In a city filled with active arts communities, Richmond’s modern dance scene has often flown under the radar. However, a group of dance companies and choreographers hope to change that with this year’s first annual Richmond Dance Festival. Bringing together dancers from multiple generations and highly varied backgrounds, the Richmond Dance Festival will take place at the Dogtown Dance Theatre in the Manchester district, over a series of weekends in April and May.
In a city filled with active arts communities, Richmond’s modern dance scene has often flown under the radar. However, a group of dance companies and choreographers hope to change that with this year’s first annual Richmond Dance Festival. Bringing together dancers from multiple generations and highly varied backgrounds, the Richmond Dance Festival will take place at the Dogtown Dance Theatre in the Manchester district, over a series of weekends in April and May. According to Dogtown founder Rob Petres, “the festival will showcase Dogtown Dance Theatre as a lively, collaborative, and innovative nexus for dance in Richmond.” In doing so, it will show the wider Richmond arts scene just how diverse, vibrant, and entertaining RVA’s modern dance scene can be. Here’s a more detailed look at each company participating in the Richmond Dance Festival (RDF).
Kaye Weinstein Gary is a master teacher with the Virginia Commission for the Arts Artist-in-Education Program and teaches at the Richmond Ballet, as well as other locations. She has received more awards and accolades than we can reasonably list, and her artistic leadership of K Dance provides a powerhouse of dance excellence and education. The non-profit company produces at least two major events each year, including YES! Dance Invitational.
K Dance’s contribution to RDF is SHORTS, a collaboration of theatre and dance that will include five short plays. Each segment is choreographed by Gary, but three directors and eleven performers also make up the ensemble. SHORTS will prove to be humorous, but will also display the artistic prowess of Gary and the versatility of both the performers and the medium.
About the dance scene in Richmond, Gary sums it up in one word – diverse. She says, “I have been happy to produce concerts in Richmond and appreciate the support I have received for the work K Dance has done for the past 15 years.”
Ground Zero Dance
Ground Zero Dance (GZDC) started out as Steve’s House Dance Collective, a well-known collective of dancers, choreographers, sculptors, and poets who took turns putting on concerts around Richmond. Though not formally organized, it carried on strong from 1992 to 1999 under the direction of co-founders Rob Petres and Ray Schwartz. By August of 2000, Petres, along with Pam England, Victoria Fink, and Lea Marshall, incorporated as GZDC. The group has been presenting original, exciting work around Richmond ever since.
GZDC is a the resident company of Dogtown Dance Theatre, and Petres says that GZDC envisioned a dance festival in Richmond years ago. He says, “This year marks the first iteration of what we hope will become an annual or biannual festival showcasing the diverse talent of Richmond’s contemporary dance community.”
Pam England, Victoria Fink, and Rob Petres will all contribute work to Ground Zero’s RDF program. About his own piece, Rob says, “My own work will take the form of a video dance based on a solo titled, ‘Assessing Internal Damage,’ choreographed during the spring of 2013.” Of her piece, Vicki Fink comments, “I am fascinated by the individual moral responsibilities humans strive to uphold within families and culture and how we conceal some truths in order to preserve ourselves as perfect. In ‘Unveiled Heart’ (working title), six dancers represent a unit or family attempting to conceal their individual and collective truths in order to stay together.”
Rebecca Ferrell teaches in the dance programs at both VCU and the University Of Richmond. She also performs with a variety of local dance companies and writes dance reviews for GayRVA, RVAMag’s sister website. Her company, FDance, exists as a vehicle for expressing her unique personality to the world. Indeed, this comes through in the name she’s chosen. While the name could easily stand for her last name, she laughingly mentions that “it could also mean Fuck Dance.”
This playful reference to sex is entirely appropriate. Sexual situations are at the forefront of both pieces Ferrell is producing for the RDF. The first, “Let’s Go Back To The Part Where You Lie On Top Of Me,” is a duet choreographed by Ferrell and performed by Jess Burgess and Danica Kalemdaroglu, the artistic directors of RVA Dance Collective. Inspired by both contact-oriented improvisational dance and the physical intimacies that occur during romantic relationships, the piece’s theme is “that weird part just before you know a relationship’s about to end.”
