In a month when New York City’s stages are full of Nutcrackers, the American Dance Guild (ADG) offers an alternative—a wide array of contemporary dancemakers at its Annual Performance Festival. In addition to four days of performances, ADG honors three game-changers of modern dance: Doug Varone, Alice Teirstein and Liz Lerman.
Gloria McLean, president of ADG, says that its role is “both promoter of the new and preserver of the living history of modern dance as an artform,” and this year’s honorees are representative of this vision. Each honoree has pushed boundaries and had an impact on the field of dance—and beyond.
Doug Varone—a choreographer of work for contemporary dance, opera, Broadway and film—created his company Doug Varone and Dancers in 1986 and has toured the world and performed in more than 100 cities. “Doug Varone and his company are at a peak of vibrancy,” says McLean. “He certainly is a mature leader in the field and a choreographer/performer/teacher who came upon his own vision early and has persisted with it brilliantly over many years.” His company performs Lux during the festival.
Alice Teirstein, an 86-year-old dancer, choreographer and dance educator, recently received a Bessie for distinguished service to the field of dance. Her Young Dancemakers Company, now in its 20th season, will perform. “Alice is, in a sense, one of our own,” says McLean. “She was a founding member of the American Dance Guild when it formed in 1956 at the 92Y as the Dance Teachers Guild, and she has mirrored the mission of the Guild in her own life work, spreading the benefits of modern dance as education, creation, performance and cultural heritage.”
Liz Lerman, a pioneer for her work with intergenerational dancers, has created multidisciplinary stage works that build bridges between the arts and sciences, like her Ferocious Beauty: Genome, The Matter of Origins and her most recent work, Healing Wars, which looks at war’s impact on medicine. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976, leaving it in 2011 to pursue her own work. On being an ADG honoree, she says: “I think some younger artists may be struggling with the same questions that I did. I hope that the presentation of my work can help them to see that it can be done. You can break rules.”
This year’s ADG festival features the work of 35 artists and/or companies. It takes place December 3–6 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. DT
For more: americandanceguild.org
Emily Macel Theys writes on dance from the Pittsburgh area.
Photo (top) by Julie Lemberger; all photos courtesy of American Dance Guild Festival