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Bates Dance Festival kicks off next week

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERS

Camille A. Brown Dancers (photo by Grant-Halverson)

The 2014 Bates Dance Festival, taking place July 8 through August 9, will feature new works by a variety of renowned contemporary artists, including performances by Prometheus Dance, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, David Dorfman Dance, Vincent Mantsoe and Yin Mei.

Founded in 1982 at Bates College, the annual six-week Festival brings together an international community of contemporary choreographers, performers, educators and students to study, perform and create new work together at what has become a respected summer laboratory for artists making important contributions to contemporary dance.

Mainstage performances will take place in the College’s air-conditioned Schaeffer Theatre, located at 305 College Street in Lewiston. Tickets for mainstage performances are $25 ($18 for seniors, $12 for students). Advance reservations may be made by calling 786-6161 Monday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at batestickets.com. For more information about the Festival, see batesdancefestival.org.

Prometheus Dance, Boston’s premiere company, will open the season with its latest work, the viscerally charged and dramatic “Heart of the Matter,” on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

Marking the eight-member company’s 25th anniversary, “Heart of the Matter” dissects the impact of relationships over time and how we hurt each other in the name of love. “The choreographers have hit the jackpot with this world premiere,” wrote Boston Globe reviewer Karen Campbell.

Co-Artistic Directors Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett have created more than 50 works for their company and have also formed The Elders Ensemble, a Prometheus-affiliated company of post-professional dancers ages 60 to 85. The duo has received numerous awards and honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts Creativity Grant.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers, known for their high theatricality, gutsy moves and virtuosic musicality, will perform their newest work, “Mr. TOL E. RAncE,” on Thursday and Saturday, July 17 and 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

Drawing on the legacy of blackface minstrelsy in America, “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” examines images of black performers in historic and contemporary media, from “Amos and Andy” to rap. Featuring a live piano score by the remarkable Scott Patterson and the fierce and funny dancing of Brown’s impressive cast, this evening-length work is a culturally charged mix of images, associations and references.

Brown has done commissions for leading dance companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Urban Bush Women, and in 2012 was named choreographer for the Broadway revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

David Dorfman will return for his seventh creative residency at the Festival since 1995. His troupe’s ongoing exploration of American culture will be on display in “Come, and Back Again” on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

Featuring five dancers and five musicians, the piece is an evening-length, elegiac exploration of virtuosity, vulnerability and mortality, driven by the charged poetry and raw ferocity of the underground indie, punk and folk-rock music scenes of the 1990s.

Founded in 1985, David Dorfman Dance has performed extensively in New York City and throughout the Americas, Great Britain and Europe. Dorfman and the company’s dancers and artistic collaborators have been honored with eight New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Awards.

Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe, South Africa’s most beloved choreographer, and Chinese choreographer Yin Mei, will present solo works on Friday and Saturday, August 1 and 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

Mantsoe will present “Skwatti,” a new work born from his alarm over the clogging of South Africa’s cities through urbanization. Sinewy and fluid, he shape-shifts through the piece as if channeling spirits through a contemporary dance language that fuses motifs from a variety of ancestral cultures.

Yin Mei will present “DIS/oriented: Antonioni in China,” which delves into childhood memories of growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. The piece takes the form of a dance-theater “conversation” with Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Chuon Kuo Cina,” a 1972 documentary portraying everyday life in China that could not be viewed in that country until 2004.

Born and raised in a township of Soweto, South Africa, during the depths of apartheid, Mantsoe is descended from a long line of traditional healers, or “sangomas.” He trained in the early 1990s with Moving Into Dance Mophatong and served as its artistic director from 1996-2001.

Yin Mei explores themes of artistic and spiritual significance arising at the intersection of Asian traditional performance and Western contemporary dance. Her work has been performed at numerous venues in the United States and abroad.

Each Saturday evening mainstage performance will be preceded at 7 p.m. by an introductory lecture by dance writer Debra Cash; most Friday evening mainstage performances will be followed immediately by a talkback discussion with the featured artists.

The 2014 Festival will feature mainstage and informal performances, lectures and other presentations by more than 50 internationally recognized dancers. In addition to the mainstage performances, other key Festival events will include:

Free “Show & Tell” programs by featured Festival performers at 7:30 p.m. on the Tuesday preceding their weekend mainstage performances (Prometheus Dance on July 8; Camille A. Brown on July 15; David Dorfman on July 22; and Vincent Mantsoe and Yin Mei on July 29).

The annual “Musicians’ Concert,” featuring a global mix of music by ten remarkable composers and players, on Wednesday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

The “Different Voices” programs, showcasing work by visiting choreographers from around the world, on Thursday and Friday, August 7 and 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Schaeffer Theatre.

The “Festival Finale,” presenting student dancers of all ages performing contemporary works by festival choreographers, on Saturday, August 9 in Alumni Gymnasium, 130 Central Avenue in Lewiston.

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