Dancing in the park: Wake Forest's inaugural dance festival brings art outdoors

Masha Dashkina Maddux is the festival director. // Photo by Maksym Kolotyn. Masha Dashkina Maddux is the festival director. // Photo by Maksym Kolotyn.
Wake Forest Dance Festival.
Masha Maddux. // Photo by Brigid Pierce.

As a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company, Masha Maddux danced on stages across the globe. So what upcoming performance location is she excited for right now?

That would be E. Carroll Joyner Park in Wake Forest, during the inaugural Wake Forest Dance Festival that Maddux is organizing on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The all-day, outdoor festival is free to the public (bring a seat and a snack!) and features Triangle dance students and professional dancers. It’s dedicated to late Wake Forest dance instructor Betty Hunt Holding, who performed with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes before moving to the town after World War II.

Professional performers include Gaspard&Dancers and Renay Aumiller Dances (both Durham-based), former Martha Graham Dance Company principal Miki Orihara performing Graham’s “Lamentation” and Maddux in a solo.

Even the evening concert’s rehearsal, which starts at 10 a.m. that morning, is open to spectators – and they’re encouraged to ask questions. For organizer Maddux, that’s its beauty.

“It’s a different way to experience dance that’s not in a chair in a theater with a ticket,” she said. “We’re also trying to appeal to a wider range of audience members. ‘I’m extremely thrilled’ doesn’t even describe it, to have the opportunity to bring this level of performance to the community.”

In 2007, Maddux joined the Martha Graham Dance Company, where she performed major roles like the Bride in Graham’s time-honored “Appalachian Spring.” After leaving the company in 2016, she moved to Wake Forest. Maddux loves the idea of raising her 2-year-old son in the town with a population of 40,000 — but the limited nature of the dance community was new to her.

She answered ArtsNow’s questions while in Charlotte preparing for a performance with dance collective Movement Migration (who will also be at the festival!).

Q&A with Masha Maddux below

Wake Forest Dance Festival
Dancers of Destiny Dance Institute will perform at the festival. // Photo by Georfe Randy Bass.

Q: Where did the idea for the dance festival originate?

A: I was doing some soul-searching, trying to figure out how do I and my talent fit into this community. I went to [E. Carroll Joyner Park] and was literally infected with this idea. It’s been a humbling experience learning how much it takes to put on a show.

I approached Wake Forest ARTS [and] asked them, ‘Would you come on this adventure with me?’ They have been an incredible help to get this project off the ground, and they are a sponsor for this event. We have five different dance schools participating and also Meredith College, their dance department as well. Thirteen professionals are coming to perform. It’s a much larger scope for the project than I envisioned.

Q: What can visitors expect from the first two events of the day?

A: The first part, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., we as dancers need to use the space for a technical rehearsal. Come grab your coffee, watch and ask questions, because we will have a Q&A section.

The second part of the day is in three parts. At 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. we will have a walking tour of the park grounds. They are gorgeous. We are trying to bring dance outside from the typical theater setting and put it out in the grass. [You] see one piece and migrate to another spot to see something else. We have a Krump dancer who’s doing amazing things in the Wake Forest dance community [and] tap dancers.

Q: Tell us about the festival concert that starts at 5 p.m.

A: We’ll put the schools and Meredith College at the beginning of the performance, then feature professionals we brought in who are performing for us.

Former dancer Manuel Barriga with the Carolina Ballet and his wife Mayerlin Muñoz are premiering a duet. These two have always wanted to dance together but never had an opportunity — it’s very romantic.

Q: Why are you excited to be performing the solo ‘Serenata Morisca?’

A: [It] was a piece that Graham herself became famous for because she would perform it at Greenwich Village Follies. It was a piece that put her on the map, in a way. It was choreographed by Ted Shawn, her mentor and teacher. … It’s coquettish. … It’s a hard piece, only three minutes long.

Q: What should people know about “Lamentation?”

A: Graham later took a more wild turn and no longer wanted to perform inconsequential entertainment. “Lamentation” is about grief and personifies grief and how a person deals with devastation. It’s just a beautiful piece and why I encourage people to watch it [during the 10 a.m. rehearsal] because it does strike harder and closer to home when you see it more than once.

Q: How will being at the festival be different from a more traditional experience in a theater?

A: I started dancing because my mom took me to a dance performance when I was three and a half. I was so touched I was hysterically crying because that was something that I wanted to do. My mom had to take me out of the theater. We’re taking the walls off so if the kids want to stand up and dance, they’re not restricted by certain rules. I would love to present this opportunity for someone to get inspired.

Wake Forest Dance Festival

Where: E. Carroll Joyner Park, 701 Harris Rd, Wake Forest,
When: Saturday, Sept. 30; events begin at 10 a.m.

Schedule (see website for description of each) 

10 a.m. – Technical rehearsal
1 to 4 p.m. – Tour in Motion
5 p.m. – Festival concert

In case of inclement weather, the festival will move indoors to Franklin Academy of Wake Forest.


Want to keep up with what's up in the Triangle?
Sign up for our newsletter.