Bates Dance Festival presents its 21st season

The Bates Dance Festival, northern New England’s leading contemporary dance producing and training program, presents its 21st anniversary season, July 19 through Aug. 16.

The season celebrates the diversity and creativity of contemporary dance with performances featuring modern, jazz, world dance and improvisation by acclaimed U.S. companies and established and emerging choreographers from around the world. Recognized throughout the national cultural community for its outstanding performance series, the Bates Dance Festival features critically acclaimed new works by Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe, Doug Varone and Dancers, Sara Pearson Patrik Widrig and Company, Companhia Clara Andermatt, Stephan Koplowitz and Judy Smith of AXIS Dance Company, as well as performances by emerging choreographers Chris Elam, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Larry Keigwin and others.

The five-week performance series kicks off with Alone and Together, featuring a dynamic array of new work by choreographers Shonach Mirk-Robles, former principal with Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of the Twentieth Century; Cathy Young, whose 2002 evening-length jazz work was recognized as the “Best of Twin Cities” by Minneapolis’ City Pages; Chris Aiken, a leading performer in the field of contact improvisation; postmodern choreographers Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, whose recent New York debut concert won raves from the critics; and Sekou Sylla, a former principal dancer, acrobat and musician with Les Ballet Africains of Guinea West Africa. Also performing will be modern choreographer Karen Love, and hip-hop dancer Danah Bella. The festival presents Alone and Together at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 19, in Schaeffer Theatre, 305 College Street.

Soweto-born dancer and choreographer Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe returns to the festival with a spellbinding triple bill of solo works that fuse his South African ancestral traditions with an inspired blend of Asian and European elements. Mantsoe’s spiritually grounded dances address themes of cultural alienation and identity with an intense physicality and charisma that have won accolades and awards worldwide. In Phokwane, Barena and Motswa Hole, Mantsoe performs three breathtaking solos with hypnotic intensity. The festival presents Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Sara Pearson Patrik Widrig and Company thrilled audiences with their imaginative site work at the Portland Museum of Art in 2000. This summer the company presents The Return of Lot’s Wife, a dance/theater/salt epic. In this edgy and heartbreakingly funny evening-length work, Lot’s wife finally confronts God in a 1950s Brooklyn kitchen as she looks back again and again. The piece, which explores the theme of turning back through the prisms of Sufi mysticism and Hollywood/Bollywood pop cultures, is performed to original music by Carter Burwell, known for his many film scores, including Fargo, Three Kings and Being John Malkovich. Pearson and Widrig have gained an international following for work that pushes rituals of the familiar towards the mysterious, the subversive and the intimate. The festival presents Sara Pearson, Patrik Widrig and Company at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Highlighting the season, Doug Varone and Dancers return to the festival with an engrossing evening of new works. Known for his ability to “wed sheer kinetic force with emotional insight,” Doug Varone and Dancers perform a body of work heralded by critics as “among the most compelling in the contemporary repertory.” Honored with seven New York Dance and Performance Awards (Bessies), the company has been singled out for dances of extraordinary physical daring, vivid musicality and genius. The company will present the Maine premieres of As Natural As Breathing, a playful jazzy group romp, casual on the surface but with subtle, sharp-edged undercurrents; Short Story, a turbulent give-and-take between a man and a woman; The Drawing Lesson, an upbeat, humorous solo danced by Mr. Varone; and a brand new group work set to the music of composer Steve Reich. The festival presents Doug Varone and Dancers in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, and Saturday, Aug. 2, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Lisbon-based choreographer Clara Andermatt is known for her bold vision, powerful emotional energy and frank revelations. Considered the pre-eminent voice in contemporary Portuguese dance, Clara Andermatt and long time collaborator and acclaimed dancer Amelia Bentes perform the U.S. premiere of Pola Roid. Intertwining text, movement, sound and image, Pola Roid unfolds in a series of three fast-paced vignettes addressing themes of speed and excess of our contemporary global universe, the dual nature of death, and a utopian view of the future. Memory, desire, catastrophe, the quest for happiness and the possibility of transcendence define the provocative universe of Pola Roid. The festival presents Companhia Clara Andermatt in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, and Saturday, Aug. 9, in Schaeffer Theatre.

The annual Different Voices concert showcases new works by acclaimed international choreographers and gifted emerging artists. The evening includes performances by award-winning Cuban choreographer Marianela Boan whose brilliant dance/theater works dealing with the harsh contemporary conflicts of her native Cuba have toured to more than 40 countries; spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a two-time San Francisco Poetry Grand Slam winner, who entered the literary performance world after crossing the sands of traditional theater, most notably on Broadway in the Tony award-winning The Tap Dance Kid, and emerging choreographer Chris Elam whose company, Misnomer Dance Theater, has performed in more than 40 theaters internationally. Works by artists from Vietnam, Indonesia and Cape Verde will complete the program. The Different Voices concert will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, and Friday, Aug. 15, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Continuing a tradition of commissioning site-specific work for unique architectural and natural sites, the festival has invited internationally recognized site choreographer Stephan Koplowitz and award-winning composer Robert Een to transform the 8,000-square-foot Perry Atrium in Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road, through their art. Audiences will be led on a roving exploration of the three-story atrium as 30 dancers and singers bring the space alive. The Atrium Project will take place at 9:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, and Friday, Aug. 15, immediately following the Different Voices concert.

In conjunction with its performances, the festival presents Inside Dance: Understanding Contemporary Dance, a series of pre-and post-performance discussions and lectures, led by dance scholar and critic Suzanne Carbonneau, offering audiences insight into the artists and contemporary dance. The lectures accompany performances by Doug Varone and Dancers on Saturday, Aug. 2; and by Clara Andermatt on Saturday, Aug. 9. Discussions will be held at 7:15 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

In addition to main stage performances, the festival offers a selection of free and low-cost events. Choreographer Judith Smith of AXIS Dance Company, a company of multi-abled dancers, will give a video talk on Integrated Dance, at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 31, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St. The Musician’s Concert, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, features an eclectic mix of original and improvised works by gifted musician/composers in residence. Site choreographers Stephan Koplowitz, Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig give a video talk, Beyond the Proscenium: Site Specific Work, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, in Olin Arts Center Concert Hall. Sharing Across Cultures: Finding Common Ground in a Troubled World, a panel discussion with visiting artists from Cuba, Portugal, Cape Verde, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and South Africa, will take place at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall. New Dance in Indonesia and Japan, an installation of video, text, sound and live performance created by filmmaker Molly Davies, will be on view from 2-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9 and 10, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave.

Moving In The Moment, an improvisational performance led by contact-improviser Nancy Stark Smith with a diverse group of festival dancers and musicians, takes place at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, in Alumni Gymnasium, 130 Central Ave. Rounding out the festival’s five-week season is the “Festival Finale,” featuring dancers of all ages and abilities performing modern, jazz and integrated dance works by Doug Varone, Sara Pearson, Patrik Widrig, Nancy Cranbourne, Jane Weiner and Sara Sweet Rabidoux. A special 10th-anniversary performance by local youth will open the program. The evening will also feature a new work by the Community Dance Project directed by Judy Smith in collaboration with composer/percussionist Shamou and members of the local multi-abled community. The “Festival Finale” takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, in Alumni Gymnasium.

In addition to its main stage performance series of 16 concerts, the festival offers two intensive training programs, one for adults and one for younger dancers. For more information, or to request a brochure, contact the Bates Dance Festival at (207) 786-6381, send an e-mail, or visit the festival Web site here.

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