July 4, 2010

Best feet forward

Students and world-class artists will soon descend on Lewiston for what Bates Dance Festival organizers hope will be another banner year.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Laura Faure has reason to be optimistic.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Courtesy of Bates Dance Festival

Additional Photos Below


Monica Bill Barnes & Company, 8 p.m. Saturday, Schaeffer Theatre

Doug Varone and Dancers, 8 p.m. July 15 and 17, Schaeffer Theatre

COCo Dance Theatre, 8 p.m. July 23-24, Schaeffer Theatre

The Musician's Concert, 7:30 p.m. July 27, Olin Arts Center Concert Hall

AXIS Dance Company, 8 p.m. July 30-31, Schaeffer Theatre

Different Voices, 8 p.m. Aug. 5-6, Schaeffer Theatre

Festival Finale, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7, Alumi Gym


WHEN: Begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 7

WHERE: Bates College, Lewiston

TICKETS: Prices vary, but most performances cost $24 for adults and $12 for students, seniors, children and Bates College faculty and staff

INFO: 786-6161; www.batesdancefestival.org

Last year, the Bates Dance Festival had its best year in terms of attendance at its public performances. Faure, who directs the six-week festival, hopes this year will be even more popular.

"I think people are staying close to home and not traveling as much, and they're looking for things to do," said Faure. "Last year was our most successful year ever. We saw tons and tons of new people. I believe there is an ever-growing awareness of what we do and that we offer something no one else in northern New England offers. The only other way to see the companies that we bring is to go to Boston or New York."

It's hard to prove, because the evidence is anecdotal. But it's also a good bet that Bates saw a bump in its attendance last year because of the attention that organizations like Portland Ovations and others around Maine have paid to contemporary dance.

As audiences expose themselves to more and better dance, their interest and knowledge increases along with their appetite, Faure said. Those newcomers and longtime loyalists have much to partake in this year.

The festival, which begins Saturday on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston, has two distinct initiatives.

One is educational. The festival draws hundreds of students and professional dancers from around the world, all of whom come to Lewiston to improve their skills, work with other artists and immerse themselves in their art. Their work occurs day and night, seven days a week, in hot and humid classrooms scattered across campus. The public rarely sees this part of the festival.

The other initiative consists of the performances that are open to the public. Most occur at Schaeffer Theatre on campus. Through her contacts in the field, Faure brings to Maine the leading dance companies and choreographers, as well as a lot of emerging artists who have not yet made a public splash but are on their way to establishing themselves.

This year's festival includes performances by Monica Bill Barnes & Company, Doug Varone and Dancers, COCo Dance Theatre and AXIS Dance Company, as well as an array of student performers and musicians.

Varone will be at Bates for the sixth time since 1992. For a dance artist, there is no better place to create work than at Bates, said Varone, who lives in New York.

"People from all over the world come to Bates," he said. "The creative atmosphere there and what Laura sets up for all the artists there is pretty remarkable and pretty unique. It's a supportive atmosphere that is completely nonjudgmental. There is feedback if you want it, and if not, you create from a place that feels as if it gives you breathing room.

"It's a safe haven to create, and when you're trying to figure a dance out, or trying to begin a work or complete a work, those are the most important and key times when you need this kind of support."

Varone and his dancers will preview their latest work, "Chapters from a Broken Novel," set to the music of composer David Van Tieghem.

"Chapters" is a co-commission of Bates Dance and Portland Ovations. Varone will work on the piece during his teaching residency at Bates, present a sneak preview during his festival performances next week, and return to Maine in February for a performance of the finished piece courtesy of Portland Ovations at Merrill Auditorium. It will receive it premiere in Connecticut in the fall.

At certain times during his Bates residency, Varone will open his studio to supporters and friends of Portland Ovations so they can get a sense of the work as it is being conceived. They'll get to see it both as a work in progress and as a finished piece in February.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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COCo Dance Theatre performs at Bates on July 23 and 24.

Courtesy of Bates Dance Festival


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