Eiko & Koma to revive River (1995) at the American Dance Festival. Photo by Philip Trager
As Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, recently pointed out to me, modern dance is old enough now to have classics. The American Dance Festival is out to prove that this summer while also trying to push the form forward by commissioning new works.
Held at Duke University in Durham, N.C., since 1977 and with roots dating back to the 1930s, the festival opens next week with a gala starring North Carolina’s own Mark Dendy, Scottish Dance Theatre, Martha Clarke, African American Dance Ensemble (led by Chuck Davis, who hosts Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s annual DanceAfrica show) and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Clarke returns to the festival July 18-20 for a commissioned world premiere on a bill with a revival of Twyla Tharp’s 1996 work, Sweet Fields.
ADF also is bringing back a pair of dance pieces that were key — along with Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Nine Sinatra Songs and The Catherine Wheel — to me becoming a dance lover in the 1980s and later a dance critic: Rosas danst Rosas (1983) by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (June 10-12), with its feminist take on modern angst using a vocabulary of intense everyday movement, and Bill T. Jones’ D-Man in the Waters (1989), dealing with death metaphorically in a gorgeously rendered swimming motif (June 16-18). (Jones’ 1990 The Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land is the best thing I’ve ever seen on a stage.) Eiko & Koma (July 5-6) also bring their retrospective tour back to Durham with a site-specific performance of River (1995) at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
Running for six weeks, through July 23, the festival is rounded out with Yossi Berg & Odef Graf (June 14-15), Tao Dance Theater (June 20-22), Evidence and Dayton Contemporary Dance (June 23-25), Rosie Herrera (June 27-29), Pilobolus (June 30-July 2), Emanuel Gat Dance (July 7-9), Doug Varone and Dancers (July 11-13), Shen Wei Dance Arts (July 14-16), Bulareyaung Pagarlava (July 18-20) and Paul Taylor Dance Company (July 21-23). Herrera, Pilobolus, Shen Wei, Pagarlava and Taylor each premiere ADF commissions.
My ADF stories from last year’s festival are here. Press release after the jump.