This is festival season in Savannah. One of the newest and most long–awaited entrants into that already–crowded field is the Savannah Dance Festival, which makes its inaugural debut next year.
An important event leading up to the Dance Festival is a combo funds–and–awareness-raising performance this weekend. “Pina with a Twist” actually comprises two nights of dance–related entertainment: The multi–genre show Twist at Savannah Arts Academy Saturday night, and the acclaimed dance documentary Pina in three screenings Sunday at Muse Arts Warehouse.
You can go see one or the other or both, and combo tickets are available at savannahdancefestival.org.
Contributing choreography and performance to the show is a who’s–who of local creative dance talent, including Christine Shawl, Vincent Brousseau, Muriel Miller, Darrell Davis, Elizabeth Newkirk, Trina Dodd and Nora Clark.
Karen Burns, one of the choreographers and dancers in the production — who’s also directing the show — explains the idea behind it.
“The idea of the choreography is that everyone was supposed to be inspired, if even in the tiniest way, by a fairy tale. That’s why it’s called with a ‘Twist’ — it’s a twist on a fairy tale.”
But there’s a larger goal as well.
"We’re hoping to get more people aware of the different types of dance there are in town. We’re not touching on everything. There’s no ballroom and we’re not doing Highlands, or things like that. Those seem to have their own followings,” Burns says.
“But modern, ballet, jazz — the followings for those here seem to be the parents and friends of the people in the shows. We’re trying to change that so that people will come to a program because they’re interested in it, not just because they know someone in the show.”
The Twist show at SAA involves a diverse cast including not only SAA dance majors, but several adult pro dancers as well, including Serguei Chtyrkov, who many local aficionados will recognize from his annual Nutcracker performances.
Burns, who contributes choreography, dances as well. “I’m dancing a little bit, doing some semi–serious dancing and some silly dancing,” she says. “We’re using a huge mix of different techniques, but also we just want to show what you can do with dance. It doesn’t all have to be serious.”
The film Sunday, Pina, is by Academy Award–winning director Wim Wenders and is a loving eulogy to the choreographer Pina Bausch.
While the immediate object of the two events of “Pina with a Twist” is to raise funds to help bring in high–profile dance companies to the Savannah Dance Festival itself, Burns says event organizers share a larger mission of building the dance scene in Savannah at the grassroots level.
“We hope to bring more professional dance to town, in order to create more professional dance in town,” she says. “A lot of times great dance performances will come to town and they’re barely attended. The hope is to change that and it will sort of circle around, and people will go to see things out of town and love that, and then see performances in Savannah.”
While technically this isn’t a Savannah Arts Academy production, the high school is contributing the space and some cast members.
“They’ve been unbelievably supportive by giving us this space, otherwise the show wouldn’t be happening,” says Burns, who teaches classes in conjunction with the SAA dance program.
“I’ve seen the dance program here grow so much, and it would be awesome if some day the people who graduate from here can then go into a company that’s also here,” she says. “So they won’t necessarily have to leave town to get a job.”
When: Sat. Sept. 22, 7 p.m.
Where: Savannah Arts Academy, 500 Washington Ave.
Cost: $15 adult, $10 student
When: Sun. Sept. 23, at 2, 5 & 8 p.m.
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703 Louisville Rd.
Cost: $8 cash