LEWISTON — Prime time television shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars” have brought professional dance back to mainstream America. For the 28th year, the Bates Dance Festival will showcase world-renowned dancers and choreographers right here in Lewiston — live.

“The kinds of dancers you see on shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ are the exact kind of dancers we’re working with,” said Bates Dances Festival Coordinator Laura Faure.

The Bates Dance Festival celebrates modern or contemporary dance, the same kind of multidisciplinary performances seen on today’s popular television shows.

There’s a mixture of ballet, a snippet of hip-hop and a taste of jazz, all rolled into one performance. The festival offers a blending of traditional and nontraditional dance forms, providing a dynamic and unique experience for viewers.

“Contemporary dancers have to be extremely versatile. They have to know ballet. They have to know improvisation. They have to know jazz. They have to know lyrical. They have to know how to partner. The dancers who make it on those shows are extraordinary technicians who are incredibly versatile,” said Faure.

Rated one of the nations’ top dance festivals, Bates draws an international group of dancers, choreographers, educators, students and musicians together for six weeks of intense professional training, lectures, workshops, discussions and first-class performances in contemporary dance.

The festival offers professional training opportunities for aspiring dancers and those already practicing in the field, as well as community outreach in the Youth Arts Program, giving local youngsters ages 6-17 a chance to study music and dance with world-class artists.

This year welcomes more than 350 participants to the Twin Cities including choreographers from three continents and visiting artists from Mexico, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Emergent and well-known dance troupes — the quirky and witty Monica Bill Barnes & Company, the thrilling and pseudo-acrobatic Doug Varone and Dancers, the engaging Cynthia Oliver COCo Dance Theatre and the powerful ensemble of dancers with and without disabilities in AXIS Dance Company — will participate in creative residencies and lead workshops at the festival.

Each company will bring its diverse and unique skills to the Bates stage in several performances open to the public. Prices for the events range from free to $24 for adults and $12 for students.

A highlight of this year’s festival will be Cynthia Oliver COco Dance Theatre’s evening-length presentation, “Rigidigidim De Bamba De: Ruptured Calypso,” a multimedia production using a combination of narrative, sound, movement, text and video. Six vibrant performers from the Caribbean diaspora shout, sing and dance their personal story of femininity, overcoming gender barriers and cultural identities in an emotionally powerful piece.

“There are six phenomenal performers who come from all over the Caribbean diaspora. They are all very gifted performers and talents in their own right. They come together in this work as a beautiful ensemble and add their own respective stories, expertise and experiences around calypso and reggae, Caribbean cultures and music,” said Cynthia Oliver of COco Dance Theater.

“Audiences will experience our music, the ways in which we chide one another on our respective customs, speech and dance practices. While there are many serious concerns engaged in the work, they are leavened by dashes of very vital humor and acknowledgment of our humanity and vulnerabilities and, thus, it is a universalizing experience.

“And, of course, whenever we deal with the Caribbean, music, carnival or any of the related material, things will be very colorful — clothing as well as language (nothing to be concerned about) and visuals,” she said.

Other notable presentations include the Musician’s Concert, when visiting composers will unite for an evening of original and improvisational music; Moving in the Moment, one of the festival’s most popular events featuring improvisational dancing and music; and the Festival Finale showcasing the culmination of the dancers’ work involved in the training program and Youth Arts Program during the festival.

Although all the performances are within the vein of contemporary dance, there will be a spectrum of work that varies widely, depending on the artists and the messages they want to convey.

“If somebody were to come to every concert, they would see a really wide range of work within the world of contemporary dance,” said Faure. “Bring your senses and be open because dance isn’t about a literal interpretation, it’s about a kinesthetic response.”

The Bates Dance Festival begins July 5 and ends Aug. 7. For more information, visit www.batesdancefestival.com.


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