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Nevada City hosts first dance festival

Nevada County has welcomed a contemporary San Francisco ballet company and an internationally-renowned Afro-Cuban dancer for a week of master-classes, rehearsals and performances during the first Nevada City Dance Festival.

The festival, which kicked off Saturday and runs through Thursday at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, will feature performances by dawsondancesf on Tuesday and Kimberly Miguel Mullen on Thursday,

General admission tickets are $25, and are available at http://www.minersfoundry.org, by calling 530-265-5040, or at the Miners Foundry and Briar Patch Co-op.



Dawsondancesf artistic director Gregory Dawson formed the dance company in 2007; he’s a former Alonzo King Lines Ballet dancer who also teaches and choreographs for the Lines Ballet educational programs.

Dawson choreographed a piece specifically for dawsondancesf’s Tuesday performance at the foundry.




Los Angeles-based choreographer and dance ethnologist Kimberly Miguel Mullen, who also teaches dance classes, workshops, retreats and cultural immersion programs, has performed across the country and throughout the world. On Thursday, she’ll perform a piece called Yemanjá: Mother of the Deep that involves song and dance with accompaniment from live musicians.

The week also includes a gala reception at the Miners Foundry on Tuesday and performance rehearsals open to the festival’s donors and supporters. On Saturday, Dawson taught a free master-class at Nevada Union High School for intermediate and advanced ballet dancers from local dance studios, including KSK Dance Collective, Holt Ballet Conservatory and the Nevada Union Theatrical Dance Department; on Wednesday, Miguel Mullen will teach a free beginner-to-intermediate-level master-class at the Miners Foundry for the public.

The dance festival will add another layer to the county’s ample performing arts options, said Karen Attix, the festival’s artistic advisor who has a background in professional dance and choreography.

“We have a rich music scene, a rich theater scene and a rich visual arts scene,” Attix said. “We need to have a rich dance scene.”

Attix has worked with Gretchen Bond, the executive director of the Miners Foundry, to help build the festival from the ground up; the idea started to take shape after a new professional dance floor was installed at the Miners Foundry in 2013.

After the foundry hosted a successful workshop by the AXIS Dance Company, a contemporary dance troupe composed of performers with and without disabilities, the two women started thinking, “maybe we should try to do a bigger event, like a festival,” Attix said.

They were able to secure a grant from the California Arts Council; they also solicited local sponsorships to help make the festival a reality.

Attix suggested Dawson’s company for the festival because its performances are “beautiful, athletic and accessible,” and knew Miguel Mullen’s show would provide the audience with a compelling performance rooted in storytelling.

Attix said the festival’s organizers wanted to establish a week-long residency with the visiting artists to give the performers a chance to immerse themselves in the community.

Establishing those connections between artists and locals, she said, would help “start establishing and nurturing and building audiences for contemporary dance” in the area.

The residency is also beneficial to the area’s established community of dancers, dance teachers and choreographers.

“It’s just a great way to learn, to get a full-on week with professionals,” Attix said. “It’s so inspiring.”

And the festival will enrich the larger community of art-lovers, as well. Attix said Nevada County residents are fortunate because they “don’t have to leave this area to get excellent performing arts.”

Dance, she added, “should be just part of (the scene) that we keep building, our theater, our music, our dance. We deserve it.”

Festival organizers and supporters hope to build on the success of this year’s festival; ideally Attix said, it will become a yearly event in Nevada County.

“This is just the beginning,’ Attix said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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