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The influential American Dance Festival in Durham; Martha@Move celebrated in NYC

There’s an odd sort of disconnect between the American Dance Festival (ADF) and the New York dance community that’s now being played out in the quest for a cultural site in lower Manhattan. We’ll leave that fracas up to the powers that be, once Gov. George Pataki can find someone willing to wield those powers. And I’ll leave the past to certified dance historians.

What interests me is the inescapable influence that this festival has on New York dance. It is a rich source of talented dancers where many New York choreographers have found and cultivated future company members. More than the festival performances, the school is what maintains ADF’s prestige in the New York dance community.

Parisa Khobdeh made her way into Paul Taylor Dance Company after a summer at ADF. Bill T. Jones “discovered” Gaetan Pettigrew. Shen Wei formed his company with dancers he auditioned at the festival. Ronald K. Brown found Shani Collins, John Jasperse met Katie Pyle and Nicholas Leichter came in contact, most recently, with Lauren Basco.

Twyla held a pre-screened audition, but true to form was unsatisfied.

Indeed, the six-week school is the heart (and the bread and butter) of this festival. Formerly under the leadership of beloved maverick Martha Myers (whose husband Gerry is ADF’s philosopher-in-residence), the school, which boasts more than 400 students, is now under the direction of the tenacious and revered innovator Donna Faye Burchfield. She is also head of dance at Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia, which has a known track record for producing strong and strong-minded dancers, choreographer Ann Liv Young being the latest notable Hollins grad garnering notice.

This summer, like most summers, many of the faculty at ADF are New Yorkers. Most of them have worked at Hollins, too, so Burchfield is really the main link. New York is obliged to Burchfield and her crew who do the recruiting for the school, the artists who travel around the country throughout the year conducting mass auditions, and the administrators who deal with the countless and immeasurable questions, complaints, and sometimes high expectations and high maintenance personalities. Their work enriches the quality of New York City dance.

Durham is sultry this time of year. Clover, honeysuckle, and magnolia flowers blossom everywhere, scenting the warm breezes. Great new dancers and great new dances are in the making. Come to ADF, June 10 through July 24, on the sprawling campus of Duke University. Take a tour and see some local dance for free. You can also see Pilobolus, Grupo Krapp, a Russian Festival of Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Batsheva Dance, and international choreographers Miguel Robles, Olga Pona, and Toru Shimazaki. And if you’re feeling homesick, not to worry. New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company, Keigwin + Company, John Jasperse Company, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Shen Wei Dance Arts, and Roxane Butterfly, David Gilmore, and Carlota Santana (performing together in a Festival of the Feet) will be there to make you feel right at home.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Martha @ Mother, the critically acclaimed reinvention of Martha Graham as embodied by Richard Move has been translated to film and is being released in time for Gay Pride. The film, which co-stars Ann Magnuson, Isaac Mizrahi, Mark Morris, and Deborah Harry and was directed by Graham associate Christopher Hermann opens at The Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th Street and will open later in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Boston. In preparation for the release of the film, “Ghostlight,” scheduled for June 23, Lot 47 Films will host a special one-night performance of Martha @ Jane Street, at the Jane Street Theater on June 17 at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. The line-up of guest performers includes Magnuson and Mizrahi, with video by Charles Atlas. Special guests will also be on hand.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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