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A winter dance celebration

Dancing People Company, a Rogue Valley modern dance company, will present "Sun Standing Still," its second annual winter solstice performance and community dance. The event, a music and dance celebration of the year's longest night, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 20-21, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland.

More than 30 of the area's dancers and musicians will perform. At the show's end, the stage opens up to the audience, who are invited to join the cast in a celebratory open dance, with music chosen specially for the night by Ken Becker.

Dancing People Company's artistic directors, Robin Stiehm and Peggy Paver, conceptualized the evening and worked with the artists to create an event that represents the transition from darkness to light that begins with the solstice.

Beginning with haunting Icelandic singing by Vanessa Nowitzky, the show moves to aerial dance that incorporates a single-point trapeze and allows the dancers to move freely between the floor and the air. Dancing People Company's company dancers provide the "Awakening" section of the evening, with seamless modern dance partnering, performed to music of Bohemian Soul.

Groups from Dancing People Company's classes and workshops present dances celebrating the support of community through long nights, and the return of spring, and Alonzo Moore of Dancing People Company performs the African Machete Dance to cut away winter.

The performance concludes with "Unit(y)", the women's quartet. This physical, invigorating piece represents four sides of one person coming together to create a whole. "Unit(y)" acts as a metaphor for the coming together of community — a theme that is carried further by the open dance at the end of the show where the audience spills onto the stage to join the dancing.

Performers include Dancing People Company's dancers: Emily Abrahams, Veronica DeWitt, Heather Klopchin and Moore; Bohemian Soul: Inger Jorgensen and Jeff Pevar; Ryan Camara of Denbaya West African Drumming; Liz Finnegan; Lizz LoPresti; Nowitzky; and many other dancers ranging in age from 10 to 60.

Stiehm formed Dancing People Company in 1994. Stiehm has performed professionally for more than 35 years, dancing everything from the ballet classics to the most cutting-edge modern work created for her by nationally renowned choreographers. She has been recognized by the Minneapolis City Pages as "Best Choreographer" for two years. In 2000, Stiehm was the recipient of the Bush Foundation's Artist Fellowship.

Dancing People Company relocated to the Rogue Valley in 2002 from Minnesota. In 2005, Paver joined the company as co-artistic director, bringing more than 17 years experience in choreography, dance education and community building. Her master's thesis grew into the Tucson Arts Connections program which is currently recognized by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and won the 1999 Arizona Governor's Arts Education award.

Dancing People Company has performed at the Craterian Theater, the Mountain Avenue Theatre, and the "In Celebration of the Human Spirit" concerts. The company has toured Eastern Europe and Japan, and the Pacific Northwest. The company conducts school residency programs in the Rogue Valley, and maintains a dance school in Ashland.

Tickets are $15 and $10 for children 12 and under. Call 941-6282.

Dancing People Dance Company will present an evening of dance featuring more than 30 dancers from the Rogue Valley.