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First DanceBoom! conquers Philadelphia. (Presstime News).

On a warm winter night in January, Nick Stuccio, impresario of the Philadelphia dance scene, stood in the marble gallery of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, modestly accepting recognition at a fund-raising dinner for a brand-new dance event. The posh scene might have seemed ordinary for ballet or opera fans. But the dinner was held on the first night of the inaugural DanceBoom!, an ambitious three-week performance series featuring independent, experimental dance curated by Stuccio and sponsored by Dance Advance, a Pew Charitable Trusts program that works to create a network for under-funded dancer/choreographers.

Many of the companies who performed for the first DanceBoom! are favorites at Stuccio's summer Philadelphia Fringe Festival, where cutting-edge dance and performance arts are the standard. But now, the dancers were about to face an audience in the Wilma Theater, which is better known for presenting great plays such as Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love.

In addition to some Wilma subscribers, notables from all sectors of the Philadelphia dance world turned out on opening night for a program called "Seven," featuring works by a half dozen and one of the area's most innovative choreographers. It was followed by four programs of work from six of the city's strongest independent companies, including Group Motion Company and Paule Turner's newly formed Court. "I wanted to showcase the wealth of dance in Philadelphia. There are so many companies and a great diversity of form here," Stuccio said.

Others now see what he means. Naomi Grabel, managing director of the Wilma, said the festival "has exceeded our expectations. We went in knowing the risks of a first-year festival and weren't sure how to proceed. But the audiences, and certainly the dancers, have been enthusiastic." On most nights of DanceBoom!, in fact, the 296-seat theater was sold out.

Blanka Zizka, co-founding artistic director of the Wilma (along with partner Jiri Zizka) always envisioned her stage as an arena for dance. But until recently the Wilma didn't have the resources to present both theater and multicompany dance festivals like DanceBoom! They had experimented with a few single-company dance events but, "we needed the time to gain strength for other ventures, and we got to that point last year," said Zizka. "Dance Advance at the Pew encouraged us to apply for a grant to do this. And Nick Stuccio was perfect to bring in to curate."

Dancer/choreographer Paule Turner, whose interpretation of Medea in Medea: Love Is the Devil was one of the highlights of the three-week festival, said, "It was a great thing to have that kind of exposure. From the start DanceBoom! was presented as a high-profile event with glossy press materials and focus on the dancers." The festival ended with sales in the 95 percent range and Grabel confirmed that "without a doubt we will be doing this again next year."
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Author:Whittington, Lewis
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
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