Her second piece, a solo performance entitled “Homemade (House) Grenade,” includes video clips, text by local actress Rebecca Muhleman, two narrators, and a “fictitious stage manager.” At the center of it all is Ferrell herself, a presence she characterizes as “destructive when it comes to relationships.” By attempting to “reintroduce the destruction I have carelessly wrought in the lives of the people who have loved me,” Ferrell intends to put the painful dark side of romantic relationships on display, forcing her audience, as well as herself, to come to terms with it.
Robbie Kinter feels strongly that using live music in a dance concert creates a lasting impression on the audience. When he started Unheard-of Practices in 1991, he partnered with percussion ensemble Ruckus Watusi and six dancers, and created an hour long piece presented to a sold-out house. Subsequent Unheard-of Practices presentations, which have occurred at intervals of several years, have featured music from the Ululating Mummies and Ruckus Watusi, as well as Kinter’s choreography and kinetic sculptures. These have all paved the way for Unheard-of Practices 4, Kinter’s contribution to the Richmond Dance Festival.
The latest edition of Unheard-of Practices will feature live music performed by Rattlemouth and Ruckus Watusi. Kinter has choreographed six pieces for the concert. Among them is his latest work, “Trouble.” Robbie and Frances Wessells will perform their latest piece to the Rattlemouth song “Awaiting the Comfort of a Bittersweet Memory.” Ground Zero member Pam England and VCU Dance alumni Beau Dobson will also premiere new pieces.
Kinter, who has been involved with dance in Richmond for more than thirty years, believes that dance is on the cusp of a new stage in Richmond’s artistic scene. Kinter says, “The local companies are as culturally and stylistically diverse as our communities.” He hopes that the Richmond Dance Festival will help cultivate a larger audience for dance in Richmond.
Movement House will debut at the Richmond Dance Festival. VCU student Johnnie Mercer, Jr. and VCU alum Rachel Rinehardt have co-created this company, full of emerging artists “dedicated to deconstructing the idea of ‘contemporary dance’ in effort to break the generational assumption of what dance can and will be.” This emerging collective blends the old with the new and pulls from various aesthetics. Mercer and Rinehardt’s goal is to create a “safe haven” for creative young dancers.
Rinehardt will present both old and new works. She pulls from an eclectic mixture of inspiration, including the work of Truman Capote, the illustrations of Shel Silverstein, old educational films on psychology, and more. Rinehardt is presenting five pieces in all, each exploring the creative process, the randomness of life, and the basics of human personality and acceptance. Her work is dark, quirky, surreal, and powerful.
Mercer will present two new works. One pulls “emotionally and kinesthetically from the southern gay African-American Experience.” The piece blends the theatrical with a traditional choreographic structure and is raw, fast-past and emotionally charged. The other, a collaboration with fellow VCU students Noelle Choy, Torian Ugworji, and Brandon Butts, follows thirteen dancers as they “embody duality, chance and destiny” in a depiction of the decision-making process.
Mercer and Rinehardt will also present a co-choreographed piece called “MOVE!” It is a piece that celebrates dance for dance’s sake, taking the expertise of two friends and collaborators who use choreographic tools to create a whirlwind of movement that leaves the dancers with nothing but bare bodies and hearts.
Performance schedule for the Richmond Dance Festival is as follows:
K Dance: April 25-26
Ground Zero Dance + FDance: May 2-3
RVA Dance Film Screenings: May 9-10
Unheard-Of Practices: May 16-17
Movement House: May 23-24
Tickets for the Richmond Dance Festival can be purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/579474
Individual tickets for K Dance’s performance can be purchased here: http://kdanceshorts.brownpapertickets.com/
This article originally appeared in RVA Magazine #16, out now! Click here to read the full issue.