “Happy Hour” in which they portray men in business suits who dance up a storm at an office party.

Precedent set in 2016

The precedent for dance performances to begin earlier than usual was set last year by two pre-ADF season shows. On April 15, 2016, LMnO3 performed “B.A.N.G.S.: Made in America” at ADF’s Samuel H. Scripps Studios. The next month, Eiko performed “A Body in Places” May 14 and May 15 at Durham Farmers Market; Carrboro’s Weaver Street Market; and Raleigh’s Cameron Village Regional Library.

Because of that precedent and since the Monica Bill Barnes’ dates were set in early June — and in light of this being the 40th anniversary of ADF in Durham, Nimerichter said, “It felt like a good idea to make the season longer this year.”

A longer season means there will be more dance offerings: 71 performances by 30 companies from the U.S., Israel and Canada, compared to last season’s 61 performances by 26 companies.

There will also be a spotlight on North Carolina choreographers and performers that starts with an all-North Carolina lineup at the official opening night gala June 15 at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

In addition to the two months’ worth of performances, the ADF also adds two new venues: Living Arts Collective in Durham and, for the first time, a venue in Cary: The Cary Theater.

“We were thrilled,” the Town of Cary Cultural Manager Lyman Collins said. “We are so delighted that ADF, celebrating its 40th year in Durham, reached out to another Triangle town.”

The Cary Theater

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the Hillel Kogan company makes its ADF debut with performances of “We Love Arabs” June 13-June 14 at The Cary Theater. Hillel Kogan will also perform this work June 16-17 at Duke University’s Reynolds Industries Theater.

Collins’ duties include overseeing The Cary Theater, a 1946 structure at 122 E. Chatham St., built by Paul Chandler to house Cary’s first indoor movie theater. This theater has also hosted live performances including B-western star Lash LaRue’s bullwhip act in the 1950s, Collins said.

The Cary Theater, which opened three years ago, shows independent films and hosts live performances. “We’ve had dance before but never anything to quite the level of ADF. It’s a great opportunity. Having ADF is like having the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It elevates the credibility,” Collins said, adding that hosting an ADF performance will boost the growing audience for dance in the Cary area.

Collins said he liked what he had seen in the 20-minute preview of the hour-long duet, “We Love Arabs,” in which Hillel Kogan and Adi Boutrous play a Jewish choreographer and an Arab dancer, who want to create a show that portrays coexistence and peace. “It’s a fun piece with audience interaction,” Collins said.

“We hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Colllins said of his interest in hosting other ADF performances in the future.

Cherdonna Shinatra

As for her response to hosting an ADF performance, Living Arts Collective founder Aubrey Griffith-Zill said, in a phone interview, “I’m super-excited. I have a profound respect for the level of work and the type of artists ADF brings,” she added.

She’s looking forward to hosting Cherdonna Shinatra’s ADF debut in “Clock That Mug or Dusted” June 24-June 27. “I’m really intrigued by what I have seen (video clips) and read about. I really like the idea of the body being a canvas for cultural change,” Griffith-Zill said of this work that pays homage to feminist performance artists from Anna Halprin to Janine Antoni. In it, as Cherdonna Shinatra, the Seattle-based dancer/drag queen/performance artist Jody Kuehner uses her body movements to paint on a large canvas on the floor.

This opportunity to host an ADF performance has spurred Living Arts Collective to install raked seating to increase capacity and sightlines for audience members. They had already begun a project to install a sprung floor and have recently started a fundraiser for both projects. (See www.livingartscollective.com)

Griffith-Zill, a Hillsborough native, has always been interested in dance. She grew up attending ADF performances and taking classes at the festival. She also studied dance when she attended Carolina Friends School where she now teaches dance.

In March/April 2016, she founded Living Arts Collective as a community arts incubator that provides rental rehearsal and performance spaces as well as offers opportunities to teach music and dance at the facility. The venue also hosts participatory dance events in a variety of styles that range from waltz to Brazilian zouk.

Griffith-Zill espouses the idea of living arts. “Art is the fabric of life and culture. It’s something people live,” she said.

ADF Cleveland

When this season’s last curtain closes July 29 on the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s world premiere of “Analogy: A Trilogy,” the ADF will continue to expand — to Cleveland.

Scheduled for July 25-Aug. 5, this new venture: ADF Cleveland, will feature dance performances that include Pilobolus’ “Shadowland” as well as workshops for advanced-level dancers taught by ADF faculty.

Free community events will also take place.

Nimerichter said that she and DANCECleveland executive director Pamela Young had wanted to collaborate for a while and the timing had finally been right this summer. Whether ADF Cleveland will continue in future depends on the success of this initial event, Nimerichter added.

As for whether Durham will see longer ADF seasons in the future, Nimerichter said, “I’m not sure that every season will be expanded but I think we will continue to explore doing things ‘off-season’ or ‘pre-season’ when it makes sense.”


WHAT: The American Dance Festival’s 84th season and 40th year in Durham.

WHEN: Saturday, June 3-July 29.

WHERE: Multiple venues throughout the Triangle including the Durham Performing Arts Center, Reynolds Theater, the Living Arts Collective and the Nasher Museum in Durham, The Cary Theater in Cary and the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.

MORE INFORMATION: For ticket information and a full calendar of performances and locales visit http://www.americandancefestival.org/