A winter dance celebration

Dancing People Company, a Rogue Valley modern dance company, will present "Sun Standing Still," its second annual Winter Solstice Performance and Community Dance. The event, a music and dance celebration of the year's longest night, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday Dec. 20 and Friday, Dec. 21, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland.

Over 30 of the area's finest dancers and musicians will perform. At the show's end, the stage opens up to the audience, who are invited to join the cast in a celebratory open dance, with music chosen specially for the night by Ken Becker.

Dancing People Company's artistic directors Robin Stiehm and Peggy Paver conceptualized the evening and worked with the artists to create an event that represents the transition from darkness to light that begins with the Solstice. Beginning with haunting Icelandic singing by Vanessa Nowitzky, the show moves to aerial dance that incorporates a single-point trapeze and allows the dancers to move freely between the floor and the air. Dancing People Company's company dancers provide the "Awakening" section of the evening, with seamless modern dance partnering, performed to music of Bohemian Soul. Groups from Dancing People Company's classes and workshops present dances celebrating the support of community through long nights, and the return of spring, and Alonzo Moore of Dancing People Company performs the African Machete Dance to cut away winter.

The performance concludes with "Unit(y)", the women's quartet. This physical, invigorating piece represents four sides of one person coming together to create a whole. "Unit(y)" acts as a metaphor for the coming together of community &

a theme that is carried further by the open dance at the end of the show where the audience spills onto the stage to join the dancing.Performers include Dancing People Company's dancers: Emily Abrahams, Veronica DeWitt, Heather Klopchin and Moore; Bohemian Soul: Inger Jorgensen and Jeff Pevar; Ryan Camara of Denbaya West African Drumming; Liz Finnegan; Lizz LoPresti; Nowitzky; and many other dancers ranging in age from 10 to 60.

Stiehm formed Dancing People Company in 1994. Stiehm has performed professionally for more than 35 years, dancing everything from the ballet classics to the most cutting-edge modern work created for her by nationally renowned choreographers. She has been recognized by the Minneapolis City Pages as "Best Choreographer" for two years. She attained funding from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. In 2000, Stiehm was the recipient of the Bush Foundation's Artist Fellowship.

Dancing People Company relocated to the Rogue Valley in 2002. In 2005 Paver joined the company as co-artistic director, bringing more than 17 years experience in choreography, dance education and community building to the company. Paver has a BA in communication and an MA in dance from the University of Arizona. Her master's thesis was the brainchild for a partnership between Tucson Unified School District, the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall, and local artists that grew into the Tucson Arts Connections program. This program is currently recognized by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was the recipient of the 1999 Arizona Governor's Arts Education award. Paver has also studied and performed with collaborative-based dance companies including Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Washington D.C.; David Dorfman Dance, and Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Co., New York. Paver was a senior choreographer of ZUZI Dance Company and the director of University High School's dance program in Tucson.

Dancing People Company has performed at the Craterian Theater, the Mountain Avenue Theatre, the "In Celebration of the Human Spirit" concerts, and last year's first Winter Solstice Performance. The company also toured throughout Eastern Europe and Japan. The company also tours in the Pacific Northwest, conducts school residency programs throughout the Rogue Valley, and maintains a dance school in Ashland. Before moving to Oregon, Dancing People Company performed extensively in its original home of Minnesota.

The Winter Solstice Performance and Community Dance project is made possible in part with support from the City of Ashland, and from the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Tickets are $15 and $10 for children 12 and under.Call 941-6282.

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