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Friday, February 29, 2008

Modern Atlanta Dance Festival: Movers and shakers

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(Courtesy Sideways Contemporary Dance)

Douglas Scott has been planning this weekend for almost a year. The founder and curator of the 14th annual Modern Dance Festival, Scott began plans for this year’s festival almost immediately after last year’s performance ended. But he isn’t the only one who’s been looking ahead. Dancers around the city have been practicing and polishing their pieces for months in preparation for the festival.

The Modern Atlanta Dance Festival is sponsored by the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and Full Radius Dance, a dance company comprised of dancers with and without disabilities, where Scott is the artistic/executive director. The shows on Saturday and Sunday (March 1-2) feature performances from some of the literal movers and shakers in the Atlanta modern dance scene — both individual artists and companies.

“It is a great introduction to modern dance and the local dance scene. You get to see seven different dance works by seven different choreographers. I guarantee that you’ll find something in the program that inspires you, makes you think, or creates wonder for you on a personal level,” Scott says.

In case you’re still a little shaky on what exactly "modern" is (and by that I mean you haven’t gotten sucked into watching hours of "So You Think You Can Dance"), Scott gives a relatively simple definition for a complex term:

“Modern dance has paralleled the development of modern art and music, in the fact that it is experimental and constantly redefining itself. Movements as simple as walking or as complicated as trapeze work have been used by modern choreographers and dancers. Many people are more familiar with ballet. I've heard ballet described as being vertical and lifted to heaven. Modern is horizontal and connected to the earth.”

Other than falling under the category of modern dance, the MAD Festival has no connecting theme between the different dance performances. This is to ensure that the choreographers can have artistic freedom and submit any piece they like.

“I think one of the great things about the festival is that if you ask 10 different audience members what their favorite dance was, you’ll get 10 different answers. That’s the strength and diversity of Atlanta’s modern/contemporary dance scene,” Scott says.

After a year of planning, Scott is looking most forward to interacting with other dancers this weekend. “We are all so busy, it’s rare that we have the opportunity to see each other. The MAD Festival provides this opportunity each year — not only to meet with other dancers, but to see the work of other local choreographers,” Scott says.

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Here’s a lineup of performances and an explanation of their themes:

  • Zoetic Dance Ensemble performs Candess Giyan’s “I Bought,” a commentary on the disconnect between emotions and technology.
  • Kathleen Wessel’s “Glacial Ornaments” is based on the juxtaposition between Victorian women’s proper lace-covered outside and feisty, defiant insides.
  • Sideways Contemporary Dance Company presents Charlotte Foster’s “Lost and Found,” which explores the journey from lonely isolation to peaceful connections.
  • Good Moves Consort performs Michelle Mora’s “Fish Out of Water,” based on Mora’s own journey to Peru.
  • Gregory Catellier’s “Of Kiltering” focuses on balance, stability and instability.
  • Brooks Emanuel Dance Company debuts at the festival with “Vine,” a duet commenting on developing relationships.
  • Full Radius Dance premieres “Giants in the Sky,” which explores the fear and reward of the unknown.

Performances take place at the MJCCA’s Morris and Rae Frank Theatre at Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody, Saturday, March 1, at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for MJCCA members are $13 for adults, $9 for children; general admission tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children (18 months and younger free.) Seating is limited. To purchase tickets, call 770-395-2654, or visit or

Check out this clip of Full Radius in performance...

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