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"Yes, Virginia Dance!" brings together an eclectic ensemble of dancers and choreographers.

Statewide Movement

May 22-23
Grace Street Theater
8 p.m.

Choreographers work hand-in-hand with their muses, a relationship that one day is harmonious, another day a struggle. Regardless of hardship or ease, they know that perseverance is key to the creative process. Yet, even with a completed product, the difficulties do not end. Sharing it with an audience and finding money to produce a show often proves as challenging as giving birth to the work. Creative solutions to funding, along with a recognition of the abundance of dance talent in the state, are a few of the motivations for "Yes, Virginia Dance!"

This statewide dance invitational, the brainchild of artistic directors and choreographers Kaye Weinstein Gary and Chris Burnside, gathers together seven dance companies from throughout Virginia to present a program May 21-22 at Grace Street Theater.

Two years ago, Gary met with Burnside to discuss a collaborative project. Their talk led to a desire to bring the talents of Virginia dancers together in one venue. Gary, working for the last 10 years as a soloist, was interested in meeting fellow dancers. The event offered an opportunity for conversation, but also a chance to pool resources, especially important in a climate of funding shortfalls. "Solo artists have the same concerns as companies," she explains, "difficulty in surviving, financial cutbacks. I want to know how people get work. How can the community support dance? It's rare that I get to chat with fellow artists."

Gary and Burnside say they are delighted by the rich diversity of dance in the state. From the Tidewater area comes Todd Rosenlieb who will present "Suite Sammy." Relying on the structure of musical chairs, Rosenlieb's trio pays tribute to Sammy Davis Jr., offering comical glimpses of pop culture, Vegas style.

Soloist Cynthia Thompson, from Harrisonburg, will present "Welling Down." Using sound and movement, she explores grief as a way to locate power.

Eric Hampton Dance, traveling from the Washington area, presents the trio "Half a Life." This emotive work focuses on an older man reflecting on his life and his regrets at the absence of more periods of inspiration and passion.

The year-and-a-half-old Hollins Dance Project, made up of graduates of Hollins University, explores the ability of dance to communicate. The Project, with Donna Faye Burchfield as artistic director, will perform a work by Nathan Trice.

Choreography gets a bit wilder with the work of Brad Stoller and Alicia Grayson, from the Charlottesville region. "Bumbliwa" relies on contact improvisation as its foundation and explores the boundaries between animal, human and spirit realms.

The Richmond Ballet is also represented with several sections of Colin Connor's well-received, Scottish-inspired "Streets and Legends." Lastly, Gary and Burnside will perform a duet "Tangled," a dramatic work that looks at the many phases of a relationship, with words by Sam Shepard.

Gary and Burnside were surprised by the abundance of dance they found in Virginia and see the concert as "a realization and celebration." Says Gary, "Chris and I, we're survivors. There's always a way to be creative. But we wanted to make sure we're not the only ones who know

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