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Brenda Lynn Siegel puts up a poster for the Southern Vermont Dance Festival at the River Garden last week.

The Arts

‘A great town to dance in’

Bigger and even more varied, the Southern Vermont Dance Festival keeps growing in Brattleboro, and beyond

BRATTLEBORO—The Southern Vermont Dance Festival debuted last year, and ended up as a successful addition to the summer arts calendar.

Now Brenda Lynn Siegel, the festival’s executive artistic director, is ready for the challenge of building upon last year’s success.

“I’m really excited about this year,” Siegel said at a preview event at the River Garden on July 9. “We’ve got more than 100 different classes over four days, with every dance genre you can think of.”

A full schedule for the festival is available at www.southernvermontdancefestival.com. Suffice it to say, July 17 through 20 will be jam-packed with dance classes, workshops, and performances, and free community events such as outdoor performances and live music.

A dancer herself, Siegel said she designed the festival to appeal to professionals and dance enthusiasts, and brought in world-renowned faculty to present the workshops and lectures.

She also designed the festival as a way to help bring Brattleboro back from the trauma of Tropical Storm Irene, and the havoc that the 2011 storm wreaked on parts of the town.

“I lost everything in Irene,” she said, “and saw how much of the community struggled after Irene. I thought about what we could do to help bring our town back.”

Siegel said she sees Brattleboro as “a big dance community in a small package,” and the festival is a way of letting the rest of the country know that.

“The only way to get people to know how awesome Brattleboro is is to have something that will bring people here,” she said. “This whole festival is built around the idea that Brattleboro is a great place to visit, a great place to dance, and a great place to live.”

It seems to have worked. Siegel says this year’s festival has attracted queries from all over the country. Faculty hail from California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts, with many local favorites as well.

All around the town

Siegel said the majority of festival offerings will be held in and around the downtown Brattleboro area.

A variety of classes are offered, including ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, Horton technique, Graham technique, Luigi technique, Gaga style, Dunham technique, Laban movement analysis, and contact improvisation composition.

The festival also offers classical Indian dance, Bollywood, belly dance, Afro jazz, tap, budoh, yoga, and pilates.

“Out of Martha’s House” is just one of the lectures offered this year. It is presented by Donlin Foreman, principal dancer from the Martha Graham Dance Company, on whose book it is based.

Other offerings include a symposium by Patricia Wilson, Ernest “E-Knock” Phillps, Nathan Andary, who is on faculty at Ohio University; Barbara Roan, prior faculty at Bennington College; Kirsta Sendiak, director of the School of Classical Ballet at the Dance Complex in Boston; and Mucuy Bolles, a veteran of the Alvin Ailey Company who also teaches locally.

Many of last year’s faculty are returning, including Billbob Brown, director of dance at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, director of chaos theory dance, and chair of the Massachusetts Dance Festival.

Others include Felice Wolfzahn of Amherst and Bennington colleges; Foreman, a principal dancer for Martha Graham for more than 20 years, formerly of Barnard College and late of IBIT Dance Company and the New England Center for Circus Arts; Adrienne Hawkins, world-renowned choreographer and dance educator who is on the faculty of the Five Colleges and at Boston University, Boston Conservatory, and the Dance Complex in Boston; and Lorraine Chapman of the Boston Conservatory and director of Lorraine Chapman, the Company.

The big shows

First up on opening night, July 17, is a gala performance at the Latchis Theatre showcasing choreography by Angie Moon Dance Theater, featuring Artistic Director Angie Conte. Conte is a choreographer, dancer, and artist living in Boston.

In addition, performances include belly dance fusion by Cyndal Ellis, manager and co-director of Brattleboro’s SoBo Studio.

Also featured: Dorcas Román, dancer/choreographer and artistic director of DRDT, who has performed in festivals worldwide and, recently, in the first BlackTina Festival in California.

Other performers include Bridget Struthers, who started at the Brattleboro School of Dance and lives in New York City and runs her own dance company.

Siegel’s IBIT Dance Company will perform various works including modern and belly dance. Siegel’s work has been shown at festivals across New England.

Rounding out the group is Ryan P. Casey, a veteran of Fox television’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” who will perform his work “Ball Change.” Casey trained under Thelma Goldberg and Kelly Kaleta with Legacy Dance Company of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Mass., where he is on faculty.

Friday’s gala kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Latchis and showcases the works of Marshall Jarreau, who teaches dance, circus, and Zumba classes in the San Antonio area. He began formal training as an aerialist at the New England Center for Circus Arts and was featured as the Walrus character and dancer in Cirque Du Soleil’s “LOVE.”

Also performing are Toni Nagy and Cyndal Ellis, co-directors of SoBo Studio in Brattleboro. They will perform “The Housewife Dance.”

Other performances include the Bosoma Dance Company, an acclaimed dance company from Boston known for their contemporary dance style; Noel St. Jean-Chevalier, on the faculty at Elms College in Chicopee, Mass., and the Artistic Dance Conservatory in East Longmeadow, Mass., who will perform “Passage.”

Other Friday choreographers include Eliza Larson, an independent artist in Northampton, Mass.; Tasha Warshaw, who started dance at MoCo Arts, in Keene, N.H. and dances with IBIT’s pre-professional training program; Spunk & Company, “contemporary dance freshly made” in Cambridge, Mass.; Katie Aylward, a choreographer, dancer, and videographer based in the Pioneer Valley who will be performing “Scrambled”; and Mucuy Bolles.

Saturday’s gala at the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College at 8 p.m. features Catherine Cabeen, showcasing the work of Bill T. Jones as she performs “Floating The Tongue”; Billbob Brown’s “Boys Club,” which pokes fun at conventions of masculinity and the culture of “guys”; and Donlin Foreman, who will present “First So I May Say” and “Last Call,” which he’ll perform with his wife, Jenny.

Impulse Dance Company’s Adrienne Hawkins will show “Ray of Sun,” a playful, reflective look at the relationship between men and women; Siegel’s IBIT Dance Company will preview a childhood cancer awareness project set to premiere this fall. Lorraine Chapman will perform “Pro Inhibition,” a playful work based on speakeasy entertainment and moments from “Some Like It Hot” (1959).

As well, Leslie Frye Maietta will perform her work, “I Dream With Me”; Ryan P. Casey will perform his piece “My Manhattan”; Ted Thomas, Thomas/Ortiz Dance Company, formerly with Paul Taylor Dance Company, will perform “Un-Damely,” which he choreographed with Frances Ortiz; and the Sharp Dance Company from Philadelphia returns to SVDC to perform “At Least I’m Not Kelly,” a humorous piece using live voice.

Tickets for each of the galas are $28 general admission, $24 for students.

The festival also presents the Stone Church concert series, which opens Friday, July 18, at 1 p.m. in Brattleboro with a multiple-choreographer concert featuring Ausjoli Minnicellon; Tasha Warshaw; Genevieve Amarante; Katie Aylward; Spunk and Co.; Tara McCrystal and Jillian Grunnah.

Tickets are $15 at the door.

Later that night, at 10, folks can let loose with “Shake the Room,” showing the works of Elizabeth Hallet. The Stone Church turns into a dance party with KaleidoDance performing a high-energy, audience engaging dance and music performance.

As the performance progresses, the line between the performers and the audience blurs until everyone is dancing.

Tickets are $20 at the door.

A special performance at the Stone Church on Sunday at 6 p.m. closes out the Festival: Chaos Theory Dance, directed by Billbob Brown, features special guests Felice Wolfzahn and Ernest “E-Knock” Phillips.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #263 (Wednesday, July 16, 2014). This story appeared on page B1.

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