© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

No Studios Dance Fest Showcases Diversity In Milwaukee's Dance Community

Photo by Nan Melville
Ailey II in Bradley Shelvers' "Where There Are Tongues."

Milwaukee’s dance chops will be on full display this weekend, as companies in the area get together for the inaugural Dance Fest, hosted by No Studios. The sold-out festival will feature a diverse group of local dance companies, as well as dancers from New York-based Ailey II.

Ailey II is one of the companies founded by modern dance pioneer, Alvin Ailey.

"He wanted to celebrate the African-African heritage and the modern dance tradition, and he wanted the company to become world renowned," explains Troy Powell, artistic director of Ailey II.

Dancer Ferne Caulker was friends with Ailey, and she remembers getting a letter from him while she was living in Africa, and contemplating starting her own dance company here in Milwaukee. Now known as Ko-Thi Dance Company, the nearly 50-year-old dance company focuses on dance styles from the African continent and diaspora.

"We are celebrating our people - we are celebrating our people through dance and music and song," says Ferne Caulker.

Although Ailey II and Ko-Thi are two very different companies, Caulker says they share some key traits.

"We are celebrating our people - we are celebrating our people through dance and music and song. Everything we do is with live music," she explains.

Beth Ridley, the director of member engagement for No Studios and sister to founder John Ridley, says the event is meant to highlight Milwaukee's unique and robust dance community. Although tickets for the festival are sold out, people can get a behind-the-scenes look at the festival on Saturday, July 20. Beth Ridley, says the tech rehearsal will start at 9:00 and is open to the public. 

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.