Walla Walla celebrates dance with weeklong festival

At the piano, Jackie Wood, left, Walla Walla Dance Festival board member, accompanies Oregon Ballet Theatre performers for a Cole Porter number in 2012.

At the piano, Jackie Wood, left, Walla Walla Dance Festival board member, accompanies Oregon Ballet Theatre performers for a Cole Porter number in 2012. Courtesy photo

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WALLA WALLA — We could have watched them dance all night, but now we get to watch all week.

Festival details

July 20 — 1 p.m. Nobility Mob. Free hip-hop class. Walla Walla YMCA 340 S. Park St. Nobility Mob will teach another hip hop class 5 p.m. Sunday at Valle Lindo, 165 Labor Camp Road.

July 21 — 7 p.m. ODC demo at Charles Smith Wines, 35 S. Spokane St. $10 cover charge.

July 22 — 7 p.m. Grand Festival Performance Open Rehearsal, Cordiner Hall, Whitman College campus, 46 Park St.

July 23 — 2 p.m. Terrific Tuesday with Walla Walla Public Library dance demonstration by Summer Dance Lab at Cordiner Hall. This performance is part of the library’s Terrific Tuesday Program for children.

July 24 — 5 p.m. Nobility Mob. Free hip-hop demo at Land Title Plaza, East Main and First Avenue.

July 24 — 6 p.m. Lorin Latarro Broadway Dancers demo at Seven Hills Winery, 212 N. Third Ave., Wine and food pairing $20

July 26 — 7 p.m. Grand Festival Performance, Cordiner Hall, $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for students and $60 for families.

Tickets are available at Earthlight Books, Whitman Bookstore and online at wwdf.org, or at the door.

For more information visit Walla Walla Dance Festival on the web at wwdf.org or call 509-240-3502

The Walla Walla Dance Festival will host its third season Saturday through July 26, featuring three visiting dance troupes.

The dancers from around the U.S. will perform and teach lessons in Walla Walla, culminating with a performance July 26 at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall.

A special dedication

The dance festival is dedicated in memory of Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero, who died in late June.

According to an article in The Eugene Register-Guard, Amy-Cordero, also known as JC, was a popular principal dancer with the Eugene Ballet Company. A Boston native, he studied with the Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet schools before dancing with the Boston Ballet from 1999-2001. He joined the Eugene Ballet in 2002 and performed in more than 50 ballets.

For the past two seasons he danced in the Walla Walla Symphony production of “The Nutcracker.”

In 2010 he married principal dancer Jennifer Martin. The two have regularly worked with Summer Dance Lab since their marriage, Martin serving her sixth season this year.

Contributions in JC’s memory may be made to the Eugene Ballet Academy Trainee Scholarship Fund, benefiting aspiring pre-professional dancers, c/o Eugene Ballet Company, 1590 Willamette St., Eugene, OR 97401.

The lineup includes Lorin Latarro Dancers of Manhattan, Nobility Mob of Torrance, Calif., and ODC modern dancers of San Francisco.

According to her website, Latarro received her bachelor of fine arts degree from The Juilliard School, has been in 14 Broadway shows and helped choreograph everything from musicals, car and candy commercials to reality shows and TV specials, such as Green Day’s Grammy performance. Latarro also co-wrote an award-winning musical, “The Cosmopolitan.”

Chad Moreau founded returning group Nobility Mob, or NoMo. The group is an assemblage of hip-hop-loving young men. The Walla Walla Dance Foundation website at wwdf.org notes that Nobility Mob strives to “restore the class, integrity, power and nobility that strong male dancers can deliver to the dance community.”

ODC was founded in 1971 at Oberlin College by Brenda Way. Originally named Oberlin Dance Collective, ODC has made its home in San Francisco since 1976 when Way packed up a yellow school bus with all her dancers, male and female.

The troupe has since pioneered in its field, building its own facility housing a dance company, school, theater, gallery and health clinic for dancers. In addition to feats as a dance organization, ODC has been acclaimed around the world for its modern dance with intellectual depth, passion and athleticism.

“The styles of dance this year will be somewhat different,” said festival board member Jackie Wood. “We are not presenting any classical ballet this year; we have not ever had Broadway dancers. That’s a first.”

ODC will perform contemporary ballet with five men, “which is a little different,” Wood said.

Other firsts for the festival include a free class, an open rehearsal and a demonstration at Valle Lindo, formerly known as Farm Labor Homes.

At Charles Smith Wines and Whitehouse-Crawford spectators will learn a little bit about choreography, be able to ask questions and enjoy dancing paired with the food and wine.

The Valle Lindo demonstration is meant to increase exposure to professional dance to people who might not otherwise get a chance to appreciate it. Co-director John Passafiume said the foundation wanted to reach more people and spread the joy that comes with watching dance.

“We wanted to reach different audiences and make the appeal that dance is for everybody, and though people may not like everything, there is something for everyone on the program,” he said. “We are looking to other communities, other audiences that this might appeal to.”

The directors are also pleased about the return of Nobility Mob, which gave a great show last year and performed with confidence and charisma that make it fun to be in the audience, they said.

The lack of exposure to professional dance is part owf the reason Walla Walla Dance Festival came to fruition. Inspired by the more than 40 years of successful Summer Dance Labs in which established professional choreographers from recognized companies are brought to Whitman College to teach local students, Walla Walla Dance Festival seemed achievable.

“For a town that is kind of remote like we are, four or five hours from an urban area, people just don’t get exposed to professional dance,” Wood said. “Professional dance is a whole different endeavor. With SDL going over 40 years — that was the kernel that got us thinking.”

Wood said Walla Walla Dance Festival organizers also have big ideas for the future. They hope to bring dancers in the winter and fall and have them visit the schools, and also are thinking about working with the Walla Walla Symphony or Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival.

“Collaboration is on everyone’s mind,” said Wood.

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