American Dance Festival: Fortieth Anniversary Season (Various venues, June–July) More than any one performance, the symbolic weight of the American Dance Festival's fortieth season in Durham deserves a nod. Since 1978, this major international festival has made its home here, training hundreds of dancers each summer, showing the work of renowned choreographers, and, increasingly, integrating its programming into Durham's year-round dance offerings. ADF's partnership with Duke and the city has coincided with a period of massive growth for each, and has helped make Durham a dance destination.
COMPANY: No. 19/Modulations (CCB Plaza and 21c Museum Hotel, July 19–24) Under a humid late-July sunset, people gathered around the bull statue at the corner of Corcoran and Parrish. We turned our attention to our phones and to the nearby exterior of 21c Museum Hotel. Both became portals as we watched the precise dancers of Justin Tornow's COMPANY—beamed in via live video from ADF's Scripps Studios across town—move in geometric patterns throughout this impressive large-scale collaboration. The dancers left ghostly imprints on the building as construction cranes hovered nearby.
Pam Tanowitz and Simone Dinnerstein: New Work for Goldberg Variations (Reynolds Industries Theater, October 6 & 7) Commissioned by Duke Performances, the modern dance choreographer (Tanowitz) and classical pianist (Dinnerstein) pursued a daunting mission: to pay homage to Bach's legendary music while fashioning it into a new work of art. As Dinnerstein drew Bach's work into her own generous gestural world, Tanowitz's dancers encircled her with idiosyncratic movements. The result was a sublime stream of dances that delighted in the nuances of artistic interpretation.
Murielle Elizéon: Brown (Monkey Bottom Collaborative, December 3 & 4) In vignettes of great violence and great tenderness, Culture Mill codirector Murielle Elizéon invited us into memories and associations with death, dancing, and domestic violence. At one moment, she whispered a monologue; at another, she pounded her own skin. This remarkable solo performance (and the facilitated discussion afterward) invited us to hold space for our own remembrances, bringing a group of strangers into cathartic connection.
Stephanie Leathers: Sunday SITES (Various venues, various times) Local dance artists' preference for "unconventional" spaces—bars, warehouses, and so on—has become a hallmark of our scene. The enterprising interdisciplinary artist Stephanie Leathers has been at the forefront of this push, using her site-specific Sunday SITES series as a movement investigation into downtown development. This year, SITES became a generative platform for other local dance artists (including The Bipeds and Anna Barker) and audiences alike to consider how performance work fits into busy sidewalks and skate parks.