The game is afoot at DanceFest

The D’amby Project’s Christy Kowalsky, Bridget Madden, Hannah Tobias and Rowan Willigan.

The D’amby Project’s Christy Kowalsky, Bridget Madden, Hannah Tobias and Rowan Willigan.

The art of dance is alive and well in the Hudson Valley, with a plethora of companies and schools dedicated both to its performance and its preservation by teaching new generations. To keep that flame alive in the dark days of midwinter, each February the Vanaver Caravan organizes a Terpsichorean blowout that gives many of the region’s dance schools a chance to shine. They’ve been putting on the eclectic show that they call DanceFest for 21 years, and this time 11 schools from Ulster and Dutchess Counties will participate.

If you come to either of the two shows this Saturday, February 2 at SUNY-New Paltz’s McKenna Theatre, you can expect to see demonstrations of a broad cross-section of movement styles, from classical ballet to edgier modern dance, ethnic and urban expressions. DanceFest’s newest participant, the Red Hook-based D’amby Project, combines traditional Irish dance training with contemporary movement, but will lean toward the jazz end of its repertoire on Saturday with Classical Glance. The Poughkeepsie City Ballet will perform a piece inspired by African dance and culture, titled United, while Madeline’s Dance Center will integrate tumbling with dance. Gina Marie’z Academy of Performing Arts will sample three different genres with the lyrical Forever Young, jazzy Footloose and a hip-hop Journey through Sound.

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“Three different styles of dance working in conflict as well as harmony” is how the New York Academy of Ballet describes Immortal ConFusion, a new piece created specifically for this year’s DanceFest. Also premiering will be the Rhinebeck Dance Center’s La Nuit, with music by Tchaikovsky, which takes place in an after-hours Paris café where rules are meant to be broken. Still, a piece originally choreographed for eight dancers, has been reworked for a cast of 20 by the Barefoot Dance Center.

Another highlight is expected to be Sparkling Fountain, presented by the New Paltz Ballet Theatre, whose principals, Lisa and Peter Naumann, are former members of the New York City Ballet. Scarlett Fiero’s Saugerties Ballet Center will perform an excerpt from Viking, an interpretation of the Vikings and the Pagan culture that they left behind. Dance Beacon/Ballet Arts Studio will stage Music Visualizations 1-3 (Sad) to the music of Rachmaninoff, Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell. And Susan Slotnick’s youth troupe, the Figures in Flight Dance Company, will perform Gravity, with music by John Mayer.

Not to be outdone, DanceFest host organization the Vanaver Caravan Dance Institute and the Caravan Kids will stage an excerpt from Fred Berk’s 1965 composition Memories, which expresses feelings of hope after escaping the Nazi Holocaust and coming to America. They wish to dedicate this piece to all the people in the world who have experienced oppression.

DanceFest 2013 will be presented twice: at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, with Sunday, February 3 the designated snow date. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and for children aged 12 and under. They can be ordered in advance through any of the participating dance schools, and will also be sold at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Vanaver Caravan’s arts-in-education programs in Ulster County and surrounding areas. For more information, phone the Caravan at (845) 256-9300, or your local dance academy, or e-mail bebhinn@vanavercaravan.org.

DanceFest 2013, Saturday, February 2, 3:30/7:30 p.m., $15/$10, McKenna Theatre, SUNY-New Paltz, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz; (845) 256-9300, bebhinn@vanavercaravan.org.