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Massachusetts Dance Festival's Contribution to the Art

Summer 2012 may break records for “most outstanding arts support” across the nation, due in part to the National Governors Association’s May 2012 best practices report, “New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design” and the involvement of 55 US governors to innovate solutions for public policy challenges.

The NGA, founded in 1908, is concerned with overcoming five-year recession, such as job loss and reduction of new business creation, by targeting creative industries such as arts, culture, and design, for improvement in economic development, strengthening manufacturing and tourism, and supporting artists and designers as entrepreneurs. (http://www.nga.org/center)

What this means for Massachusetts, and particularly for the Massachusetts Dance Festival, entering its fourth annual season of promoting multi-genre dance classes and performances across the Commonwealth, is that our early mission statement is perfectly aligned with the NGA in applying creative leadership for successful economic turnaround.

MDF “seeks to raise the profile of dance as a profession in Massachusetts, as a means to stimulate social and cultural development across our state … and to contribute to quality life in the 21st Century…” with emphasis on revitalizing dance and the creative sector as “essential to meaningful lives and healthy communities.”

This summer, Massachusetts Dance Festival kicks off its fourth season of full day weekend education workshops and performances on June 23rd and 24th at Boston University’s Dance Studio Theater and September 24th and 25th at UMass Amherst’s Bowker Auditorium, capturing audiences east to west. (http://www.massdancefestival.org)

MDF stands apart from the wide assortment of other dance festivals by actually paying dance performers and educators, who have professionally studied and performed locally, nationally, and internationally, with dance icons such as: Agnes deMille, Alvin Ailey, Anna Sokolow, Boston Ballet, Brenda Bufalino, Chet Walker, Isadora Duncan, Leonide Massine, Jimmy Locust, Josh Hilberman, Jacobs Pillow, Matt Mattox, National Ballet Senegal, and Stuttgart Ballet, among others.

Invigorating the performance art genre called “dance” is no easy task, yet this two-pronged approach that reaches hundreds of dance enthusiasts from all geographic locations, ethnic and cultural diversities, and complementary levels of dance ability – from absolute beginners to full-fledged professional company members – has proved a successful platform. Businesses, educational, cultural, travel, and arts institutions, as well as dance industry vendors, students, and audiences, have joined the cause.

This year’s performance and instruction from Massachusetts companies and master teachers include: Agentine Tango, ballet, contemporary, contact improvisation, modern, jazz, hip-hop, Butoh, Odissi, Iranian, East Indian, and senior dance. Here are some highlights:

* BoSoma Dance, founded by Irada Djelassi and Katherine Hooper in 2003, stretches every boundary of human physicality and musicality, through high intensity, paradoxical twists, turns, leaps, and rapid spatial changes that thrill audiences, consistently. “BoSoma Dance Company was founded upon the belief that dance should be an accessible art form, transcending borders of social background and cultures; it collaborates with local musicians and visual artists with the intent of reaching out to audiences of different artistic mediums.” (http://www.bosoma.org/bosoma)

* CHIMERAlab Dance Theatre, directed by Jennifer Hicks, is a contemporary dance company founded on a unique interface between somatic techniques such as; Butoh, Martial Arts, Body Mind Centering ®, Viewpoints, Contemporary Dance, Physical Theater, Tectonic Moment Work, Yoga, and Meditation… where artists, musicians, actors, and dancers create original work using poetic imagery, memory, story and a sense of place. (http://www.jenniferhicks.org)

* Contrapose Dance, founded by artistic director Courtney Peix, creates exciting and entertaining works that “engage audiences by plumbing deep emotions,” inviting them to “set aside expectations and respond to the thrill of the new.” Contrapose Dance, with roots in classical training, combines traditional with contemporary, bringing a “new energy to the theater scene, attracting a new generation of dance lovers." Contrapose seeks not only to reach existing dance audiences but also to widen the circle by reaching out to communities that may never have attended dance concerts. (www.contraposedance.com)

