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Recap: Woodbury hosts annual dance festival

Crash Dance Productions ended their dance at the Minnesota Dance Festival with a pose where the six dancers are connected and still. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Crash Dance Productions is a Twin Cities-based contemporary dance company. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Jennifer Pray is a choreographer, dancer and yoga teacher. She included elements of singing into her solo performance. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Ballet Minnesota's second performance in the festival was a traditional ballet piece with pointed shoes, white leotards and tutus. Rachel Fergus/RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Ballet Minnesota had two dances in the festival. The first, and the dance that opened the show, was an original piece. The dance focused on a girl in a boarding school and her strange dream. Dancers of all ages participated as animals, trolls and more. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

Eight dance companies shared the stage Friday, May 10, during the opening night of 31st annual Minnesota Dance Festival. Though planned and hosted by Ballet Minnesota, the majority of the acts were contemporary — tutus and leotards replaced with athletic shorts and T-shirts.

Taylor Huber, executive director of Ballet Minnesota and the festival, explained that this was the first time the show was held in Woodbury but Ballet Minnesota is no stranger to the city.

"Our classical ballet academy has a satellite school in Woodbury and we've been in that area for almost 20 years. So it's great that we get to kind of be on our home turf."

Ballet Minnesota started the Friday night show at the Loft Stage in East Ridge High School with an original piece, "Nightmare Adventures of the Ballerina Girls."

The dance was about a student, Chloe, in a boarding school. The first section followed Chloe and her fellow classmates who were playing when they were supposed to be getting ready for bed. The second half was Chloe's nightmare. This dream sequence allowed for dancers of all ages to participate. The youngest played little closet monsters. They danced about the stage and bounced together in a line. Other students were night mites, trolls and night wraiths.

The original piece was well done and showed the talent of dozens of students.

The program told audience members the lineup of the performances but it was still a bit jarring to go from ballet to Crash Dance Productions' contemporary piece that included a lot of rolling on the ground (Crash Dance gave a wonderful performance. Their use of lighting added drama to the beauty of the piece). Once the initial shock of moving from one genre to another wore off, the contrast was refreshing.

Audience members did not get bored of a dance style because once one group was finished, another group with a different dance style would begin. Between Ballet Minnesota's performance of the classic "Lay Bayadere" and Mankato Ballet's scene from "A Midsummer's Eve," there was a contemporary solo performance.

Huber was deliberate in inviting a variety of companies.

"I think a lot of audiences around the metro, they want to see not just ballet, they want to see contemporary ... your different styles."

Two individual performances added more variety to the show. Aaron Davies, a Ballet Minnesota company dancer, performed a solo piece to an original song by his father, Scott Mateo Davies, a guitarist. Scott Davies played the song on stage while his son danced. Jennifer Pray gave a contemporary solo piece that included vocals.

The rest of the festival included A/Collective, a contemporary group from the Twin Cities, Keane Sense of Rhythm (tap dancing) and a crowd favorite, Cheremosh.

Cheremosh is a Ukranian dance company that performs ethnic dances from the country while wearing traditional clothing. The crowd began clapping and cheering as the group performed the technically challenging Hopak.

Like those crowded into the Loft Stage auditorium, Huber enjoys the annual event.

"I always like Dance Festival because I feel like it's a perfect smorgasbord of all-things dance."