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Inaugural Dance Festival Provides Opportunity for W&L Students

The Route 11 Dance Festival occurring May 5–10 in Lexington, Va., will provide a special opportunity for students at Washington and Lee University to manage the event and work directly with a nonprofit arts organization.

In a Spring Term class, the W&L students will study all aspects of arts administration, including the innovative challenges and solutions facing arts administrators, financial practices, organizational structures, production coordination, house and backstage management, strategic planning, marketing, public relations and volunteerism. Leading the class is Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance at W&L and artistic director of the W&L Repertory Dance Company.

The festival will take place in W&L’s Warner Athletic Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts and is produced by Fine Arts in Rockbridge (FAIR). It is the brainchild of Erik Jones, a member of W&L’s Class of 1991, the executive director of FAIR and a former marketing director at Oregon Ballet Theatre in Portland. Jones wants to move the nonprofit into becoming more of a presenting organization that raises money to grant to local artists.

The festival will showcase local, regional and world-class dance. Participating guest artists include the much-celebrated Dance Theatre of Harlem, which will perform with the Rockbridge Symphony, and the Trey McIntyre Project, a contemporary ballet company named for its founder, one of the most sought-after choreographers working today. A gala concert will feature dancers from companies across the United States, including Pacific Northwest Ballet (Seattle), Shen Wei Dance Arts (New York City), Miami City Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance (Chicago), The Washington Ballet, Keigwin + Company (New York City) and Oregon Ballet Theatre, among others.

“The festival gives local residents the opportunity to experience in Lexington artists they’d otherwise need to travel to New York City or the Kennedy Center to see,” said Jones.

“I wanted to take advantage of all these amazing artists being in town,” said Davies. “My class will work administratively on all the performances because I want them to meet the artists, see them perform and get in-depth experience working backstage and administratively on the professional concerts.”

The W&L dance students will also produce two performances as part of the festival. The first, “Celebrating Main Street,” will consist of works presented by studios from Charlottesville, Roanoke, Staunton, Lynchburg, Buena Vista and Lexington. “Writing the Body” will be performed by collegiate dancers representing schools from around the state. A member of the artistic staff from Trey McIntyre Project will be in the audience for the college performances to give her critical response as part of a choreographic feedback session following the shows.

“We have three dance studios in Lexington and Buena Vista, which is a lot for two small towns, as well as impressive music ensembles such as the Rockbridge Symphony,” said Jones. “The festival will celebrate the abundant art that we have in our own community and produce it side by side with the outside work.”

Jones expects to attract audiences from across the Mid-Atlantic area. He chose the name “Route 11” because, aside from being a local landmark, it is the only non-interstate highway in the country that touches both north and south borders, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. “I think the name evokes a sense of travel that comes both from within the community and from the outside,” he said.

For further information, go to http://www.route11dance.org/.