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Arts & Extras: Gathering momentum for live shows at Moss Arts Center

Arts & Extras: Gathering momentum for live shows at Moss Arts Center

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10 acts will bring dance, chamber music, jazz, theater, readings from the written word and more to the center's fall 2020 season.

The first live performance at Blacksburg’s Moss Arts Center since the lifting of statewide COVID-19 restrictions will have dancers climbing the walls — the outside walls.

Bandaloop, a California-based dance troupe, will turn the exterior of the Moss Arts Center into “an outdoor dance floor,” rappelling down from the roof to give four free aerial performances in September.

Margaret Lawrence, the center’s director of programming, sees metaphors for the entire upcoming fall performance season in Bandaloop’s show.

“They are on ropes, literally demonstrating momentum. They are gathering momentum as they swing through the air,” Lawrence said. “It’s extraordinary. It’s going to be a real celebration.”

The 10 acts scheduled for the center’s fall 2021 season span the fields of dance, jazz, classical music, theater, animation and the written word. The season’s overarching theme is “gathering,” Lawrence said, not just gathering together as a community to see live shows but “gathering strength, gathering courage to believe who you are, gathering momentum, which is something that certainly dancers do.”

Although she’s hyped for “the moment when we get to all be back together inside our theaters,” Lawrence sees a silver lining to the measures the center had to take during the 2020-21 shutdowns caused by COVID-19. “We did 16 streamed performances during the pandemic and in several cases, not just one, we brought artists who we already knew we were still going to bring in person later.”

Because of that, “we’ve actually started a set of relationships during the pandemic, so that when these artists come here for the first time in person,” Lawrence said, “they’re not strangers to our community now.”

As an example, the center hosted a livestream performance in October 2020 by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and singer China Forbes of Pink Martini, an ensemble with a repertoire that combines cabaret, Latin music and vintage Hollywood musicals.

“People just went nuts and then we got all these comments of, ‘You have to bring them, you have to bring them,’” Lawrence said. “Now we’re bringing the entire band in person.”

Cherokee actor and writer DeLanna Studi performed excerpts from her one-woman show “And So We Walked” for the center’s virtual programming. In October she’ll put on the fully staged production, in which she recounts retracing the path along the Trail of Tears her great-great-grandparents were once forced to take by the U.S. government.

The Moss Arts Center is presenting Studi’s play in partnership with Virginia Tech’s American Indian and Indigenous Community Center as a celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.

The season concludes with a reliable and popular stalwart, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops concert, which often sells out.

Though plans are well underway for the spring 2022 season, the center will not announce that lineup until the fall. “We’ve done this just to retain a bit of flexibility,” Lawrence said. “Everything is great right now. We feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but I think we’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half, and one of the main takeaways is that things can always change.”

Should things proceed as planned, the spring season will feature more international artists, Lawrence said.

The 10 acts scheduled for the center’s fall 2021 season span the fields of dance, jazz, classical music, theater, animation and the written word.

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Mike Allen is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. His past beats as a Roanoke Times reporter included Botetourt County, Franklin County, courts and legal issues, and arts and culture.

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