Top Dance Company Here Again in May

By Wilma Allen

One of the most dazzling ensembles in last fall’s Amelia Island Dance Festival, the Atlanta Dance Connection, is returning for special performances May 10 and 11 at Amelia Community Theatre. And they should be sensational.

“When they performed last year, the audience went crazy,” said Carey Dresser, who knows firsthand about dance. Dresser danced professionally in New York for many years, including for the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, before moving to Amelia Island in 2005. He still loves dance and serves on the AIDF board of directors. “The Atlanta Dance Connection is very high energy and uses a lot of fun pop music that really connects with our audience. When we saw the reaction, we knew immediately we had to have them back. They really got our souls pumping!”

Atlanta Dance Connection is among the leading dance companies in the country, Dresser says. Their unique productions bridge the gap between classical ballet and traditional African dance styles. In addition to performing regularly in Atlanta, the ensemble tours nationally and internationally with a mix of dance, drama, and live instrumental and vocal music. They are also well known for offering advanced training and workshops in ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop and other dance forms.

The Amelia Island program will start with three contemporary ballets, says Allyne Gartrell, Artistic Director, who founded the company in 2010. The first, entitled “Written in Stone,” is about declaring where and who you are in your life. “Time Pieces” is a solo performance from a larger work that explores issues of time – gaining it, losing it and being on time. “Rag on the Block,” is a fun, jazz ballet in three parts where the dancers are carefree, just feeling good and having a wonderful time, Gartrell says.

For the program’s second half, titled “Reflections and Renaissance,” the dancers will celebrate the rich history, culture, and art of the Harlem Renaissance era, 1910-1925, including the musical influence of jazz greats, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and many others.

Jazz ties in nicely with another project the Atlanta Dance Connection is undertaking with the Amelia Island Dance Festival. This is an original ballet now being created about American Beach, a popular resort for African Americans in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Between concerts, the dancers will take a bus tour of American Beach and visit sites of the historic nightclubs and juke joints where many jazz age stars performed.

“We hope that dance lovers who see the artistry, vision and passion of this incredibly talented company will help us fund the top-quality sets, costumes, technology and everything else a major production requires, especially one with as much potential as the story of American Beach,” says Susie Dodge, AIDF president. If all goes well, the new ballet may premiere during a future Amelia Island Dance Festival season.

But that’s not all. On Saturday, May 11, the Atlanta Dance Connection will hold a free workshop for dancers of all ages and experience at noon, and a special free program for children at 2 p.m. Both will be held at Amelia Community Theatre.

All of these programs are presented by the Amelia Island Dance Festival and funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Florida Department of Arts and Culture. For tickets and more information, go to ameliaislanddancefestival.org.