wv dance company historyWest Virginia Dance Company was founded in 1977 under the name, the Appalachian Dance and Music Ensemble, which it toured under for the first seven years.

ADME was commissioned by the West Virginia Arts and Humanities Council to interpret the poetry of the State Laureate, Dr. Louise McNeil Pease. Music and dance were especially composed focusing on the strong rhythms, and bold, lean images of her poetry.

In 1986, the dance component of ADME joined with Theatre West Virginia for management purposes and became the Theatre West Virginia Dance Company. The company toured on the Mid-Atlantic Arts Consortium Roster during this period. The TWVDC represented the state performing in thirteen states and in Espirito Santo, Brazil. The TWVDC was selected by the West Virginia Department of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts to participate in the project, Arts in the Classroom. The TWVDC was a year-round dance company until the summer of 1991.

From 1991 to 1996 several different groups of dancers created works and performed in special projects under the name of the ‘West Virginia Dance Company’. The projects included the Pearl S. Buck Project (1991), the West Virginia Dance Festival, and a performance at President’s Park in Washington, D.C. (1993).

Fall of 1996 brought the full touring company back once again. The company became its own 501C3 entity and has since been known as the West Virginia Dance Company. WVDC successfully accomplished a twenty-eight performance school tour and a week residency at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC. The company continued a full schedule, completing two eight-week residencies in the Kanawha County Schools as well as touring throughout southern WV schools.

In the spring of 2001, WVDC once again stepped down from a full-time touring company and returned to a seasonal, project-based one. Shortly thereafter, Pseudochomai, Family of Miguel Capella, and The Glass Menagerie, a few of the dance pieces presented by the company from 2001-2004, were performed at the WV Dance Festival, Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Snowshoe Institute, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and WV Wesleyan University. The Glass Menagerie was a collaboration with GVT with funding provided by the WV Department of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts. Richard H. Ressmeyer, Director of the Arts in WV, voted this production to be the Best Arts Event in WV in 2002.

In the winter of 2005, WVDC resumed it’s full-time touring status. After completing a successful school tour in the spring of 2005, WVDC returned to touring throughout the state to perform their new children’s show My Many Colored Days, based on Dr. Seuss’ book of the same name. A highlight for the company was on April 4, 2005, when Toneta Akers-Toler, Founder and Co-Artistic Director, was honored with the WV Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence. The company performed Sketches of Fall, a piece she choreographed in 1991 based on a writing by Pearl S. Buck.

Since 2006, the WVDC has completed four, extremely successful two-year multicultural, educational touring programs entitled, Where in the World Is…?, Around the World and Back Again, Exploring Global Treasures, and Passport for a World Adventure, which were seen by upwards of 50,000 students and teachers annually. In the fall of 2014, the company will begin their newest educational tour, Earth’s Quilt: Common Threads.

The focus of the company remains in educating the students of the region through arts-based learning with performances, lectures, workshops and residencies. As well as educational performances, the company continues to present American Masterpiece works to public, corporate, and collegiate/university audiences as well throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. WVDC’s concert repertoire includes works by Doug Varone, Geri Houlihan, Eddie Taketa, Donald Laney, Toneta Akers-Toler, Maureen Mansfield Kaddar, Carli Mareneck, and many more.