Lineup for Bates Dance Festival's 35th Anniversary Include Mill-based Performances, Gala Concerts & Renowned Alumni

LEWISTON, ME: The Bates Dance Festival marks its 35th anniversary season in 2017 with spectacular public events from July 7 through Aug. 5, including a special gala program and a site-specific multimedia performance at a downtown mill building. Among the acclaimed artists performing or presenting work at the festival are Christal Brown and INSPIRIT, David Dorfman Dance, zoe | juniper and Stephan Koplowitz, as well as performers in the 35th Anniversary Gala Bebe Miller, Doug Varone, Larry Keigwin, Sara Pearson, Patrik Widrig and many others.  The 2017 season is also the 30th and last for director Laura Faure, under whose guidance the Bates Dance Festival has become a leading American dance center, celebrated as a laboratory for important contributors to contemporary dance.

The festival propels a cycle of creative development and innovation as it trains new dancers and makers, introduces emerging artists and presents returning performers who have experienced significant artistic growth through the festival. Most performances cost $25 for the general public, $18 for seniors and $12 for students. Additional information about tickets and performances will appear by April 7 on the festival website: www.batesdancefestival.org.

The 2017 performance season opens with DanceNOW, showcasing dynamic new works by New England dance makers, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 7-8, at Bates College's air-conditioned Schaeffer Theatre, 329 College St.

Friday's program features performance artist Lida Winfield in her extraordinary text-based solo "In Search of Air." In this poignant and hilarious chronicle of growing up dyslexic, Winfield shares the gifts and heartache that accompanied her struggle to learn to read -- in her early 20s. Also on that program, Betsy Miller and Matthew Cumbie present a whimsical new duet that explores new possibilities for virtuosity in performance and presence.

On Saturday, Christal Brown and her company INSPIRIT present Brown's acclaimed "The Opulence of Integrity." Adapting the life story and legacy of Muhammad Ali, the piece explores the inner struggle for identity of men of color in the U.S. through an expansive look at the social, economic and spiritual conditions that inhibit freedom.

David Dorfman Dance returns with Dorfman's latest, "Aroundtown," a kinetic poem that examines varied and sometimes divided notions of love's meaning and purpose. Dorfman Dance performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, July 13 and 15, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Dorfman, who recently choreographed Paula Vogel's Broadway-bound play "Indecent," has conducted seven creative residencies at the festival since 1995. His deeply engaging works examine aspects of power and powerlessness, activism, dissidence, community and intimacy.

"Aroundtown" musters original music, text and visuals to explore commitment, community and intimacy in times of strife. Dorfman's trademark empathy, sly humor and robust physicality are harnessed to look at love through a sociopolitical lens.

From Seattle, zoe | juniper return to Bates to present their arresting new "Clear & Sweet" at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 21-22, in Schaeffer Theatre.

Co-founded by choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey, recipients of a 2013 Stranger Genius for Performance award, the company creates stunning works of dance, photography and video installation.

Powerful and impassioned, "Clear & Sweet" deploys Scofield's angular, intense choreography and Shuey's cutting-edge videography in an adaptation of the uniquely American tradition of shape-note singing. Mixing singers with a stellar cast of dancers, this work plays with constantly shifting points of perspective and highlights the strengths of community.

Marking the festival's anniversary and honoring the contributions of both longtime director Faure and the late Marcy Plavin, festival founder, the 35th Anniversary Gala unites favorite artist alumni for performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 28-29, in Schaeffer Theatre.

On the program: "Short Story," a poignant duet by Doug Varone and Natalie Desch; an excerpt from "The Making Room," by Bebe Miller and Angie Hauser; a brand-new duet by Mexico's Delfos Danza directors Claudia Lavista and Omar Carrum; a glimpse of "Crazy Beautiful," a new solo by Tania Isaac; excerpted solos by Larry Keigwin, Sara Pearson, Patrik Widrig and Riley Watts; and a group work by festival veteran Michael Foley. A party follows Saturday's performance.

Internationally renowned site choreographer Stephan Koplowitz will create "Mill Town," a site-specific multimedia work for 60 dancers to be staged in and around the Bates Mill Complex in downtown Lewiston. "Mill Town" takes place at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 3-4, in the mill at 35 Canal St.

Inspired by the geography, industry and culture of Lewiston-Auburn, Koplowitz is designing "Mill Town" for a multigenerational cast of professional and local dancers, original music by award-winning composer Todd Reynolds, scenic and media design by Shawn Hove, video by Ellen Maynard and costumes by Melody Eggen. Structured as a promenade for the audience through the mill, the piece includes installations of artifacts from Museum L-A and video shot throughout the city.

More festival events

All told, the Bates Dance Festival comprises mainstage and informal performances, lectures and other presentations by more than 80 internationally recognized dancers. In addition to the mainstage performances, the festival offers:

More about the artists

Lida Winfield, a visiting lecturer in dance at Middlebury College, is an innovative dancer and choreographer. Her imaginative and poignant work was recently honored with the Rebecca Blunk Fund Award through the New England Foundation for the Arts. Inspired by the human capacity to cope, to imagine and to transform, Winfield's works tell stories, ask questions, explore limits and celebrate beauty in what is awkward and vulnerable.

Betsy Miller is a 2016 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Choreography Fellow and an assistant professor of dance at Salem State University. Described as "haunting, spunky and full of imagination," her work expresses the tensions within our complex and messy human experiences through religion, media and cultural politics.

Matthew Cumbie, based in Washington, D.C., is the associate artistic director of Dance Exchange. As an educator and facilitator of dance he has been on faculty at Colby College, Queensborough Community College and Texas Woman's University. Driven by his interests in activism and improvisation, Cumbie brings a poetic lens to specifically queer experience.

Christal Brown is the founder of INSPIRIT; founder of Project: BECOMING, which helps young women become strong competent individuals; creator of the Liquid Strength dance training module; and chair of dance at Middlebury College. Brown combines athleticism, creativity, love for people and passion for teaching to create work that redefines the art of dance and the structure of the field.

David Dorfman founded his eponymous company in 1987 and is the troupe's artistic director. He has been professor of dance at Connecticut College since 2004. Dorfman Dance has performed nationally and internationally in its drive "to get the whole world dancing," a mission especially evident in the company's community-based projects over the years.  As a New York Times commentator wrote, Dorfman "has never shied away from openhearted explorations of self and society, channeling big ideas into raw hyper-athletic movement that calls for go-for-broke dancers."

zoe | juniper: Choreographer Zoe Scofield and designer-visual artist Juniper Schuey are the co-artistic directors of this Seattle-based company. Their work brings together embodied design, physicality, visual space and directional sound, and they operate in the belief that dance is a visual art form and visual art is a physical form. The Boston Globe described their work as a "crazy dream you just can't shake."

Stephan Koplowitz: Koplowitz is an award-winning director, choreographer, media artist and educator. His many honors include a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship in Choreography, six National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships and the Time Out Magazine's Award for Best Dance Production of 1996 for the piece "Genius Canyon."  Koplowitz uses the natural environment and human-built surroundings to create immersive and unforgettable experiences. Since 1984 he has created 84 of these breathtaking works of art and has performed them to audiences worldwide.

Founded in 1982 at Bates College, the Bates Dance Festival brings together an international community of contemporary choreographers, performers, educators and students in a cooperative community to study, perform and create new work.  The festival serves as an annual destination for artists, students and audiences to engage in activities and performances that foster a creative exchange of ideas, encourage exploration of new ground and provide access to a wide spectrum of dance and movement disciplines.