Say this much: Courtney Greer knows how to get people together. Since the turn of the century she's been behind the scenes of several highly influential regional dance gatherings. In September 2000, Greer hosted "Come As You Are," an invitational at Raleigh's Arts Together that gave locally established choreographers a chance to mix it up with some up-and-coming ones.
The concert marked a number of firsts: noted choreographer Heather Mims' first work for adult dancers, the region's first sighting of dance ninja Karola Luttrinhaus, and a solo that Tiffany Rhynard would perform across the state in the North Carolina Dance Festival. The seasoned Even Exchange Dance Theater contributed Michele Pearson's unnerving full version of "Lithium Bath," and Kathryn Auman's "Chair Piece."
All on the same night, for the same money.
One year later, on faculty at Raleigh's Enloe High School, Greer, Rhynard and Pattie Marks decided to hold a fundraiser. Funny; the notion of an invitational concert came up.
An even larger audience saw riveting new solo work by Christal Brown and Chapel Hill's Choreo Collective. Even Exchange debuted the piece they were touring with the North Carolina Dance Festival. Rhynard and Mims both showed works that night that would ultimately take them well beyond the North Carolina state line.
It was a night of dance that cut across geographical, cultural and genre boundaries. It was also a night in which dancers and choreographers could meet, see and comment on each other's new work. Just as importantly, it was a night when students observed a constellation of artists performing professionally and supporting one another: Equal parts potluck, summit conference and object lesson, with extensive cross-pollination to boot.
Here it comes again, this Sunday night. Greer, Marks and new instructor Jodi Aleen Staub have once more put together a stellar array of regional talent. If you had just one night in which to see a nearly complete cross-section of contemporary dance in this area, this would be it. For one stage, one night and one money, it doesn't get much better than this.
I saw several of the works last weekend at the annual gathering of the North Carolina Dance Alliance in Winston-Salem. Here are the highlights:
Tiffany Rhynard further explores the fusion of theater and dance in her choreographed argument, "Anatomy of the Hart, Diagram 1." Carol Kyles Finley's Meredith Dance Company explores the psychological reality of dealing with a new locale in the premiere of "Settling, Part Two."
Susan Quinn carefully describes her new duet, "Fully Furnished," as a mystery between two women, one of whom has an arm in a sling. The work is "about envy, and what happens when supporting someone becomes too much," the choreographer says--with a dark little laugh.
In Betsy Ward Hutchinson's "Evidence," a woman finds in her mother's china set no trace that she was ever there. This trio for Hutchinson, Lee Posey and Julia Leggett will be part of Even Exchange's new full-evening work, Bluestockings, which debuts next month.
Amy Chavasse returns from the North with "Fruit Axiom," a new duet for Greer and Thaddeus Bennett. Plans have the group taking it to Cuba when Chavasse, her students and company perform there later this year.
Peace College choreographer Beth Wright presents what she calls the wettest version of "Dusk," her humid, deep South duet with Dena Guvetis, and Julee Snyder premieres a new solo: Rhynard's "Root." In it, a series of strings attach a woman's dress to a group of little boxes on the floor around her. Something's in them.
And before the night is out, Staub shows her first work in the region, a section from a still-untitled piece concerning scientific chaos. The Enloe company performs this themselves; judging by last weekend's showing, the composition could be one of the strongest works of the night. Were it anywhere but Enloe, we'd be surprised.