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It’s time for Wilmington to show you what it can do. Local musicians and dancers from across the city are being called to stage in a no-holds-barred performance to showcase some of the best local talent. The 14th annual Arts Sensation, put on by Forward Motion Dance Company, will feature the dynamic jazz band, The FROG Project and the much beloved Company “T” Tap Dancers.


Forward Motion Dance will host Arts Sensation with Company “T” Tap Dancers. Photo by Erin Whittle.

This year they will be raising funds for and educating people on Lower Cape Fear Hospice—a nonprofit organization that offers healthcare services, assistance, and education to more than 4,500 patients with advance illnesses and their families each year. LCFH offers compassion, dignity, comfort, respect, and someone to call for assistance at any time, day or night, during their final life transition. The agency also provides free grief counseling to children and adults.

“We love what Lower Cape Fear Hospice does for the community,” Tracey Varga, choreographer and director of the Forward Motion Dance Company, says. “The support and care that they give families both in the hospital and at their care center is so important. We’re very happy we can help them out and educate people on what they do this year.”

The Arts Sensation first brought local artists together to benefit nonprofit organizations in 2001. Forward Motion Dance Company, another nonprofit organization, hoped to expose local and regional communities to modern and contemporary dance, while giving back to the greater good. Founded in 2001 by Varga—she moved here from Seattle in 1996—the company offers education for schools and community organizations, like YWCA, and they partner with other nonprofits, annually.

Inspiration for the Arts Sensation came knocking for Varga when she read an article on the front page of Star News about the shortage of funds at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. Soon after, the food bank became the first beneficiary of the Arts Sensation.

“The dance community didn’t really have an event to show off their talent at the time,” Varga explains. “I thought the show would be a great opportunity for local artists to both perform and give back to their community, and it has been for so many years now.”

Over the years, Arts Sensation has raised money and awareness for the Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, the Good Shepherd Center, Indo-Jax Surf School, the Full Belly Project, and the The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County. In that time, the celebration has upgraded its digs from City Stage to the spacious main stage at Thalian Hall.

Diversifying the lineup remains important to Varga. She has hosted performances in all genres of dance, including Irish, tap, belly, African, hip-hop, jazz, classical, lyrical, and modern. Musicians such as the Benny Hill Quartet, Rock Tobey and Randy McQuay have all participated and devoted their time and effortd to the cause. It’s the collaboration of music and choreographed dance that brings the show to life, and what has kept so many people coming back year after year.

“We love the diversity that our local area brings together,” Varga tells. “We gather and combine classical ballet pieces with belly-dance performers and African breakdance. A lot of what we have this year is new and really shows the talent Wilmington is capable of.”

The FROG (Finished Room Over the Garage) Project (which is where the band began practicing) consists of keyboardist Kevin Kolb, flutist and saxophonist Teddy Burgh, percussionist Troy Pierce, and upright bassist Ryan Woodall. The group formed in late 2009 when the four extremely experienced musicians merged their talents together to create music combining jazz, pop, hip-hop, funk, and R&B. They will be joined on stage at the Arts Sensation by well-known local saxophone legend Benny Hill, who has been performing in a diverse range of musical groups for over 20 years now. With his alto saxophone in hand, Hill will electrify the audience in a style all his own.   

“I’m very excited about having The FROG Project performing with us this year,” Varga says. “I saw them a few years ago and really loved what they did. Their music and how they performed was so great. They’re going to be a great addition to the show.”

There will be two performances this year choreographed by Varga herself. The first will be “Fire and Ice,” a tap dance featuring Company “T” Tap Dancers, and a music verve remix of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Blue Skies.” The second will comprise a modern piece called “Resolve.” It will be performed by the Forward Motion Dance Company, with music by local Joe Cordaro. “Resolve” was recently performed at the Wilmington Dance Festival. Other local choreographers participating include Linda Larson, Anne Firmender, Kelly Hawes, Allison Dutka, and Cedric Turner.

“Joy Unveiled,” a belly dance performed and choreographed by local dancer Kelly Hawes, will incorporate her unique style of Middle Eastern dance that is both joyful and tasteful for all audience types. A high-energy, African breakdance this year, titled “Ingonyama Baba,” and a classical ballet piece performed by dancers from The Dance Cooperative, The Dance Element, and the Wilmington School of Ballet, also will be highlights of the hsow.

Tickets can be purchased through the Thalian Hall Box Office at (910) 632-2285 or online at their website.


14th annual Arts Sensation

Thursday, April 16, 8 p.m.
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street
Tickets: $15

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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