The H2 Dance Company of Hope College is journeying from the West Michigan stage to the global stage in August, as a participant in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.
Occurring in Edinburgh, Scotland, every August since 1947, the Festival Fringe lasts three weeks, and is epic in scale. The 2015 event featured talent from 49 countries in 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues. Organizers estimated that 2,298,090 tickets were sold, with thousands attending 800 free shows as well.
H2 is a pre-professional repertory dance company affiliated with the college’s Department of Dance and features student dancers led by co-artistic directors Matthew Farmer and Crystal Frazier of the Hope dance faculty. The company was chosen for the festival through the International Collegiate Theatre Festival, which has run in conjunction with and as part of the Festival Fringe for more than 20 years. H2 will be performing on Saturday-Tuesday, Aug. 6-9, the opening weekend of the Aug. 5-29 festival.
“The Edinburgh Fringe Festival both for theatre and for dance is probably one of the most well known festivals,” said Farmer, an assistant professor of dance. “The pool of applicants to participate in the ICTF each year includes colleges and universities of every size.”
“It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in so many different aspects,” he said. “I personally think it will be life-changing for the H2 Dance Company dancers.”
A total of 16 student dancers and six members of the college’s faculty and staff will be making the trip to Edinburgh. H2 will be performing “Dieser Ort” (German for “this place”), a fusion of modern and contemporary dance that Farmer choreographed. H2 will present the full 55-minute work each evening between Aug. 6 and 9 at 7:45 p.m. in the premier Triplex venue in addition to presenting two mini-performances of the piece. The company’s time at the event will also include participation in professional and educational workshops as well as the opportunity to attend other performances scheduled through both the ICTF and the overall festival.
H2’s months’-long preparation included rehearsals five days a week that ran three hours each across the entirety of April, even through the weekend before spring-semester final exams. The college has been on its summer break since the second week in May, but the students will return for a full day of rehearsals on Monday, Aug. 1, before leaving for Scotland the next day.
One added dimension of the trip is that substantial support has been provided through an online crowdfunding campaign. A total of 91 donors contributed $78,171 through the effort, 130 percent of the goal. The additional funds will support the Hope College International Dance Fund, an endowment that will provide future international experiences for dance students including an educational trip and performance in Paris, France, in May 2017.
“We are all so very grateful and humbled by the amount of support we received from the crowdfunding campaign, as well as from the college,” Farmer said. “We are truly thankful for the support and love we have been shown through all of this.
H2 continues the long tradition of department dance companies originally begun by Aerial Dance Theatre and InSync Dance Theatre. It seeks to provide professional dance performance and touring experiences to its company members, in addition to engaging the community in artistically and educationally diverse dance performances. H2 prides itself on presenting works that reflect all areas of dance (ballet, modern, jazz, tap, and hip hop), while still maintaining the traditions of dance and presenting choreography that is fresh and contemporary.
The college’s Department of Dance has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance since 1985, and offers majors in dance performance/choreography and dance education, in addition to the opportunity to minor in dance or dual-major with other departments. The department’s curriculum features a balance of technique and theory, and includes instruction in dance forms ranging from modern/contemporary, to jazz, tap, ballet and sacred dance. The program emphasizes performance opportunities for students as an essential complement to coursework, including multiple concerts scheduled each year by the department as well as concerts by affiliate companies including H2; Strike Time, which presents dance to children in grades K-6; and Sacred Dance, which performs during the college’s Chapel services and at area churches.
Those interested in following H2 at the Festival Fringe won’t need to journey to Scotland to do so. Fans the world wide can stay up to date via “H2 Dance Co. at the Fringe” on Facebook.