Yes! Dance Invitational returns with touring acts across a range of styles
Yes! National Dance Invitational, now in its 17th year, is presented by K Dance under the artistic direction of Kaye Weinstein Gary. This year’s performance includes three shows (October 16-17) and takes place at Manchester’s historical Dogtown Dance Theatre.
Crews from New York City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Washington, D. C. are joining K Dance for the event.
Since 1999, K Dance has brought more than 130 contemporary dance companies to Richmond. “For a non-profit contemporary dance company, I think that’s pretty amazing,” says Kay Weinstein Gary, Artistic Director at K Dance since its founding. Even more amazing for Gary is that this marks the 17th year for the invitational.
“Every year, I go ‘can we do it again?’ and we do it again – it’s very exciting!” But she admits the ever-growing festival had humble beginnings.
In 1998, Gary met with Chris Burnside, a fellow VCU dancer, to discuss a collaborative project. Their talk led to a mutual interest in bringing Virginia dancers from across the state together in one venue. At the time, the show was held at VCU’s Grace Street Theater, with only a handful of local dancers.
Gary and Burnside worked together for a number of years before the two diverged in paths, but Gary kept the festival alive with the core mission to “come together and present work, and present other companies work in a professional mater and be treated well.”
There wasn’t a lot of chances for smaller companies like this back then, and Gary said things haven’t gotten much better. Still, the efforts of the invitational have greatly benefited dance in Richmond and continues to offer a unique opportunity for creative minds from around the country.
This year is no exception as Weinstein Gary’s K Dance company is the only local company.
“Sometimes I’m just surprised where people heard about it,” she said.
That being said, visiting company members are put up in a hotel for their time in Richmond – it’s a pretty sweet deal for those who get invited.
To be a part of the show, companies apply through video applications. A Committee reviews the submissions and puts together a program that reflects the current trends in contemporary modern dance.
“Each year is a new year, I have no idea who’s going to be applying. Sometimes people return, sometimes they don’t. This year features seven new companies, one as far as Cincinnati,” Gary said. For her, accepting a submission is all about being open minded.
“I try to have a blank slate as I receive these videos and look at all of them, and then choose a program that has some variety to it in terms of musical selection, numbers of dancers, themes that the choreographers are working on.”
There’s no theme for submissions, but Weinstein Gary does strive to have a sense of variety in the works.
“I try to give a variety in the hope that in the eight pieces performed, someone will hitch onto something they really like.”
Weinstein Gary stays up to date on current dance with the help of the monthly publication, Dance Magazine. A choreographer herself, she spoke to how her dance work pulls from different mediums in a modern way.
“My own work is a reflection of my own creative exploration mainly inspired by plays…. I’m inspired by something that makes movement.”
She’ll use text from plays, or the entire play, intermingled with dance work.
“Dancers have always talked on the stage – sometimes their own written work, or a poem. But I’ve been really inspired by plays,” she said.
She’ll mix dancers with actors to help the work, like her piece this weekend, where she’ll have two dancers and perform the speaker role herself.
“Sometimes we have actors that can move and dancers who can speak,” she said.
As for what to expect when attending, unlike perhaps a play or a concert, the audiences at the invitational are usually small “It’s not jazz or tape, something people can usually understand… and I think sometimes a play is something they can hunker down and see more of a narrative. (It’s an accessibility thing) – but to be exposed to any of the modern arts – painting, music, sculpture – the more you’re exposed to it the more you have a feeling of opening your senses and just taking it in,” said Weinstein-Gary.
For the audience, even if they leave not loving everything, it still makes for a positive experience.
“People don’t sit there and just let their mind open up, rather than have their mind figure it out – they aren’t going to like everything, and that’s okay… the exposure helps you generate new tastes.”
The way Weinstein Gary sees it, there should be something for everyone in the audience to connect with. It’s also one of the few chances to see such a variety of companies performing in one place.
“I think the variety attracts people,” Gary said. “Out of all the dances there is bound to be one that they have a connection with.”
The show opens Friday, October 16 at 8PM and Saturday, October 17 at 3 & 8PM at the Dogtown Dance Theatre. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, ($15 for Students and RVA Theatre Alliance Members). Come on out and get your dose of culture!
Besides finding that cute naked baby in your slice of King cake, something to celebrate next week will be hiding in Manchester with Dogtown Dance Theatre. Throwing their 5th annual Mardi Gras parade and celebration on Saturday February 6th before Fat Tuesday, New Orleans will come alive in Richmond with regional music, Cajun-Creole inspired foods, [...]January 29, 2016
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