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Dance Spectrum returns

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Sopris Sun Staff Report

Dance Initiative’s Spectrum Dance Festival returns to Carbondale on Sept. 16-18, with performances at Carbondale Middle School and workshops at the Launchpad.

Now in the festival’s fifth year, highlights will include:

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• A performance by the Boulder-based Grass Roots Project, founded by nationally acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris (Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.);

• “Local Color,” a performance of original work by local dance artists and Dance Initiative Artists In Residence Alya Howe, Meg Madorin and Laura Ann Samuelson (Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.).

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Dance Initiative founder and Executive Director Peter Gilbert began the Spectrum Dance Festival five years ago as a means to both host performances by regional dance artists, and entertain, educate and develop awareness and appreciation for the diversity of the dance arts.

Workshops will include: Zimbabwean Dance with Rujeko Dumbutshena, an original ensemble member in the Broadway musical production of “FELA!,” Argentine Tango with former Joffrey Ballet company member Cindy Gottlob and her partner Sean Ericson; Youth Hip-Hop Proper; Contemporary Mix Up (blending contemporary dance with street dance); Nia; and Site Specific Dance Making. For a full schedule of workshops and to register, go to

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The Spectrum Dance Festival has evolved over the years and once included a regional BBoy/Girl Competition, called “Battle to the Drums.” Dance Initiative’s years of meeting and working with Front Range breakdance artists introduced Dance Initiative to  Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris, the founder and artistic director of the Grass Roots Project based in Boulder. Harris is best known for founding Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1992, a hip-hop dance theater company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture. Since then he has received several accolades, including the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, the Governor’s Arts Award, a United States Artist Fellowship, and an honorary doctorate from Bates College. Grass Roots Project is his most recent venture and takes on social and political issues inspired by the culture and style of the West Coast, reclaiming the universality of hip-hop narratives through a community focus and a diverse ensemble of dancers. On Sept. 17, Grass Roots will perform Harris’s work “Beautiful Human Lies,” which is a suite of works inspired by the personal abuse Harris witnessed as a child. “While this work is touching, beautiful and culturally rich, it does include violent imagery and explicit language that may not be suitable for young children,” said a Spectrum Dance Festival spokeswoman. Tickets are $15 online, $20 at the door, and youth are free when accompanied by an adult.

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A culmination

Since 2009, Dance Initiative has been dedicated to supporting local dancers in their professional and artistic development. Out of this effort, a local dance collective — CoMotion: a conscious movement project — was created to better organize serious dancers, foster collaboration and encourage creation of original choreography. In “Local Color” on Sept. 16, members of CoMotion and the community will perform original works by Meagan Shapiro, Dana Ellis, Deborah and Colley, as well as work by Howe, Madorin and Samuelson.

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A variety of festival passes are available at

Dance Initiative is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, based in Carbondale, dedicated to promoting the art of dance of all different styles and serving the needs of experienced students of dance, choreographers and teachers of dance.

Published in The Sopris Sun on September 8, 2016.

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