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Dancing their visions for a decade — Iowa Dance at 10


Iowa Dance 2016: Dancing Our Visions

Multiple Venues — Thursday–Saturday, Apr. 28–30

Jesse Factor
Jesse Factor teaches a master class in Graham Technique on Saturday, Apr. 30 at 10 a.m. as part of the Iowa Dance festival — photo by Justin Torner.

For the tenth year in a row, community members will be treated to a series of free dance performances, workshops and events in downtown Iowa City this weekend. (Full disclosure: The author of this piece is a dancer with the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, which will be performing and hosting a workshop during Iowa Dance 2016.) Running from Thursday, Apr. 28 through Saturday, Apr. 30, Iowa Dance 2016: Dancing our Visions brings dance to various venues throughout downtown as a part of National Dance Week and in honor of International Dance Day, which is Apr. 29.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Iowa Arts Council, and recognized by UNESCO for the third consecutive year, Iowa Dance’s tenth anniversary will be the largest festival yet. It features performances and workshops in modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, Irish, African, Near-Eastern and Indian classical dance, as well as video-dances, an experimental form of dance conceived for the screen, which will screen at FilmScene. In additional, Iowa Dance will be providing free performances and workshops to local schools and comp tickets to local children and teens who want to attend the concert performance, but can’t afford the price of admission.

In honor of Iowa Dance’s tenth anniversary, we spoke with Nora Garda, the co-founder and director of Iowa Dance since its inception:

What inspired you to create Iowa Dance?

My dance partner Mark [McCusker] had the idea of a dance network/dance festival in his mind for a long time. He and I were constantly creating dances, performances and installations, most of them funded by the Iowa Arts Council. Then in 2006 we participated in an International Dance Festival in Tenerife, Spain and that was when I got totally excited about the idea of a dance festival in Iowa City — because it is such a great way to get dancers, dance lovers and dance supporters together! AND Iowa didn’t have a statewide dance festival (and so far, this is still the only one). We were/are part of this huge group of dancers in the community and we decided to go for it. In three months we put it together and in April 2007 we had the first dance festival: IOWA DANCE FEST ’07. There is SO MUCH dance talent in Iowa City: An 18 year-old student from City Ballet of Iowa got a contract with the New York City Ballet; a 17 year-old student from Nolte got accepted in Juilliard School. There are so many dance-success stories that are not known by the community.

How long does it take to plan each year’s festival? How many volunteers does it take to run?

We put the festival together in about 5-6 months. Usually, we have a wrap-up meeting two weeks after the festival where we evaluate what worked and what didn’t and what to do next year. And then we take a break. Most of us have (other) full time jobs and this festival happens because we are passionate about it and about dance. Then it all starts again around September with a core group of 6-8 people, and as the program gets flushed out we pick up more volunteers, and by the time the festival is set to go we probably have 30-40 volunteers. This year in particular I started earlier because I was applying for an Iowa Arts Council Grant that was due on Nov. 2, so I needed to have a firm plan by then. We got the grant, by the way. In the months of March and April, some of us spend 25-30 hours a week working in this project.

On Friday, Apr. 29, Iowa Dance presents a Carib Funk workshop at 5 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library -- photo by Krys Quero.
On Friday, Apr. 29, Iowa Dance presents a Carib Funk workshop at 5 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library — photo courtesy of Iowa Dance.
The educational component is clearly an important part of this event. Has that always been the case? Why is that so important to you?

Yes! It has always been the case. Since its inception, the dance festival went to area local schools, bringing dance performances, interactive workshops and presentations, always free of charge for the schools. When a fee is charged for workshops or for performances in theaters, Iowa Dance always provides comp tickets to kids and teens. We want people dancing more! This year we are working with the Kennedy Center Initiative program to bring dance to schools throughout the year. It is important to us that kids see and try dance for themselves and that the joy of dance exists in many forms and is performed by people of many sizes, shapes and colors. Dance is an underrepresented art across the nation and also here at home. The way we build the love of dance is through education and opportunities for people to experience dance.

What are some highlights of this year’s festival we can look forward to?

We have such a full program! This year it is a REAL festival: A fundraising opening party in a downtown penthouse, four masterclasses and workshops, a ScreenDance festival at FilmScene, several performances in “unexpected” places downtown and closing performances at Riverside Theater.

What do you envision for the future of this festival?

We will continue to reach out to schools and give Iowa dancers a forum to participate in whatever shape the festival takes. ScreenDance received such an overwhelming, international response I would like to see that grow and possibly bring in more nationally known performers to increase interest from the general public. The festival has continued to grow and evolve over the years. We would love to bring dancers from other countries to teach and perform! We would also love to see more and more community members involved and invested in this unique festival weekend.

Iowa Dance 2016 Event Schedule

Thursday, Apr. 28

7:30 p.m. — Irish dance workshop with Trea Champagne @ Old Brick, $10

Friday, Apr. 29

2 p.m. — Dance Showcase IC/Johnson County Senior Center
5 p.m. — CaribFunk workshop with A’Keitha Carey @ Iowa City Public Library
7 p.m. — Opening Reception/Fundraiser @ Penthouse floor, Park@201 East Washington Street (Plaza Towers). Keynote Speaker: Benjamin Wardell, Director of the Cambrians, Chicago-based Dance Company. Hors d’oeuvres, drinks and more, $30

Saturday, Apr. 30

10 a.m. — Graham Technique Master Class with Jesse Factor @ UI Halsey Hall, $10
10 a.m. — Champagne Academy of Irish Dance @ Old Brick (during Agape Café Benefit)
12 p.m. — First International Iowa ScreenDance Festival @ FilmScene, $8
2 p.m. — Jazz Master Class with Autumn Eckman @ Robert A. Lee Rec Center, $10
3-7 p.m. — Performances FREE and OPEN to all; Infinity Dance will lead dancers and audiences dancing from one venue to the next.

  • 3:15-4 p.m. — IC Public Library
  • 4:15-5 p.m. — Vetro Hotel Lobby
  • 5-5:30 p.m. — Ped Mall – Fountain
  • 5:30-7 p.m. — Old Capitol Town Center

8 p.m. — Closing Ceremony and performance by The Cambrians and other local dancers @ Riverside Theater, $10


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