By Emily Yewell Volin.
Atlanta Dance Connections’ professional dancers have well-trained, chiseled bodies of various shapes and sizes and the audacious performance energy to match their physiques. These attributes are helping the twelve year old contemporary dance company gain recognition in the Atlanta dance community, which is primarily known for its ballet and modern companies. Dance Informa spoke with Artistic Director Allyne D. Gartrell following one of the company’s June performances of The Fresh Allure.
Gartrell shared that ADC’s mission is that “freedom of expression is a humanistic quality, which allows us the opportunity to explore a realm of artistic possibilities.” Gartrell’s dedication to freedom of expression stems from his desire to be open “to anyone who has something viable to say and to share with other people. It’s become so stereotypical with what dancers are supposed to look like. We’re very excited that we’ve been able to gather a group of artists that are all from diverse backgrounds and who are all shapes and sizes, because none of that dictates your professionalism. It’s about being able to cultivate that class that you have, that gift that you have, and being in an environment where professionalism is always nurtured regardless of age or any of that. It’s about learning the art and learning the professionalism of the business.”
Allyne is a native Atlantan with over 25 years of teaching and performance experience. His Atlanta roots combined with his experiences as a dancer with Joel Hall Dance Theatre, Ballet Wisconsin, City Ballet Theatre and as a lead male dancer for the internationally known Dayton Contemporary Dance Company have earned him a reputation in performance, teaching and coaching. “The type of work we are doing and the caliber of work we are doing is exciting for young dancers in Atlanta – they have not had this type of avenue to go down in such a long time. We have not had a resident professional contemporary dance company in the city. We were missing out on a lot of wonderful exposure to the concert community. I felt it was my time to bring that back to my home city where I know there is an abundance of talent but not an opportunity.”
Classical ballet is at the root of Atlanta Dance Connection’s training. Allyne shares, “growing up in Atlanta, ballet and jazz were what was accessible. And, if you didn’t take ballet, you couldn’t take jazz! Ballet was always first and foremost.” Gartrell later trained in Dunham, African Dance, Graham, Horton and other techniques. All of this movement training adds texture to the work he creates and commissions for ADC. “We are a unique bridge between classical ballet and African dance, because we can do all the stuff in between.”
ADC has a full concert season with three public concerts, national and international touring and extensive rehearsals three days a week. Furthermore, dancers have access to massage therapists, Pilates instructors, and guest artists in order to fulfill Gartrell’s commitment to “do the work we need to do to help keep these dancers in the best shape and moving toward the goal of being excellent artists.”
ADC has cultivated strong community ties and Allyne is dedicated to serving a community that served him. Gartrell shares, “My first introduction to classical ballet was through an initiative that the Atlanta Ballet had to expose young African-American children to the world of classical ballet. Without a program such as that, I would have never had the opportunity to even be exposed to classical ballet.” In support of that commitment to serve, Atlanta Dance Connection maintains strong ties with area schools, sending quality instructors in to teach for their programs and providing tickets and other opportunities to children who might not otherwise have access to dance. The service component of Atlanta Dance Connection also guides their attitude for reaching out to Atlanta’s professional dance community. Gartrell adds, “There are so many different dance companies in Atlanta and the Atlanta dance community truly is about bridging the gap and doing collaborations. I love working with artists because they are the only people who speak my language. They understand me and I understand them. We could do so much more doing this work together rather than doing it apart.”
Atlanta Dance Connection is the official professional dance company of the AREA training facility and offers open classes in the facility located within the heart of Atlanta’s Midtown/Buckhead area. Additionally, starting July 15th, ADC is offering a 2-week summer dance intensive at AREA. Registration is ongoing and participants will receive master classes at the youth, pre-professional, or professional level and have the opportunity to set up a time to audition for the company. “We’re bringing in instructors from all over the country to bring fresh perspective to our students,” says Gartrell.