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Expect anything at dance concert

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Produced this year by Melissa Heston, Marybeth Wolf and Ali Thomas, the Yellow Springs Community Dance Concert will be performed on Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. in Antioch College’s South Gym.

“Expect anything” was Heston’s advice for the audience in a recent interview, as she reflected on the variety and diversity of pieces that will be performed this coming weekend.

“We have everything from traditional Argentine tango to a floor silks performance,” said Wolf, whose own piece “Dance of Liberation” is a based on the southern Italian folk dance, the pizzica tarantata. Wolf explained that “going back into history, it was a healing dance for women who have been bitten by a mythical spider” that represents the historical oppression and repression of women. “Going back even further,” she continued, the dance “is actually an ecstatic, ancient rite of Dionysus,” the Greek god of winemaking and ritual madness and ecstasy.

For Wolf, dance is always about “exploring movement as liberating, healing and transforming,” which is quite appropriate for a dance concert that was originally born out of one dancer’s personal healing journey. After tearing her rotator cuff in 1995, local dancer and choreographer Valerie Blackwell-Truitt had to take a year off from dancing.

“I felt like a part of me was dying,” Truitt said of that time, and so after a year, she said, “‘I’m going to dance, I’m going to have a dance concert,’ because I really needed to dance again.”

Truitt then reached out to local dancers and choreographers and in 1996 produced what proved to be the first of many Valerie Blackwell-Truitt Community Dance Concerts. Although it wasn’t necessarily her intention to create an annual event, after the first concert, Blackwell-Truitt said, “All these people came up to me saying: ‘are you doing this next year? I really want to do it next year.’”

At the time, the only regular dance outlet available to local artists was the annual Antioch College dance performance. This meant that for artists who weren’t involved with Antioch or didn’t have connections with the school, there were few opportunities to perform in Yellow Springs. Blackwell-Truitt’s dance concerts provided such an outlet while creating opportunities for non-professional dancers and interested community members to explore the art form.

“Something I did very selfishly for myself turned out to be a community tradition,” said Blackwell-Truitt.

The Valerie Blackwell-Truitt Community Dance Concert became the Yellow Springs Community Dance Concert in 2009, when Blackwell-Truitt moved to Colorado for two years. Before her move, Wolf approached her about possibly taking over the dance concert production in Blackwell-Truitt’s absence.

“Marybeth and I had a conversation.  She told me that we can’t let it die, and that she would be willing to continue the dance concert. I am so happy and grateful that she did decide to continue this tradition,” said Blackwell-Truitt.

Speaking with the dancers in this year’s concert, it’s clear that gratitude is shared by many. After participating in one piece last year, Yellow Springs newcomer Becca Fitch enjoyed her experience so much that she will be in three different dances this time around.

While the inclusive, community-oriented spirit of the dance concert has remained the same over time, the last few years have seen an increase in the complexity of the work shown. For the producers, this shift is due in large part to the year round dance classes the group is able to offer using proceeds from the concerts.

Taught by professionals like Dimi Reber and Jill Becker, the classes are “really formative for a lot of people,” according to Thomas, since the participants then bring what they learned to the choreography and movement of the concert. “Work has gotten stronger over the last few years because of additional compositional consciousness,” said Becker, who is both a teacher of the classes and choreographer in this year’s concert.

In both the classes and the dance concert, participants benefit from the unique Yellow Springs blend of professional and amateur artists. “We have really fabulous, experienced, professional dancers in this town,” reflected Thomas. “It’s amazing for people in the community to see that and also have the opportunity to dance alongside them.”

Heston agreed, noting that, “What’s unique about our community dance concert, unlike other arts showings, is that you have novice dancers and seasoned professionals.”

This, combined with the rehearsal and performance space provided by Antioch College and some funds provided by “people who support our creative efforts” is what makes the Yellow Springs Community Dance Concert possible each year.

*Kline is a freelance writer for the News.


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