By: Bonnie Williamson
Photos By: Josh Triggs
The famous American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham once said, “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”
A passion for the many forms of dance has been the motivation for a two-day festival of master dance classes and a gala performance, now entering its third year, sponsored by Dance Works. Dance Works is a collaborative effort created by the local dance community and the Berkeley Arts Council, a nonprofit, volunteer organization, devoted to building a vibrant arts community in Berkeley County. The Martinsburg Berkeley County Parks and Recreation board is also a sponsor of this event.
The festival will be held February 26 and 27 at Musselman High School, 126 Excellence Way, Inwood, W.Va. It’s open to beginning, intermediate and advanced students, ages 10 to 18, participating in dance schools and companies. Classes include instruction in ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop and folk dancing. The festival culminates on Saturday at 7 p.m. with a performance by students so they can share their dance pieces with friends and neighbors, says Jane Horst, chairwoman of the Dance Works planning committee and a volunteer at the arts council. Tickets for the Saturday performance are $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for those under 12.
“This is not a competition. It’s an educational experience. We wanted dancers to have another opportunity to be on stage, too. It’s local. They don’t have to travel,” says Horst.
Members of the planning committee responsible for the event are Emily Bernazzoli, director of Dance Dimensions of Hedgesville; Denna Smith, director of Inwood Performing Arts Company; Kat Ward, director of Rhythm ‘n Motion Dance Studio in Martinsburg, and Andrea Kilmer, dance teacher, dance department director and Synergy Dance Ensemble director for Washington High School in Charles Town. Last year’s festival had 122 dancers attending classes with close to 300 people in the audience for the gala performance, says Horst.
“The festival is a great way to unify the dance community in a collaborative educational setting,” says Ward. “Participants can experience different instructors. They can network and just have the joy of dancing, explore other styles. It’s a positive outlet for students. We know how important dance is to young people.”
“We are passing on our passion for dance to others,” says Bernazzoli. Classes will be taught by five dance masters with a wide variety of experience.
Yoav Kaddar, the director of the dance program at West Virginia University, is a graduate of the Julliard School, where he earned a BFA and received the Martha Hill Award for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Dance. He has performed nationally and internationally as a guest artist and has been a member of such modern dance companies as the Jose Limon Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Pilobolus Dance Theatre.
Nicholas Ade trained at San Francisco Ballet School and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He danced with the Pacifi c Northwest Ballet from 1996-2006. He joined Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet as school principal in 2012 then became chief executive office of the company last year. Ade also serves as permanent guest faculty at Ballet Academy East in New York City. He has taught throughout Europe and North America.
Danah Bella received an MFA in Performance from Ohio State University and a BA in Dance from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has performed with the Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, Umoja Dance, Pearl Ubungen Dancers and Musicians, Alleluia Panis Dance Theatre and Dancing Earth. In 2004, she founded Danah bella DanceWorks, a professional contemporary dance company based in Southwest Virginia. Her work has been presented in festivals throughout the country. She is chairwoman and a professor at Radford University in Radford, Va. Rosalynn Miller is the owner and artistic director of Synergy Performing Arts Academy in Canonsburg, Pa. She graduated from Point Park University, Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, Pa. with two dance degrees. Among her experience is serving as a hip hop teacher for an after school program.
Finally, Stephanie Wood, who will teach tap, musical theatre and jazz, is currently appearing at the Riverside Center Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg, Va., in a production of Mame. Wood has performed professionally at numerous theaters and major theme parks. She made her professional performance debut at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. as a dancer. She has taught and choreographed several genres of dance at studios in West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. She has also danced during NFL Halftime Shows and trained under scholarship at the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive, Kirov Academy of Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theater, and American Ballet Theater.
Scholarships will be offered to students participating in the festival. Danah Bella will hold auditions for a scholarship at Radford University’s summer dance camp program. Two scholarships will be available at the West Virginia University summer dance program, and Dance Works will offer four free tuition waivers for next year’s festival.
Horst says watching the young dancers at the gala performance last year was exciting and impressive.
“I was backstage for several of the last numbers. What I remember standing backstage was how effortless and graceful the dancers moved across the stage on pointe for a ballet number. And as they came off back stage, I could hear them catching their breath, and saw how hard they worked to make it look easy. They are athletes in their own right,” she says.
Malinda Shaver, president of the Berkeley Arts Council, says the Dance Works festival is one more way the council promotes the arts in the Eastern Panhandle.
“It is an objective of the Berkeley Arts Council to support and encourage all forms of art in our community and to increase public awareness of the talent and resources available here,” she says.
Wayne Dyer, self-help author and motivational speaker, sums up the attitude of the Dance Works festival organizers best in the quote, “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”
For more information on the festival, go to the website at www.berkeleyartswv.org.