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American Dance Festival offers plenty for kids, teens

The modern dance festival, now in its 78th year, features special matinees for kids, kids' parties, a community day and free tickets for kids to the festival's evening performances. It starts this week.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
The American Dance Festival, now in its 78th year, opens this week in Durham.

And while parental discretion is advised for a  few of the many performances planned during the six-week-long festival (see below for more on that), there's still plenty planned just for kids.

The festival, featuring modern dance, started 78 years ago at Bennington College in Vermont. It moved to Durham in 1978 and now brings top-rated dance companies from around the world to the Triangle.

Modern dance, one of the few art forms that originated in the United States, can especially appeal to kids because it allows for experimentation, says Corin Kane, the festival's marketing and communications coordinator. They can figure out on their own how to move like a tree or an animal.

"They get to be as open and creative as they want to be," Kane said. "There’s no right or wrong."

And for older kids who are glued to TV shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance" or "America's Best Dance Crew" on MTV, Kane said they might recognize a few of the moves from the dancers featured during the festival.

"You're going to find tidbits of that everywhere in this season," she tells me.

The festival features Saturday matinees, kids' parties, a community day and free tickets for kids for the festival's evening performances.

Here's what's planned:

  • Saturday matinees: The festival offers three one-hour matinees designed for kids at the Durham Performing Arts Center. They're just long enough to keep the kids "enthralled and excited," Kane tells me. They are best probably for kids up to 14 or 15. Evidence, A Dance Company, and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 25; the very popular Pilobolus is set for 1 p.m. July 2; and the Paul Taylor is scheduled for 1 p.m. July 23. Individual tickets are $17 each. You get 25 percent off if you buy tickets to all three matinees, bringing the total down to $35 for all three.
  • ADF Community Day: The free event at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke is from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 25 after that day's matinee. You'll find puppets from the Paperhand Puppet Intervention; Wool E. Bull; an African drum and dance workshop; and crafts from the Scrap Exchange.
  • Kids' Parties: After the Saturday matinees on July 2 and July 23, the DPAC Plaza will feature more family-friendly activities including juggling, live drumming, cupcakes and more.
  • Kids Nights Out: Kids ages 6 to 16 are invited to any evening festival performance for free with the purchase of a regular-priced adult ticket. Tickets for the evening performances range from $21 to $53 depending on the show and where you sit. And this is where the discretion comes in. Some of the programs contain adult themes and nudity. Kane tells me parents should pay close attention to the Yossi Berg and Oded Gras performance which contains adult content and the Bill T. Jones performance which contains some nudity. Parents also should be aware that the evening Pilobolus performance contains full nudity. While Kane says parents can make their own decisions, she said the Pilobolus evening performance is probably not great for kids under 15. Pilobolus' July 2 matinee is completely family friendly and very popular.

So there you have it. The American Dance Festival is ramping up some of its community outreach programs and was just at Marbles Kids Museum last weekend for a program. Kane tells me the program is growing and is planning another session at Marbles in July. Stay tuned for more on that.

And for complete information about all of the festival's children's programs and to buy tickets, check out the festival's website.

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