Wine and Dance 2014 – enjoying an evening in the Charlotte cultural scene

Charlotte, NC is known as a hub of many things: Finance – Wells Fargo, Bank of America and BB&T to name just a few; Sports teams – Panthers/football, Checkers/hockey (yes, hockey), Knights/baseball and NASCAR (many of the top drivers and owners live in the area).

What many people may not know is that Charlotte also boasts a thriving cultural scene.  Off Broadway shows, Opera, Symphony, local theater troupes, and of course, dancing are just some of the many things that we have the opportunity to attend.

Recently I had a chance to enjoy an evening of “Wine and Dance”, an annual event presented by the Moving Poets, one of our professional contemporary dance troupes.  What makes the Moving Poets troupe so different is that they were the first in Charlotte to feature live actors, who usually played a minor role in helping deliver the story to the audience.

We see this concept of mixing acting, music and dance mostly in musicals, where the actor plays a character that has mostly speaking parts, but then at some point they bring in songs and even dancing to enhance the story.  Moving Poets took this concept and reversed it.  The dancing was the primary story telling device, while the actor was used sparingly to enhance the dancing presentation.

This year’s Wine and Dance event was dedicated to “Love”.  It featured seven performances choreographed by five Charlotte dancers.  There were some standouts that I found were very engaging and I would like to take a moment to tell you about them.

The first presentation that really stood out was called “Grey Space”, choreographed and performed by Arlynn Zachary.  It was described as being “An abstract look at the inner-reflections that we become aware of when experiencing affection towards someone who we keep at a distance.”

It feature live music that include a Djembe drum and a keyboard.  What I was most impressed with was the way the three artists (dancer and two musicians) worked so well together.  The combination was very enchanting.  Arlynn used a mix of aggressive tribal moments mixed with reflective modern dance moments.

The second presentation that was very well done was called “Third Chance”, choreographed by Audrey Baran.  This performance included 10 dancers, the largest group of the evening.  What made it stand out was the transition and flow of constant movement between all of the dancers.  The theme was described as “Should I stay or should I go” and timing was a key part of making the whole thing work as the performance had the dancers use three suitcases as props.  Someone was constantly putting something in a suitcase, or taking something out of a suitcase.  The suitcases were up in the air, then down on the ground, then back in the air, there was just constant movement the entire time.  A really well thought out routine and every girl was featured, which can be hard to do properly.

The last one I will mention here was another performance choreographed by Arlynn Zachary called “Figure 8”.   What was most interesting about this dance was that folding chairs were involved.  This was one of the hardest performances of the evening and also one of the most athletic.  Arlynn used the chair to help her perform many different balancing feats, and she mixed in some modern dance pieces to tie the whole thing together.  This was one of those “got to see it to believe it” performances.   A true testament to her abilities as an athlete and performer.

I realize that modern dance may not be for everyone, but the Moving Poets always seem to be innovative in what they elect to put out on the stage.  This is what makes them so exciting to watch, you can expect them to push the envelope and put out an outstanding performance every time.   If you get a chance, check them out here.

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