* Dances by Isadora, directed by Catherine Gallant and Patricia Adams, shares the history of dance as an art form with a contemporary audience through the presentation and teaching of the work of modern dance pioneer, Isadora Duncan (1877-1927). The company is also dedicated to the growth of new work which comments on history and culture while making connections from past to present with an eye to future innovation (http://www.dancesbyisadora.com)

* Deadfall Dance, directed by Judith Wombwell, was founded to cultivate creative collaborations and to explore innovative techniques of developing movement. Besides the natural kinesthetic implications, the name derives from the Native American tradition of making use of downed wood; in a similar fashion, Deadfall Dance uses available resources. The work is strongly influenced by post-modern dance, the visual arts, multi media work, and is largely driven by explorations of literature, philosophy and man’s relationship to the natural world. (http://www.jwombwell.com)

* Iranian Dance Project, directed by Sheila Eghbali, educates the community about Iran’s diverse culture and history through dance. This non-profit dance troupe strives to bring forth creative, yet authentic dances from various regions of Iran. Sheila Eghbali was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, after the revolution, when dance was made illegal. She was nine years old when her parents found an underground class where she began her studies in ballet and Iranian and Azeri classical dances. After a few years, the classes were shut down. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Eghbali moved to the U.S. where she continued to dance, choreograph, and perform at a variety of cultural events. (http://sheilaeghbali.com/ida)

* Kairos Dance, founded in 1999 by Artistic Director Maria DuBois Genné, is a 19 member dance company spanning four generations, with performers ranging in age from 2 to 98 years old. The mission of Kairos Dance Theatre is to transform and revitalize individuals and communities. Working with older adults in intergenerational settings to liberate the healing power of interactive dance and story, the company has been awarded the “Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Care-giving Legacy Award,” and was featured in the AARP Bulletin. (http://www.kairosdance.org)

* Legacy Dance Company, founded by Thelma Goldberg, a well-known and highly regarded tap dancer and master educator, is the youth performance division of Dance Inn, performing tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary and musical theater repertoire that delights audiences young and old. Establishing the Dance Inn in Lexington in 1983, Thelma’s mission is “to offer the highest level training and programming for both the recreational and aspiring professional dancer,” always emphasizing good technique and musicality, and “dance as a life-long activity.” (http://www.thedanceinn.com/performance.html)

* Mariah Steele/Quicksilver Dance, directed by choreographer Mariah Steele, uses anthropological inquiry and artistic exploration, delving into contemporary and timeless issues to inspire reflection and imagination and to spark new perspectives and cross-cultural dialogue. (http://www.quicksilverdance.com)

* Navarassa Dance Theater, founded by Aparna Sindhoor, Ph.D., in 1991, creates “solo and group works in classical and contemporary dance and theater that are Inspired by Indian classical and folk dance forms, theater, world music, martial arts (kalari ppayattu), aerial dance, yoga, live singing and storytelling.” Navarassa is a “dynamic, radical, and original style of dance theater, known for its shows with themes that deal with human issues in a meaningful way that makes audiences enjoy and be touched at the same time.” (http://www.navarasa.org)

* Sokolow Now!, directed by Lorry May, the only performing archival dance company of its kind, keeps Anna Sokolow’s extraordinary legacy and vision alive by presenting stunning theatrical stagings of her timeless choreograph. The company's vibrant dancers perform Sokolow's unique dance - theater style with a strong physical commitment and technical excellence while maintaining the feeling and integrity of the original choreography. (http://www.annasokolow.org)

Also performing are the heralded “Dancing Arts Ensemble,” “Kinetic State Youth Ballet,” “North Atlantic Ballet,” “Rebecca Steinberg and Artists,” “Sorvino Dance,” “Stylized Movement” and “Upasana” – not to be missed!

We continue to strive to promote dance and healthy communities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Please visit: (http://www.massdancefestival.org) for dance class schedules, and performance company lineup, each and every year.

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