The Dance Cooperative is a name that may ring a bell to anyone who has witnessed performances at Dance-a-Lorus—Cucalorus Film Festival’s opening-night event each November. Not only is the company known for collaborating with filmmakers to kick off Cucalorus, but it’s as a haven for dance lovers of all ages to acquire new skills and performance opportunities. On Friday, Mar. 31 and Saturday, Apr. 1, The Dance Cooperative will delight and inspire audiences as part of their third annual Wilmington Dance Festival at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium. The two-day event is a continuation of the North Carolina Dance Festival held each fall.
“The Wilmington Dance Festival is really all about presenting modern dance to the community,” states Nancy Carson, production manager for the festival.
Originally from New York, Carson received her bachelor of arts in dance from Northern Illinois University before teaching and performing with various dance companies throughout New York. For the last two decades, she has lived in North Carolina and helped found The Dance Cooperative.
“This year the cooperative is collaborating with UNCW Presents for the festival,” Carson says. “Our goal for this show is to bring out the best of local choreographers and dancers, as they share their talents with the community.”
The cooperative is much different from the average dance studio. As many have seen on the show “Dance Moms,” a lot of dance studios are driven by the prospect of winning competitions. In their mission statement, The Dance Cooperative emphasizes dedication to providing learning and performance opportunities to anyone who is “under-served artistically, culturally and economically in the greater Wilmington area.”
Although many dancers and choreographers in the show are Dance Cooperative members, it also will feature UNCW students, alumni and faculty, as well as dancers from other studios around the community. Auditions open up to any interested parties. Though auditions for this year’s festival are closed, Dance Cooperative’s “Informal Showing Series” at CAM provides dancers and choreographers the opportunity to obtain professional feedback for new pieces.
“We have a monthly showing series at the Cameron Art Museum,” Carson explains. “It’s the third Sunday of every month at 2 p.m. and it is open to the public.”
Simultaneously, the series allows for board members to select performances for the annual Wilmington Dance Festival. In fact, choreographers are required to show their pieces twice before the festival.
“Then there is adjudication for the final selection process,” Carson continues, “where the board votes on pieces they think are the most solid and ready to be performed.”
This year the show mainly consists of modern dance, which allows for a wide variety of content. “[It] is such a difficult form of dance to really pin down,” Carson explains. “We do not have a specific theme for the show, other than what choreographers choose to present.”
Some dances are serious and thought-provoking—others are comedic and exciting. Sue Meier will perform “Cast of Characters,” which centers on Looney Tunes cartoons. “It’s about the characters coming to life on stage,” Carson elaborates. “It’s really a lot of fun.”
There will be a silent auction at the Friday performance, too, with proceeds benefitting The Dance Cooperative’s mission of service to the community. It’s what their programming seeks to do, essentially: allow local audiences a chance to absorb and interpret the movement onstage.
“Most people don’t know what to expect when they see a modern piece,” Carson details, “but that’s part of the fun. The beauty of modern dance is its ability to encompass different ideas.”
The Wilmington Dance Festival will take place on Friday, Mar. 31 and Saturday, April 1 at Kenan Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, visit UNCW Presents at www.uncw.edu/presents/featured.html.