American Dance Festival hosted its first in-person event in June, bringing performers and audiences back together again
By Marie Muir | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Dancers in maroon tulle twirled and stretched in sync with the music – a hypnotizing hum of instrumentals as the birds sang at dusk. ShaLeigh Dance Works’ company moved with precision across a meadow stage at Mystic Farm & Distillery, captivating the crowd settled in lawn chairs and sprawled out on picnic blankets.
American Dance Festival hosted The Stars Are Out at ADF in mid-June, its first in-person event since the onset of the pandemic, which included two evenings of outdoor dance, music, film, bourbon and charcuterie from Parizade.
“The pandemic has had a major impact on our physical and mental health,” says ShaLeigh Comerford, founder and artistic director of ShaLeigh Dance Works. “Dancing and creating together is the way that we respond to the world, and not being able to do that has felt a lot like not being able to process everything that’s happened this past year. As tenuous and fragile as life has felt, performing live again for an audience was an incredibly emotional experience.”
ShaLeigh Dance Works began the performance with “Moving, Still” and “Meadow Dance,” and Nia Sadler followed with a powerful solo performance. After Nia, Gaspard&Dancers took the stage for a duet entitled “Forbidden” – a sensual piece that references Adam and Eve and explores the emotional and physical strength of a couple in love. Bull City Soul Struck rounded out the show with an audience-engaging hip-hop performance. As stars began to appear in the night sky, attendees gathered around an inflatable movie screen to watch the world premiere of ADF-commissioned film “tHe aGe Of anXieTy” by dendy/donovan projects.
“Being able to physically dance with others in the same space is something we once took for granted and are now craving more than ever,” says Gaspard&Dancers founder Gaspard Louis. “For a company like Gaspard&Dancers that relies heavily on our partnering technique, it means the world. Hopefully this is the beginning of the changing tide, where audiences will be confident enough to come back inside the theater in the fall.”