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Beginner's Guide to ADF

Beginner's Guide to ADF

Beginner’s Guide to the American Dance Festival

A festival of modern dance might sound intimidating if you aren't well-versed in the art form, but it shouldn't be. Durham is home to the American Dance Festival (ADF), one of the most renowned dance festivals in the country. We asked their staff to put together some tips for people who haven't attended before. Check them out below, plan a trip for the festival this summer, and you might just find a new art to love.

What Is ADF?

ADF, which has been in existence since 1934, is an international festival that year after year creates an atmosphere in which dance thrives. The festival showcases innovative choreography with first-rate dancers. It brings together the art of dance with interesting ideas.

For newcomers to the festival, we say, first, you should come to multiple performances. As Director Jodee Nimerichter likes to say, "Modern dance is like Baskin-Robbins. There are so many flavors, there's probably a flavor or two, or 10, or 15, or 20 you're going to like if you give it a chance." In modern dance, the companies range from pure athletic movement to lyrical movement to dance theater to completely avant-garde. The range is huge.

This season we will present 60+ performances with 11 commissions, 10 world premieres, one US premiere, 16 ADF debuts, companies from five countries, and performances in six locations around Durham.

What Performances Should a Newcomer See?


Pilobolus is a perennial ADF crowd-pleaser. This summer, the company presents the ADF-commissioned world premiere of Thresh|Hold (2015). Created in collaboration with the Olivier Award-winning Venezuelan choreographer Javier de Frutos, Thresh|Hold is a physically daring quintet that takes us through the labyrinthine mind of a young woman as she confronts lost love.

Pilobolus Rules @ Play from Pilobolus on Vimeo.

Day Two (1981) evokes a tribal atmosphere on the second day of the creation of the world, from its earliest forms of life to the moment at which creatures of the earth take flight into the air. Set to a soundtrack from Brian Eno and Talking Heads, Day Two captures the awe of evolution and the wonder of existence.

Sweet Purgatory (1991) is a dance that explores sequentially a hovering premonitory world, its descent into Hades, the determined climb back toward Purgatory and, finally, out of ominous post-apocalyptic surroundings toward hope. Rounding out the program, with a score by Alex Dezen of The Damnwells, Pilobolus will present a new, ADF-commissioned shadow work.

The performances are June 18-20 at DPAC, Durham Performing Arts Center. The performances contain nudity. They also have a Saturday children's matinee (also at DPAC), which doesn't contain nudity.

Paul Taylor Dance Company

Paul Taylor Dance Company will be back to present the classic work Esplanade (1975). Set to Bach and based on everyday movement - walking, running, jumping, and sliding - the dance remains as daringly exuberant and eloquent today as the day it premiered.

Syzygy (1987), set to Donald York's abstract, pulsating score, is a virtuosic work that explodes with cartwheels, leaps, and meteoric spins. The title refers to the nearly straight line configuration of three or more celestial bodies.

With decor by Alex Katz and lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, Last Look will round out the program.

The performances are July 2 and 3 and a matinee on July 4 at DPAC.

Company Wang Ramirez

Company Wang Ramirez will perform the US premiere of the duet Monchichi (2011). A Frenchman with Spanish parents (Sébastien Ramirez) and a German woman with a Korean mother (Honji Wang) present a dance of alienation and the search for identity and love.

A couple both on stage and in real life, their dance backgrounds could hardly be more contrasting: while Ramirez was a B-boy, Wang was classically trained, but they share a love of other dance styles and a great interest in experimentation. Through the exploration of cultural influences, they create a new language: a virtuosic, poetic, and humorous delight.

The performances are July 7-9 at Reynolds Industries Theater.

Ballet Folklórico Cutumba

Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, presented by ADF and The Carolina Theatre, will perform Roots and Cuban Tradition. Based in Santiago de Cuba in the eastern province of Oriente and founded in 1960, Ballet Folklórico Cutumba is undoubtedly one of Cuba's most vibrant folkloric dance companies.

Making their ADF debut, Cutumba performs Afro-Cuban-Franco-Haitian folkloric and popular dance, music, and song, ranging from gagá to son, celebrating the cultural melting pot that is Cuba. With vibrant colors and action-packed theatrics, this is a show that is fully charged, from beginning to end.

The performances are July 15 and 16 at the Carolina Theatre.

ADF takes place from June 11 to July 25. Shows will take place at DPAC, Carolina Theatre, Duke University, and other venues around Durham. Head to ADF's website for a full schedule and to buy tickets.


Durham Spotlight

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Durham, NC 27701 USA
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