Local Arts

Charlotte Dance Festival: Pushing boundaries

Caliince Dance will make its Charlotte Dance Festival debut Saturday at Booth Playhouse.
Caliince Dance will make its Charlotte Dance Festival debut Saturday at Booth Playhouse. CALIINCE DANCE

Caroline Calouche reels off the ways the dance scene has expanded in the nine years since she launched the Charlotte Dance Festival: Ensembles have sprung up; more performers and choreographers work here; the dance audience has grown; more ensembles come to Charlotte to perform.

All that nourishes the festival.

This year’s edition, which runs Saturday and Sunday, will include performances by two New York ensembles whose founder-choreographers have moved to Charlotte. The festival will host its first group from the West Coast. For the first time, the festival will present a full-length program by a Charlotte ensemble.

The festival’s planners hope three Saturday programs in Booth Playhouse will lure dance lovers and dancers to spend the day discovering what emerging choreographers have to say.

“We have a mix,” Calouche says. “Some are pushing boundaries in regard to their content, and we (also) have works that will appeal to people who prefer beautiful and vivacious dance.”

The 5 p.m. Saturday program will introduce Caliince Dance, a New York group whose founder, Pauline Legras, moved to Charlotte last year when her husband took a job here.

A native of Paris, Legras trained in France, Switzerland and Mexico. In 2006, she moved to New York, where she performed in the Martha Graham II company and began teaching the Graham technique.

“She has influences from all over the world,” Calouche says. Calouche’s group, Caroline Calouche & Co., will share the bill.

Though Saturday night’s program is titled Dance Charlotte, it will mix homegrown groups with companies making Charlotte debuts, such as:

KDNY: Though Kathleen Dyer founded her company in New York, she’s another choreographer who recently moved to Charlotte. Dyer’s “Gravity of Distraction,” full of pushing, pulling and twisting, will be one of the festival’s brighter works, Calouche says. “It’s quirky and light and fun. It plays with the boundaries of physicality.”

Mashup Contemporary Dance Company: The all-female company from Los Angeles will perform “Position” by choreographers Victoria Brown and Sarah Rodenhouse. “It has a little jazz, L.A. feel, but it’s very contemporary,” Calouche says.

Johnnie Mercer: The Virginia dancer and choreographer will perform his solo “the disappearing act.” “It’s very emotional and gestural. It’s a very different conception of what contemporary dance can be – not just running around barefoot,” Calouche says with a laugh. “It’s a beautiful thing, to put yourself out there that way.”

Danse4Nia Repertory Ensemble: The multicultural Philadelphia group builds its name on the Swahili word “nia,” meaning purpose. The ensemble offers “a unique blend” of styles from ballet to African dance, Calouche says.

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Baran Dance, founded by UNC Charlotte graduate Audrey Baran, will become the first company to have a festival program to itself. Baran’s full-length “Dance Under the City Sounds” melds her choreography with live music by the duo Bless These Sounds Under the City and images by photographer Sara Woodmansee.

Other Charlotte choreographers taking the spotlight include Jackie O’Toole, who directs Open Door Studios, and Jacqueline White, assistant professor of dance at Johnson C. Smith University.

Calouche, who specializes in aerial dance, will give a sneak preview of her “Carmina Burana,” based on Carl Orff’s choral blockbuster.

Suspended on chains, Calouche will depict the agonies of a medieval reveler who has overdone the fun and frolic.

She says she has savored Orff’s score ever since her early teens, when she saw Charlotte Ballet dance to it. Calouche’s company will premiere her choreography for the entire cantata in April.

“It’s such dynamic music,” she says. “There’s a driving force for many parts, and then some are so soft and heartfelt. … I find new things all the time.”

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

Charlotte Dance Festival

Tickets are $10-$20. Details: www.charlottedancefestival.org, 704-372-1000.


2:30 p.m.: Baran Dance in “Dance Under the City Sounds.”

5 p.m.: Caliince Dance and Caroline Calouche & Co. (performing separately).

8 p.m.: Dance Charlotte showcase featuring Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company; Danse4Nia Repertory Ensemble; Johnnie Mercer; Lindsey Bramham Howie; Jackie O'Toole; Jacqueline White; KDNY; MashUp Contemporary Dance Company; Kearns Dance Project; Charlotte Dance Festival Repertory Ensemble (performing separately).

Location: Booth Playhouse, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St.


12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Workshops and classes for student and professional dancers.

6 p.m.: Charlotte Emerging Dance Awards, including a performance by Charlotte Dance Festival Youth Ensemble.

Location: Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance, 701 N. Tryon St.