Director of Forward Motion Dance (FMD) Company, Tracey Varga, got her inspiration to set up Arts Sensation back in 2001 after reading a newspaper’s front-page article detailing how the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC was short on funds and donations. “I got to thinking it was a time where I know a lot of the dancers in the community were looking for a venue to share their work and show their art,” she explains. “So, I thought, Well, why don’t we try to come together and have a performance and donate it to a local non-profit?”
They held their first nonprofit dance performance to raise funds and help generate more food across Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties. Since, Varga has raised monies for the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, the Good Shepherd, the Full Belly Project, Indo Jax Surf School, and the Wilmington and New Hanover County Arts Council.
For 2014 Varga and company are embarking on their 13th annual Arts Sensation, taking place at Thalian Hall’s Main Stage on Saturday, March 15th at 8 p.m. The event will benefit Kids Making It, a woodworking program which helps at-risk youth understand the importance of creative and entrepreneurial work.
The event is set to showcase live and entertaining talent from local dancers and performers, and proceeds will benefit the Kids Making It program. “We like to spread it out in terms of local non-profits that we pick as the beneficiary,” Varga states.
Founded in 1994 by former attorney Jimmy Pierce, the program teaches students vocational and artistic skills. KMI offers afterschool programs, summer camps, and a new apprenticeship program.
“We heard about what a great asset they are to the community, in terms of transitioning high-school students into the real world [through their apprenticeship] and their woodworking programs,” Varga details.
KMI helps 300 kids annually and has a zero high-school drop-out rate. The youth hand-make pens, stools, custom signs, and donate their time and creations to charity projects. Not only do they craft their items, they then sell them in the KMI retail store, and earn 100 percent of proceeds.
On the night of the show, FMD encourages the beneficiary to speak and educate the audience on the history of their organization. They give an overview on what they do, as well as offer pamphlets of information. Varga recognizes this as a great opportunity to reach people who may not normally engage with KMI on a day-to-day basis.
The Arts Sensation itself features a variety of music and dance. A stream of performances will be locally choreographed. Varga says, “We have a hip-hop performer, as well as a street dancer, [each of] whom are newcomers this year.”
There are 25 people altogether making up the show, with eight choreographers. Choreographers presenting their works include Linda Larson, Anne Firmender of the Dance Cooperative, Alison Dutka of Glory Academy of Fine Arts, Erin Bergman of City Ballet of Wilmington, Wilmington School of Ballet and The Dance Element, as well as a performance by belly dancer Kelly Hawes. “I will also be doing a modern dance performance,” Varga adds.
The Company “T” Tap Dancers has been involved with this fund-raiser from the get-go and will highlight the evening with a piece set to music by Frank Sinatra. The night also will feature live and entertaining music performed by ‘Shine and Randy McQuay.
‘Shine covers a wide range of genres from Americana to country, rock and originals. “‘Shine is a four piece group with really high energy, [who] play a lot of current music and rock and pop pieces,” Varga entails. “We’ve tried to get them in past years and they were already booked, so this year we are fortunate enough to have them participate.”
Randy McQuay, singer/songwriter, will play a soulful set, and creates the sound of a full band with his guitar and harmonica. He is returning for a second year to Arts Sensation.
“The audience absolutely loved him,” Varga recalls. “He’s a storytelling bluesman; he is a great singer-songwriter. . . . I think it’s wonderful to see the dancers and musicians come together to give to the community, [and] to share their artwork with the community.”
Over the years, Varga has seen the event grow in participation. In terms of the professional integrity of the show, it, too, continues to evolve.“It started out in City Stage and now we’re at Thalian Hall Main Stage,” Varga happily tells.
Forward Motion Dance is a nonprofit organization that provides quality modern dance to local and regional communities. They enhance the arts community by offering performance opportunities to area dancers and artists. The company provides education for schools and community organizations.
As Forward Motion Dance is a nonprofit organization itself, they have other various fund-raisers throughout the year to support themselves. “I think this is part of Forward Motion Dance’s mission to provide for the community and educate the community about arts in Wilmington as well as the surrounding areas,” Varga informs.