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Atlanta goes off the EDGE with new dance fest 

Ambitious inaugural event wants to build on the city's spirit of collaboration

If dance is a virus, Atlanta has certainly caught it. The thing to do now, says Atlanta-based choreographer Lauri Stallings, is to help the virus spread and mature.

The ambitious inaugural dance occasion Off the Edge, which Stallings is curating, seeks to do just that. A broad range of dance-related events will take place at various venues throughout the city this week, culminating in a weekend of free public performances by Atlanta-based artists in Woodruff Park and a mixed program by prestigious visiting companies on the Rialto stage Jan. 27-28.

"Off the EDGE perhaps has the potential to mature a virus that already has carriers here," says Stallings. To that end, the event involves a staggering number of participating organizations and individuals. Visiting artists include some of the country's most renowned contemporary dance companies: Seattle's zoe/Juniper; Los Angeles' BODYTRAFFIC; Gallim Dance; Lar Lubovitch Company; and Keigwin + Company of New York. While in town each visitor will participate in a residency exchange with an Atlanta-based company in advance of the Rialto performances. Zoetic will host zoe/juniper, Stallings' gloATL is paired with Gallim Dance, Lar Lubovitch will lead workshops at CORE and Full Radius, and Israeli dance legend Rina Schenfeld will be in residency with the dance department at Kennesaw State University. There are also free public performances by Atlanta artists, backstage initiatives for high school students, a visual arts exhibit, and a series of panel discussions. All of the Off the Edge events are free of charge except the mainstage performances, where tickets start at $14.

Typically at dance festivals, visiting artists arrive at a venue by bus, perform their distinguished work, and then split. But Stallings wanted the out-of-town dancers to spend as much time as possible in the city. The format Stallings chose for Off the Edge is similar to Houston's renowned Dance Salad, which similarly presents two evenings of visiting artists in a mixed program, but also has a strong and extended reach into Houston's dance community, local universities, and schools.

The festival will also present EDGE/Public, a series of free public performances on Friday and Saturday in Woodruff Park by Atlanta-based companies. "There is something really special about creating and realizing art in public spaces in Atlanta," says EDGE/Public curator Paul Boshears. "The spaces of this city already speak volumes, if we are given the opportunity to hear." The free performances kick off at 6:30 on Friday and Saturday evenings in Woodruff Park and include the Atlanta Ballet's Wabi Sabi, Out of Hand Theater, Staibdance, Haverty Object Group, and Full Radius in a diverse presentation of free puppetry, dance, moving images, theatrics, and time-based sculpture.

The goal is to make Off the EDGE an important annual event for the city, and plans are already in place to make next year's event even larger. Organizers say it's all designed to nurture more serious collaboration in Atlanta. "I'm not going to say Off the Edge is going to do that on its own," says Stallings. "It's already happening. What I do think Off the Edge can do — and I think this is what everyone is hoping for — is that there's a new level of maturity to what is already happening here."

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