A Passion for Dance

As ADF starts classes, Chris Bell and other dancers arrive on campus to pursue a dream

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ADF student Chris Bell warms up by stretching before dance class. Photo by Corliss Pauling

Chris Bell stands in
a neutral position on a black mat;
his arms swing from side to side and his legs begin to make their way into the
air. This is the height of an American Dance Festival Tuesday rehearsal at
Southgate Gym.

For Bell, the long road
to the ADF class started with a hamburger.

The San Antonio
native was only 5 when his mother enrolled him into dance courses. "I didn't
want to go. I was bribed with Burger King," Bell said.

Since then, he has
developed a passion for ballet and modern dance and received a full scholarship
to attend the six-and-a-half week program.

"Any artist or
professional can understand the need for training, and this is some of the best
training you can get in the world," Bell said, during an interview between
classes.

"I was a little
uptight at first but the program taught me that the only person you are
competing with is yourself."

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Chris Bell and ADF dancers work in a preview class Tuesday.  Photo by Chanel Laguna

This week, Bell
joined some 400 dancers who arrived at Duke for ADF classes. Intense training,
technique and composition are a few of the things dancers get to perfect and
absorb through ADF.

Bell and the other
students completed their last preview lessons Tuesday where they got a taste of
the different dance classes available. Registration was Wednesday, and official
classes begin Thursday.

At one of Bell's
preview classes Tuesday, dance instructors Mark Yaim and Ming Yang taught students
techniques and choreographer Monica Bill Barnes discussed composition.

The students
gracefully shift weight forward then back as the sounds of the drums and soft
keys of the piano influence body movement. Although there was one drum playing,
each dancer leaped and swayed to the beat of their drum.

Barnes divided the
students in two lines and led them in structured improvisations.  The role-playing -- acting out party
scenes, taking on different characters -- added theatrical elements to the
rehearsal.

"It's about
individuality and discovering what you like through this experience," Bell
said. "At ADF we are all working toward the same goal, and that's to be an
advocate for dance."

Bell is one of many
returning ADF students. In previous years, he met some heavy hitters in the
dance field, including Don Redlich, Laura Dean, Martha Clark and Paul Taylor, who
Bell said is his role model.

With dreams of being
a professional dancer at a major American concert dance company, Bell looks
back at how far he has come since his childhood growing up in an urban city in
East San Antonio.

 "People say 'what's your ticket out' ... I
say ... 'dance'!"