wv dance company historyWV Dance Company’s mission is to enrich lives by creating professional dance and learning experiences throughout our region.

Driven by this mission, WV Dance Company (WVDC) produces touring programs annually that make the arts more accessible to residents of Appalachia and improve the quality of arts education in our schools. As West Virginia’s only professional touring dance company, WVDC is comprised of highly-trained professional dancers and has received recognition for both its artistic and educational achievements.  Kay Goodwin, former Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Arts in WV, praises WVDC and its contribution to the state saying, “their high standards for excellence serve as a benchmark for all artistic endeavors.”

West Virginia Dance Company was founded by Toneta Akers-Toler in 1977 under the name Appalachian Dance and Music Ensemble. ADME was commissioned by the West Virginia Arts and Humanities Council to interpret the work of state Poet Laureate, Dr. Louise McNeil Pease. Music and dance were composed to highlight the strong rhythms, and bold, lean images of her poetry.

In 1986, the dance component of ADME joined with Theatre West Virginia and became Theatre West Virginia Dance Company. TWVDC toured throughout the region on the Mid-Atlantic Arts Consortium Roster performing in many different states as well as in Espirito Santo, Brazil by invitation of the Partners of the Americas Program. During this time, TWVDC was also 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. This project began the company’s long-term commitment to developing arts-based learning programs and educational touring.

From 1991 to 2001, the company participated in several unique projects including the Pearl S. Buck Project (1991), which produced one of the company’s signature works Sketches of Fall, and performances at President’s Park in Washington, D.C. (1993). In 1996, the company became its own separate 501(c)(3) entity and has since been known as WV Dance Company. That year, WVDC completed a twenty-eight performance school tour and several residencies including Kanawha County Schools, WV and Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC and received the WV Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education.

In 2001, WVDC participated in The Glass Menagerie, a collaborative project with Greenbrier Valley Theatre. The Glass Menagerie was created 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. The company toured the project, as well as new works Pseudochomai and Family of Miguel Capella, performing at the West Virginia Dance Festival, Snowshoe Institute, University of North Carolina Greensboro and WV Wesleyan College.

In 2005, WVDC created a new program for children entitled My Many Colored Days, based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name and toured the program throughout WV. 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, WVDC has completed eight, extremely successful two-year educational tours. Where in the World Is…?, Around the World and Back Again, Exploring Global Treasures, Passport for a World Adventure, Earth’s Quilt: Common Threads, It’s Your World: Full steam ahead!, Adventures Around the Big Blue Marble and Exploration Earth: Your World through STEAM were each seen by 20,000-50,000 students and teachers annually. Emphasizing curriculum connections and multicultural studies, each program is fully arts-integrated including STEAM content.

WVDC maintains a dual focus on both educating students through arts-based learning as well as presenting public and collegiate/university audiences with engaging and thought-provoking modern works, including works inspired by the rich cultural heritage of the Appalachian region and recognized American Masterpieces. WVDC’s diverse concert repertoire has included works by both nationally and regionally recognized choreographers such as Gerri Houlihan, Daniel Nagrin, Donald Laney, Toneta Akers-Toler, Maureen Mansfield Kaddar, Carli Mareneck, danah bella Dane Toney and many more.