July 31, 2008
Photo courtesy of ALBAN ELVED
When dancer/choreographer Karola Luttringhaus left New York City to follow her husband to Wilmington, the Berlin-born performing artist had no intention of retreating into a quiet life by the sea. A month after she moved here, she launched a dance festival that brought in professional dancers from around the world to perform in seemingly spontaneous spots all over town.
The guerilla-style approach to her work is rooted in a strong belief in making art accessible to everyone. That is why beginning Monday locals might bump into modern dancers at Independence Mall or African drummers at the Burgaw train depot. The idea behind the Sarus Dance Festival is to expose more people to professional dance and movement.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, come to this theater, sit down, pay, and watch,’ we bring performances to people where they already are,” Luttringhaus said.
Luttringhaus’ choreography sends her New York City-based dance company, alban elved, aloft, literally. The athletic dancers perform aerial feats, one in which they will rappel off Johnny Mercer Pier. The beach, which Luttringhaus sees as one of Wilmington’s most valuable natural resources, has inspired her.
“The beach is such a beautiful place. That’s why I said we should do something that has a strong, site-specific aspect,” she said. “You can use the beautiful sites there – the natural landscape, the water.”
Like the ocean, art can be seen as adding value to a community and increasing the quality of life. By offering classes for people of all skill levels, Luttringhaus hopes to break down the barriers and perpetuate a value of the arts.
“I don’t know why people are so scared of dance. They’re afraid that they don’t get it or something. There’s nothing to worry about,” she said.
The namesake of the festival is the Sarus crane, an endangered six-foot-tall bird from northern India. During the festival, Luttringhaus and her dancers will fly a 35-foot wide crane kite in honor of the Sarus, whose Sanskrit name means “water, lake, or wetland.”
“I think that our works, although they are rooted in dance, they’re not for dance audiences in that sense,” Luttringhaus said. “They’re visual, like visual art. The sounds, the music is from strange to gorgeous to new.”
This year, the Sarus festival will partner with Wilmington Unplugged, the monthly local and regional music symposium at the Water Street Restaurant for a night of music and dance followed by a dance party.
In one of her pieces titled Trucks, a white F-150 pick-up truck holds as prominent of a presence on stage as the dancers, who move in, on, and around it. “I wanted to make a piece that could be driven anywhere. We can take our stage, our prop with us, basically,” she said.
Her plans for the festival are growing.
“This year we’re making it bigger by going to Burgaw and Carolina Beach and other places and next year hopefully, Southport. So we have Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties,” she said.
But most importantly her goal is to foment creative energy. “With the festival, I hope that we’ll make something move and make a big wave in this town,” she said.