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In Jan., Rialto’s ‘Off the Edge’ to unite a world of contemporary dance

Atlanta choreographer Lauri Stallings jumped in with both feet when Rialto Center for the Arts leader Leslie Gordon asked her to curate a contemporary dance event for Georgia State University’s downtown theater in January. But Stallings had one stipulation.

She didn’t want it to be billed as a dance festival.  She envisioned something more edgy, multi-platform, with a heart very much pounding in the present.

“I told Leslie I’d shoot myself before we have a dance festival,” Stallings said Thursday at the Rialto as “Off the Edge: A Celebration of Movement in Atlanta” was detailed. “There doesn’t need to be another dance festival. There needs to be a swarm of ideas, energy, activity.”

Call it what you will, the Rialto celebration has taken on a life of its own, expanding to six days, Jan. 23-28, and including performances, artist exchanges, educational outreach and more by Atlanta, national and international talent who will appear in multiple metro counties.

The centerpiece Guest Artist Series at the Rialto on the final two nights will feature Keigwin Company and Gallim Dance plus two members of Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, all from New York; and Zoe/Juniper from Seattle. Spanish-born choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, leader of Chicago’s Luna Negra Dance Theater, will participate, as will new Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director and choreographer Robert Battle, who will attend have one of his recent works performed by River North Dance Chicago. And negotiations continue to import Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall and Body Traffic of Los Angeles.

Prior to both Rialto shows, six to eight Atlanta-based companies or dancers, to be selected by curator Paul Boshear, will perform for free in Woodruff Park for an hour starting at 6:30 each night. And there will be eight “artist to artist exchanges” (Stallings also rejects the commonly used phrase “master class”) at eight locations on Jan. 27-28.

A number of Atlanta troupes have stepped forward to host artists, including Ballethnic, Brooks & Company, CORE and Full Radius, as well as Kennesaw State University (which will host a week-long residency by 72-year-old Israeli grand dame RinaSchenfeld), Emory University and Spelman College. And metro high school students will get backstage professional production exposure.

To link up with Atlanta’s visual arts scene, “Off the Edge” will include a round-table discussion at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center on Jan. 26, and a curated art exhibit in the Rialto lobby.

A $100,000 grant from the Atlanta-based Charles Loridans Foundation seeded dance celebrations for 2012 and 2013, and Gordon, who has a track record of staging collaborative shows at the Rialto, continues to fund-raise.

“It’s a very good start,” said Stallings, artistic director of gloATL, a group that has performed at unusual sites such as Lenox Mall and Woodruff Park. “Rather than spending so much time wondering what we are and [fretting] that the rest of the world doesn’t know us, perhaps we just need to say we’re actually on to something that’s a niche.”

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