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After a fall, continue dancing

Niki Juralewicz is unstoppable


In a sense, the live arts are built on mistakes. It's why there's such a thing as rehearsals in the first place: Artists want the wheels to come off, preferably in private, and as early and unambiguously as possible. Better that than to have it happen during a show.

When mistakes show up, artists have to learn from them very quickly. Studio time is precious; production schedules invariably tight. Exceedingly few productions ever suffered due to too much rehearsal.

But then there are Mistakes. Choosing Sondheim for your first musical, without the chops to back it up. Not casting an understudy. Landing wrong after a leap and hearing your ACL--and the hopes you had for dancing that year--both go pop. They're the artistic equivalent of extinction-level events; situations you can't correct so much as withstand, and ultimately survive.

That is, if you're lucky.

Niki Juralewicz will tell you herself: Spring 2005 was tough.

The year before, the former Trisha Brown dancer had made a fairly splashy opening on relocating to North Carolina, wowing critics here with her Mondrian-like solo, Understated, in Focused Fluidity, Steve Clarke's memorable first curated showcase last December. She'd landed an enviable teaching gig in the dance department at UNC-G, and Bounds Dance Studio, a school with a 50-year history in the region, asked her to join them as their new creative director upon the retirement of founder Barbara Bounds.

Juralewicz envisioned a new venue the public could come to for modern dance performances in an area with far too few of them. She imagined a home for a dance company of her own that she wanted to start. So she bought in, investing time, energy and considerable money in the facility.

Without warning, Bounds closed in June after the abrupt resignation of Jan Davis, the studio's accountant and office manager for the past 10 years. News accounts reported that Davis owned 55 percent of the business and controlled the company's finances.

"On Friday, June 25, I was told I had four days to close things up, with no warning before that," Juralewicz says.

Complicating matters further: unfolding revelations that Crystal Dawn Cockrell of Charlotte had used the facility before it closed to stage a bogus "audition" scam, charging around 140 dancers $55 each for a Screen Actors Guild "worker's permit" for a fictitious dance film version of Bring It On. Police caught Cockrell last week in Shelby, N.C. She faces multiple charges of fraud, forgery and identity theft.

"We got scammed, and brought everybody into it," Juralewicz says. "It was embarrassing. And I was being the one left holding the bag."

Community reactions took Juralewicz by surprise. "Even among people who'd been my friends, there were implications that maybe I'd done something like this in New York before--intentions and ulterior motives that didn't even occur to me.

"The more I tried to hang in there and work with the situation, the more I became the front woman, the target."

Juralewicz hopes she's put that nightmare behind her now. She's upbeat, has just moved to Durham, and will keep her commitment to tour with the prestigious North Carolina Dance Festival through February. She's collaborating with Choreo Collective founder Bridget Kelly on a new work, and still plans to start a company of her own with dancers Toby Barton, Emily Bearden, Rain Leander and Jenny Sussman.

With all she's seen, Juralewicz faces 2005-06 still resolute. "I see a future where Downtown Durham is completely revitalized," she says. "Give me a storefront there and I'm good to go."

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