New festival puts dance back in the spotlight

by Lenise Willis

Unfortunately the term “struggling artist” hasbecome so common that it’s now a cliché; in fact, it could now be called a termof endearment. But this year the performing arts community is fighting backright here in the Triad, claiming the attention it deserves and bringing tolight the need for more opportunities and collaboration in the area.

Early this spring we saw a successful firstannual Ruby Slipper Fringe Festival, in which Paper Lantern Theatre Company andother local organizers pulled together a free festival to give performancespace and voice to new female artists. And now that sentiment has carried overto the world of dance with another free festival: OnSite/In Sight: A Downtown Winston-Salem Dance Festival.

“I had a desire to see dance outside of thetheater,” said lead organizer Helen Simoneau of Helen Simoneau Danse (sic).”(To see it) in non-traditional spaces and unexpected places. I wanted to tryto get to a new audience and maybe get people to experience dance who had neverexperienced it before.”

“Thedifferent ways of engaging with movement is what inspired the festival,”Simoneau continued. “I also had a desire to work with other makers, otherchoreographers and performers in a way that was more of a collaborativeeffort.”

The festival seeks to create a conversationabout dance and lack of performance opportunities in the area. The performanceswill take place throughout the downtown Winston-Salem area as pop-up, rooftopand courtyard performances at different venues.

“I thoughtabout how vibrant the downtown (Winston-Salem) area is now and how dance couldfit into it,” Simoneau said.

The performances are mostly modern dance piecesand vary, with each one being a new experience for the audience. Some pieceshave a solo artist, while others have a group of dancers, and some pieces haveprojections or set pieces.

Simoneau began developing the concept andreaching out to co-organizers, artists and possible sources of funding about ayear ago.

Simoneau enlisted the help of six localartists, including Cara Hagan, an assistant professor of dance studies atAppalachian State University, who wasalso a co-organizer for the Ruby Slipper Fringe Festival.

“I accepted the invitation because Ibelieve that there is a desire from Winston Salem audiences to see new thingshappening in the city, as the city continues to grow and change,” Hagan said. “Andwhile I don’t live in Winston Salem anymore, I like to stay connected to thecommunity when I can. I hope that the community feels like this is anopportunity to get closer to us as artists. Not just physically, butcreatively, too, as we illuminate common spaces in new ways.”

Though the performances are free to attend forthe public, the artists are fortunately getting compensated, something thatSimoneau was passionate about.

“(Compensating the artists) was crucial to thefestival,” she said. “We have to begin with this notion that what they arebringing to Winston has value.”

With the help of the venues volunteering theirspaces, as well as funding from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and ForsythCounty and other donors, Simoneau’s ideal became a reality. PAZ Studios is also donating free movementclasses to the public after the performances.

“(The classes) are about a group of peoplemoving together and having fun, and really celebrating movement,” Simoneausaid, as the classes are for all ages and experience levels. “It gives aninstant sense of community.”

Wanna go?

The On Site/In Site schedule is as follows:

Thursday and Friday, from 10-11 a.m., thefestival will host a movement class at PAZ Studios, 633 Trade St. Class is freeand open to all ages and experience levels.

Thursday and Friday, from 12:15-1 p.m., a pop-updance performance will be at Bailey Park in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Thursday, at 7 p.m., an evening dance performancewill be hosted at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, 723 Trade St., with a post-performancedance party and class.

Friday, at 8 p.m., there will be a new pop-updance performance at Gallery Hop, at the intersection of Trade Street and 6thStreet.

Friday, at 9 p.m., Krankies Coffee, 211 E. ThirdSt., will host an evening dance performance on its rooftop.

Saturday, from 10:30-11:30 a.m., PAZ studios willhost the final movement class for the free festival.

Saturday, from 3-4 p.m., ARTivity ParkPerformance appears at 630 N. Liberty St.

Saturday, at 7 p.m., the festival concludes atthe A/Trium at the Winston-Salem Downtown Partnership, courtesy of DWSP.