Arts & Culture

Ladyfest Returns to Goodyear Arts After Two-Year Hiatus

Annual festival showcases performance and film works of female and femme-identifying artists

Sarah Ingel and Megan Payne lean against a wall wearing jean jackets
Sarah Ingel (left) and Megan Payne, the organizers of the annual ladyfestCLT showcase. (Photo by Nick Blankenship)

Ladyfest unofficially reigns as the coolest dance event in the region. In fact, Queen City Nerve readers voted it the “Best Local Show Of The Past 12 Months” during the 2020 Best in the Nest reader’s choice awards.

For those that don’t know, Ladyfest is an evening of dance and movement performance that showcases the work of women and femme choreographers. It’s one of a handful of hopeful signs that off-the-wall, independent performance can be a thing in Charlotte.

It’s been two years since we had a Ladyfest to look forward to. But fear not, culture vultures, Ladyfest returns on March 24 at Goodyear Arts.

Started by dance experimentalists Caitlyn Swett and Sarah Ingel at Neighborhood Theatre in 2015, Ladyfest has consistently been the gold standard for indie dance in the region, and the hip place for up-and-coming or just plain iconoclastic choreographers to have their work presented to Charlotte audiences.

After Swett’s departure in 2016, Ingel brought Megan Payne on board and the two have served as the curatorial brains behind the festival ever since.

In a recent interview, Payne explained the event’s hiatus as partially due to reluctance to put on a virtual event during the height of the COVID pandemic. Now that people are getting comfortable with being in shared spaces again, Payne said it felt like it was time to bring Ladyfest back.

Ingel is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, so Joy Davis (who notably collaborated with Payne on the excellent PLOW last year) is assisting with this edition of Ladyfest.

While other editions of Ladyfest have seen a focus on works that defy genre and even err towards what might be called performance art (word to the wise, we’ve been calling it contemporary performance for a while now), this year’s offerings seem likely to fall more firmly into the realm of conventional modern dance.

Interestingly, there are more dance films on the docket than we’ve seen before, a nod to an increase in experimentation along these lines in the field, and evidence that Ladyfest is still invested in the cutting edge.

The line up that Payne and Davis are presenting consists of familiar faces (there is healthy representation from a core group of artists from the ubiquitous Baran Dance company) as well as folks who are new to the festival and to Charlotte itself, including Halie Bahr, a new member of the dance faculty at Davidson College.

Expect other performance and film works by McKay House (Nashville, TN); Courtney Holbrooks (Stanfield); Lauren Bickerstaff (Charlotte); Carolina Quirós Otárola (Mooresville); Danielle Roman (Charlotte), Audrey Baran (Charlotte); Bekah Downing (Winston-Salem); Katie Nicole Harmon (Chicago, IL); Maeve Friedman (Winston-Salem); Renay Aumiller (Hillsborough); Kate Micham (Charlotte); and Alyce Cristina Vallejo (Charlotte).

Ladyfest unfurls at Goodyear Arts on March 24. Doors will open at 7 p.m. with performances running from 7:30-9 p.m. Since programming at Goodyear is free, Ladyfest is asking attendees to make a suggested donation of $10 to their Kickstarter campaign to support artist payment and travel expenses.

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