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Celebrating 16 Years of the 5x5 Dance Festival in Connecticut

Ballet Hartford. Photo by Andy Hart, courtesy of 5x5

Sustaining a festival for 16 years strong is an achievement to honor and to celebrate. The 5x5 Dance Festival has become a bustling and full one-day event, this year taking place on Saturday, November 3. The festival has two large goals: to be multigenerational and to feature the vibrant dance taking place statewide in Connecticut.


The name "five by five" was coined at the festival's inception. There were five local professional artists looking for a venue to showcase new work. The second year added a collegiate aspect, with five college dance departments participating. Hosted and housed in West Hartford at the University of Saint Joseph, 5x5 now includes: a performance showcase in the 365-seat Hoffman Auditorium, site-specific performances in the art gallery and around the campus, dance film screenings and master classes. In one jam-packed day, 400 people will experience dance through a variety of opportunities, including both free and ticketed events.

Artistic director Susan Murphy says: "The biggest thing is the community—the opportunity for local artists to come together on our stage, and the educational component for the college students. The festival offers something for all dancers, no matter what your level." Murphy adds that the festival's mission is to build dance audiences and awareness about the work going on in the state.

The multigenerational component is an opportunity for professionals and college students alike. Regardless of age or experience level, the exposure and dialogue with other artists builds connections and relationships. Each festival is an opportunity to see new work in development by choreographers of all ages.

The 2018 festival roster features professional artists onstage, such as Ballet Hartford, Dimensional Dance and The Legible Bod(ies). Site-specific participants include Sonia Plumb Dance Company and Moxie Dance Company. The University of Saint Joseph, Central Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University and Naugatuck Valley Community College will share as collegiate participants.

This year, 5x5 is also showcasing Connecticut Dances—A Visual History, an exhibit of dance history in the state (a recent project of the Connecticut Dance Alliance). A dance and calligraphy exploration with Chinese dance artist Lorelei Chang is among master-class offerings, plus Fulbright scholar-in-residence Aguibou Bougobali Sanou from Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

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When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

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