After an impressive 2014–15 debut season that significantly raised the profile of local independent dance, Durham Independent Dance Artists returns with an exciting lineup for 2015–16. Running from October to May, the nine shows include six premieres, seven artists not previously seen on DIDA stages and, for the first time, an international guest.

DIDA bundles works by local independent artists into a season that tracks with the academic presenters’ schedule, helping them build the surface area required to attract audiences. It paid off with many sold-out houses in the first season—no small feat in a region where indie dance more typically attracts small crowds of family and friends.

For the first season, co-founders Lightsey Darst, Nicola Bullock, Justin Tornow and Leah Wilks assembled a run with a technology-infused, theatrical sensibility and a preference for nontraditional spaces. Now they build on that foundation by trying to offer audiences a more curated season and artists a more robust set of support tools.

The season mixes emerging and experienced artists. As knightworks, Durham-based sisters Jessi and Christina Knight premiere Eurydice Descended (Nov. 20 and 21, times and place TBA), their first evening-length work. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is no stranger to dance and theater, but the Knights weave in fresh strands of “Haitian funeral imagery, house music and drag culture.” And Jasmine Powell’s Shadows Chasing Light (April 21 and 22, 8 p.m., PSI Theater), her first full-length performance, blends ensemble movement, music, visual art and the spiritual poetry of Brian Bowers. Killian Manning has been staging dance in the region for decades. She offers Now Boarding … (Feb. 25–28, 8 p.m., Common Ground Theatre), which imagines an airport as “a microcosm of the world.”

Two consecutive performances underscore DIDA’s close relationship with Saxapahaw arts nonprofit Culture Mill. Berlin’s Anja Müller, DIDA’s first international artist, comes by way of a Culture Mill residency. Her solo show, La Mula (Dec. 17 and 18, 8 p.m., The Carrack Modern Art), deploys heavy beats in an assessment of an “entertainment-crazed culture.” And Culture Mill co-founders Tommy Noonan and Murielle Elizéon perform What Doesn’t Work at the Carrack (Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 20 at 3 p.m.), where Noonan was last seen performing his athletic duet with Clint Lutes, Brother Brother. Müller joins the couple to create “a symphony of movement without composition.”

“One of our favorite things about the independent dance scene in Durham is the way in which people make dance happen everywhere,” Wilks says in a press release. Though many locations are yet to be announced, DIDA will be found in bars, art galleries, warehouse spaces and small theaters—venues more accessible for younger, newer dance audiences than formal halls. Many performances will have site-specific elements.

Wilks, Bullock and Matthew Young premiere their first evening-length work as Department of Improvised Dance, Stations (Oct. 9 and 10, 7 and 9 p.m., 809 Ramseur St.) in an ad hoc space dubbed Durable Durham Warehouse, in honor of its former life as Durable Durham Hosiery. Ginger Wagg’s AndAlwaysWhy (May 6–15, times and place TBA) is an “experiential installation” where audiences are “invited to walk through situations and spaces that evolve over the course of the evening.” Murmurations Dance’s Nicole Dagesse also offers a “site-nomadic performance” in Birthing Bodies (April 29–May 1, times and place TBA), which is informed by the history of homebirth in North Carolina.

DIDA learned one of the perils of being an artist-driven organization when two performers booked their shows on the same weekend in the first season. The curators exert more oversight in the second, making sure shows are evenly spaced on the calendar and keeping them clear of universal distractions such as March Madness.

DIDA is also expanding its mission to aid in the professional development of local dance artists. Already offering promotional resources, it plans to add workshops on topics from grant-writing to fundraising and, eventually, production resources for rental or free use by their artists. The first announced workshop (time and place TBA) is the intriguing “Writing for Dancers / Dancing for Writers,” which “connects dance artists with critics and future critics, with the aim of improving dance discourse in the Triangle.”

DIDA’s first season opened with’s showbiz-savvy dance-theater work, it’s not me it’s you, at a sold-out Motorco Music Hall. With its location and content, Anna Barker’s duet with Wilks firmly planted DIDA’s flag in young Durham. Fittingly, DIDA’s 2015–16 season closes with Barker’s second full-length work, Our Feature Presentation (May 27–29, times and place TBA), another duet with Wilks. It promises “full-throated contemporary dance and full-throttle humor”—thrills this duo has already proven able to deliver.

The full schedule is below. More information will soon be available at, undergoing maintenance at the time of this posting.


DIDA 2015/16 SEASON:

Season Launch Party

Sept. 18, 6 p.m., Bar Lusconi

The Department of Improvised Dance: Stations

Oct. 9 and 10, 7 and 9 p.m., Durable Durham Warehouse (809 Ramseur St.)

knightworks: Eurydice Descended

Nov. 20 and 21, time and place TBA

Anja Müller: La Mula

December 17 and 18, 8 p.m., The Carrack Modern Art

Tommy Noonan and Murielle Elizéon: What Doesn’t Work

Dec. 19 (8 p.m.) and 20 (3 p.m.), The Carrack Modern Art

Killian Manning/NoForwardingAddress: Now Boarding …

February 25–28, 8 p.m., Common Ground Theatre

Jasmine Powell: Shadows Chasing Light

April 21 and 22, 8 p.m., PSI Theater

Murmurations Dance: Birthing Bodies

April 29–May 1, times and place TBA

Ginger Wagg: AndAlwaysWhy

May 6–15, times and place TBA Our Feature Presentation

May 27–29, times and place TBA