Recess | Campus Arts

The American Dance Festival returns to Durham for its 84th season

As students celebrate their freedom from assignments and exams over the summer break, another celebration will soon grace Duke’s campus: The American Dance Festival (ADF) commemorates its 40th season in Durham this summer with six and a half weeks packed with performances.

Founded in 1934 and in its 84th season overall, the American Dance Festival moved to Durham in 1977 after it needed room to grow. In partnership with Duke, the Festival uses the university’s box office and performance venues, as well as Epworth dorm, during the summer for administrative offices. Now with over 400 students and a faculty of 50, ADF offers professional training, dance awards and community outreach in addition to its summer performances.

“We present modern dance companies from all over the country and all over the world. They are some of the best artists creating work out there,” Mollie O’Reilly, ADF’s marketing and audience services associate, said.

With a broad variety in performances—some from companies repeated year to year and some from companies completely new to the United States—groups are chosen to reflect the current state of the dance world.

“Every show is going to be very different; there’s a wide variety and there’s something for everyone,” O’Reilly said.

As the Festival selects a variety of pieces to appeal to wide audiences, it works to ensure that performances are widely accessible. ADF Go, a discounted ticket program, allows people ages 18 to 30 to attend most shows for only $10. While tickets usually cost $20 to $30 fully priced, the discounted price is much more affordable for a young adult's budget.

“We’re trying to make modern dance more accessible to younger art and dance lovers,” O’Reilly said.

Due to the affordable tickets and number of performances on campus, attending the American Dance Festival is a great way for Duke students to become more exposed to the modern dance world. Here are a few performances to look for this season:

Opening Night Performance, Durham Performing Arts Center, June 15 at 6:30 p.m.

To kick off the ADF season, a variety of dance companies will take the stage. While styles vary from ballet to improvisation, all groups are currently based in or were initially founded in North Carolina. One group set to perform—the African American Dance Ensemble—recently lost its founder, Chuck Davis. The group will celebrate his legacy at ADF with its characteristically exuberant music and dance.

Sean Dorsey Dance, Reynolds Industries Theater, July 5 and 6 at 8:00 p.m.

In a performance of The Missing Generation, dancers will embody the generation of survivors of the early AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Choreographed by Sean Dorsey, the first renowned transgender choreographer of modern dance, the work looks to be a moving personification of love and loss.

dendy/donovan projects, Reynolds Industries Theater, July 12 and 13 at 8:00 p.m.

As the American Dance Festival’s 40th anniversary in Durham happens to correspond with the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, the dendy/donovan projects’ piece will commemorate the King of Rock. In "Elvis Everywhere," the group will satirically compare Elvis’s life to modern politics in the United States.

“I really like his work—it’s really compelling and interesting and vibrant,” O’Reilly said.

Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre, Durham Performing Arts Center, July 14 at 8:00 p.m. and 15 at 7:00 p.m.

In a fusion of theater and dance, the work "Betroffenheit" looks to be deeply moving. The work focuses on dark themes such as loss and addiction, with sharp choreography and theatrical movement.

“The piece seems like it’ll blow everyone away,” O’Reilly said.

Mark Morris Dance Group, Durham Performing Arts Center, July 21 at 8:00 p.m. and 22 at 7:00 p.m.

Accompanied by the Durham Symphony and the North Carolina Master Chorale, the Mark Morris Dance Group will present three of their works: "Gloria" to the music of Vivaldi, "Excursions" to pieces by Barber and "A Lake" set to Haydn. While getting a taste of modern dance, attendees to this performance will also be exposed to two local live music groups.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Durham Performing Arts Center, July 27 and 28 at 8:00 p.m. and July 29 at 7:00 p.m.

In this world premiere, the Company will present all three works of "Analogy: A Trilogy." The works will illustrate the many forms of war humans create—including the conflict within one’s own mind. 


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