Dance Northwest celebrated National Dance Week at Lane last Saturday, May 3 by gathering regional dance groups to perform at their 9th annual Down 4 It event in the Ragozzino Performance Hall.
The event raised money for the Lane Dance Foundation, which helps serious dancers pay for tuition and attend national and international conferences and events.
Anita Sanford, co-founder, director and Lane dance instructor of 14 years, established the group with Kim Ely in 2005.
“We had a group of dancers, and then we just bonded through our passion for dance and decided to take it to the stage,” Sanford said.
The group produced Saturday’s event and invited guest companies from Eugene, Springfield and Prineville. The performing ensembles included: Dance Northwest, D2, Sixx, High Desert Dance Arts, Gotta Dance Tap Company, ZAPP, Urban Pulse and The Prestige Sr., Work Dance Company, Flex and Pointe Performance Group, King’s Krew, and the Lance Dance Company.
The auditorium was nearly full as the first group of dancers took the stage. The audience’s excitement was audible with hoots and hollers; during the show a few dancers echoed back through the darkness, encouraging the energy. The event had a blend of hip-hop, modern, jazz, tap and burlesque. The costumes ranged from sneakers with stocking caps to tiaras with tulling.
“I like the formations, and the duet was stunning!” Lane dance student Angela Chan said. She gestured a thumbs up for the choreography.
The duet mentioned was performed by hip hop group D2, entitled “I Got a Dollah” featuring dancers Megan Panos and Nicco PeBenito.
The event was to benefit the Lane Dance Foundation which has touched the lives of many local dancers, including current members of Dance Northwest, through its scholarship fund.
Gina Knox, Northwest Dance member, found her passion for dance at age 17 through a ballet class and was hooked. Knox initially started her dance career at Lane when she met dance director Bonnie Simoa.
Knox was then offered a talent grant from the Lane Dance Foundation bringing the event full circle for her. Knox has been dancing in the group for about a year and calls it much more than a dance company.
“In this company the amount of collaboration and community is incredible … we’re like family. They would do anything for me and I would do anything for them,” Knox said.
Gina Evans, Dance Northwest member for three years, started her dance career at Lane before transferring to the UO.
“I love Lane. Coming to Lane first was one of the best decisions ever,” Evans said.
The lights went up for intermission and people stood to stretch. After a few minutes, circus-themed characters filled the hall from all sides. A mermaid sat on stage along with the ringmaster as a bearded woman, mime and other characters streamed in from the lobby entrances.
The audience held its energy throughout the second act with more hollering and shout-outs, and the performers reciprocated.
Cole Brown, Dance Northwest member since August 2013, met Sanford by taking her Hip Hop course at Lane. Brown has been inspired by the group’s strong bond and Sanford’s passion for the art of dance.
“I love her artistic ability and she pushes us to become artists, not just dancers,” Brown said.
The company will celebrate a decade of shows in 2015. Sanford is already thinking about next year, but was trying to hold off at least until Monday, after wrapping up this year’s show.
Dance Northwest’s next performance will be at Lane for the Eugene Dance Factory’s recital, Saturday, May 31.