ADF: Double-Down Day at the Festival

Each year towards the end of the summer performance season of the American Dance Festival, some of the teaching faculty at the ADF School present a concert of their own works. Some of them dance; others set the works on students, thus giving them important pre-professional training in making a dance and getting it onto the stage, pdq. These faculty dances are generally short, since many must be packed into the program. And unless the teacher/choreographer has already been working on an idea, they tend not to be too evolved or complex, but instead have a refreshing immediacy. The final act of the show is always a clever dance skit produced by the ADF tech staff, in which particularly memorable images and sequences from the season’s performances are sent up, always with panache and  hilarious results.

This year, the Faculty Concert is appearing in rotating rep, as it were, with the first event in Tere O’Connor’s week-long residency. The 2 pm shows have taken place, but you still have the choice of 8 pm shows: Faculty in Reynolds Theater, or Tere O’Connor Dance performing for free in The Ark on Duke’s East Campus. See the full Tere O’Connor Dance schedule here. Both shows are general admission.

The 2 pm Faculty Concert opened with a joyous, high-energy dance by the wonderful drummer and choreographer Sherone Price (ADF faculty since 1995),working from a traditional mask dance from Guinea. With drummers on stage, four young men and four young women leapt and stomped gleefully through the elegantly modernized ritual steps. One of the men–the one with the long braids–has that special talent which can make the West African-style arm movements so powerful: he doesn’t simply move his arms and hands through a nothingness of air–he divides the air and presses it back, so that we are aware of its density and resistance.

There follows a remarkable “Metamorphosis” by Jessica Harris, and danced by her and Austin Selden. Both have the Shen Wei company in their pedigrees, so the movement was deliciously eel-like. A work by long-time ADF teacher Rodger Belman follows, intriguing with the musician also dancing, and playing the keyboard with his elbows. A very pretty work by Gerri Houlihan follows intermission, then a strangely-unsatisfactory duet by Robbie Cook and Rosalynde Le Blanc-Loo. Some interesting movement, and of course Le Blanc-Loo has a huge stage presence, but it just didn’t come alive. Mark Haim and Jesse Zaritt offer up a funny duet, smarter in actuality than it would sound in description, then T. Lang closes the faculty portion with a large group dance with some sharply inventive sequences. Last but hardly least, ladies and gentlemen, “Ducks and Cover,” by the 2014 ADF Production Crew. If you have seen even one other dance this season, you will laugh. If you’ve seen a lot, you’ll laugh a lot. And if you saw 13 Love Songs: Dot Dot Dot, you will laugh your ass off.

Tere O’Connor report tomorrow.

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