Celebrating 10 years of d a n a h b e l l a DanceWorks


Creative nurturing shapes the legacy of inspiration that is d a n a h b e l l a DanceWorks. Celebrating 10 years as Radford University’s professional dance company, they present two free performances April 27 and 28.

When professor and interim chair of the Department of Dance, danah bella, first started teaching at the university, she found an atmosphere of encouragement. Provided with studio space to create, access to dancers, and availability to travel, she decided she wanted to give something back to the department.

Upon receiving several invitations to present work around the country, the concept of producing a professional dance company began to develop.

“The idea was to work with professional dancers and apprentices, who were dance majors,” bella said. “In addition to giving the students the opportunity to perform and rehearse alongside working professionals, whenever possible, they would go on tour with us.”

In 2004, the concept came to fruition. Since its inception, apprentices have performed throughout Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia, Washington D.C., Boston, Michigan, California and Texas.

Along with travel opportunities, an annual performance in the university’s Albig Studio Theatre is a regular item on the company’s schedule. These performances offer free admission for audience members.

“Quite a few dance departments around the country have student dance companies; very few have professional companies in residence,” bella said.

The universities that have profession companies do not usually involve students, she said.

In contrast, bella sees Radford University as the company’s home and dance majors are essential for the dbDW’s success. Though they as a group meet once a month, she works with student apprentices between rehearsals.

The company features bella as artistic director, choreographer and dancer. Current members include professional dancers Amy VanKirk, who is an assistant professor of dance at RU, and dance alumni Laura Barber and Kelsy Rupp. The latter two started out as apprentices.

Barber is a longtime member, who has been involved since 2007. This is Rupp’s third year dancing with the company.

Current student apprentices appearing in the anniversary performances include Katie Brown, Shannon Comerford and Ashley Dobrogosz.

Former apprentices are returning, as well. Chelsea Cronin is a guest dancer and will choreograph a piece. Bennett Little is the lighting designer. While at RU, he designed all the lighting for dbDW performances.

In addition, members of colectivo caliban, an artist collective with local singer/songwriter Kat Mills and Richmond based musician John Priestley are part of the performances.

With current members, alumni and student apprentices, the 10th anniversary performances incorporate a combination of both old and new – a remix of sorts, bella said in describing what the audience should expect. Described as contemporary modern dance, the company explores the intersection and interplay of social constructs, movement theories and emerging technologies.

The 10th Anniversary performances of d a n a h b e l l a DanceWorks start at 7:30 p.m. April 27 and 28 at the Albig Studio Theatre in Peters Hall. There is free admission, but seating is limited. For more information about Radford University’s dance program, visit Radford.edu/dance.

Apr 23, 2015