GREENSBORO — Jan Van Dyke would have beamed at the sight.
The NC Dance Festival that Van Dyke co-founded will come to town Saturday, as the inaugural event in a new venue that the modern dance virtuoso helped make possible.
The Van Dyke Performance Space in the downtown Greensboro Cultural Center will host the 26th annual festival, a showcase of modern dancers and choreographers from across the state.
The Greensboro-based nonprofit Dance Project, which Van Dyke led until her death in July 2015, organizes the festival. This year’s tour already has made stops in Raleigh and Boone.
Now, festival dancers from Greensboro and beyond will bring new and repertory works to a venue created with Van Dyke’s $1 million gift before she died of cancer.
“I think she would have been delighted,” said Danielle Kinne of Greensboro, who has choreographed a new work with a local theme that she will premiere. “This theater has been a long-time dream of hers.”
Van Dyke’s presence will be felt. The performance will show rare video footage of her performing a lively solo, part of her 1977 “Fleetwood Mac Suite.”
Her protégés discovered it in the archives of George Washington University, where Van Dyke received her master’s degree.
For a quarter-century, the festival found a performance stage at UNC-Greensboro, where Van Dyke taught dancers for 23 years.
“We really value the long relationship we have had — and continue to have — with UNCG,” said Anne Morris, who now leads the Dance Project with Lauren Trollinger Joyner. “Having the support of the Dance Department as a presenting partner was crucial to the growth and success of the festival over the years.”
Van Dyke often lamented the lack of an appropriate dance performance space outside of UNCG.
Her gift enabled ArtsGreensboro and the city to expand the cultural center’s former ground-floor rehearsal hall into a 7,500-square-foot venue with movable seating that can hold 200 to 400-plus patrons.
With the venue, Dance Project creates more of a home base for itself in the cultural center, which also houses its studios and offices.
Performing downtown in the new venue will give dance and the festival a more visible local presence.
“It’s important to us to be cultivating audience members in the wider community, and the new space helps us do that,” Morris said.
The NC Dance Festival supports creation of new choreography and the presentation of high-quality repertory, as well as strengthening relationships among dancers and educating the public about modern and contemporary dance.
It will feature works by artists from other cities: Renay Aumiller and Kristi Vincent Johnson of Durham, E.E. Balcos and Eric Mullis of Charlotte, and Lindsay Kelley Brewer of Asheville.
Greensboro performers add a local flair.
The Van Dyke Dance Group will perform a trio, “Full Circle,” the first dance that Van Dyke choreographed after moving to Greensboro in 1989.
Alexandra Joy Warren of Greensboro has choreographed a solo, “Fit the Description,” to be performed by Emmanuel Mallette.
Kinne will premiere “Greensboro Moves.”
To gather material, Kinne, four professional dancers and high school Dance Project students went into the community.
They interviewed people at events about how they move through the city.
“Do they drive, walk, ride bikes?” Kinne said. “Do they have a favorite place to go?
“Because Greensboro is in the middle of Raleigh and Winston, there is a lot of passing through Greensboro to go to another place, or going somewhere else and stopping here,” Kinne said. “There is a lot of crossing paths, a lot of commuting that happens from Greensboro.”
Kinne and dancers brought the information back to the studio, and used it to create movement in an eight-minute work.
“It’s kind of like a scene at the park or coffee shop,” Kinne said at a rehearsal.
Local musician Nicholas Rich will compose music for the performance.
Dancers will wear denim shirts to recognize Wrangler’s presence in the city.
Their pants will be primary colors, inspired by the colorful lights on the Greene Street Parking Garage.
Dance Project received a $4,700 grant from Spark Grant from Action Greensboro and Downtown Greensboro Inc. to finance Kinne’s work.
Kinne is pleased with the result.
“For me, in any work that I make, my hope is that someone leaves there with some kind of impression or thought,” Kinne said. “It’s never, ‘I want you to think this when you leave,’ but I want to have something that lingers with them, to make them think about a work or something that they remember that happened throughout the work.”
“I hope that people see a little bit of Greensboro,” she said.