Ride to New Orleans at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s ‘Soulstice’ gala; photo: Scott Robbins

By Arnecia Patterson 

Photo: America’s Packard Museum on South Ludlow Street hosts the ‘Soulstice’ gala

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) continues to receive kudos for its deep bench of dancers who evoke lively responses from audiences. Last year, DCDC won a Bessie, the New York Dance and Performance Award. Last month, dancer Sheri “Sparkle” Williams, won the OhioDance Award for “outstanding contributions to the advancement of the dance art form” (she won her own Bessie in 1997 and an Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2014). Next year, the company will perform in Russia and Kazakhstan as cultural ambassadors through DanceMotion USA, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of State and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The talent pool is deep, the demand wide.

Even with its acclaimed dancers and wide demand, DCDC, like many arts entities, knows that ticket sales alone do not fund high-quality art. But a swinging fundraiser helps. “Soulstice: Beignets on the Bayou,” its 48th annual fundraiser, is a gala event that attracts partygoers from all facets of the community: artists, arts patrons, and businesses, foundations, and individual supporters. On Saturday, May 13, from 6–11 p.m., they and their family and friends get together for a great time and a greater cause with a New Orleans-flavored party at America’s Packard Museum.

The flavor combines “low-country” inspired food from Elite Catering with music by Dean Simms Satchmo Band and the Red Hot Second Line brass band. There is a silent auction featuring jewelry from James Free and Marlyn Jewelers, the talents of Chef David Glynn for your next intimate dinner party at home, lodging in New Orleans, and suite seats at a Dayton Dragons game.

This year’s “Soulstice” is an atmospheric mix that keeps the good times rolling; however, it is just one night following months of preparation from all personnel, including trustees.

One skill that board service at DCDC has taught trustee Larry Trittschuh is how to throw a great party. As a second-year, “Soulstice” co-chair with his wife Abigail Trittschuh, he is struck by the availability of the DCDC dancers at the party. Their presence, given the company’s reach and acclaim, makes “Soulstice: Beignets on the Bayou” akin to a star-studded event. “One of the things that sets ‘Soulstice’ apart is that dancers perform at the party, but they don’t stay ‘backstage,’ Trittschuh says. “They mingle with the crowd, talk about their experiences, and express their appreciation to our supporters.”

Trittschuh developed his passion for dance as a “dance dad” of his now-college-age daughter. As an involved parent who works in a technical profession, he has come to understand the impact of art.

“Our country is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), but tends to forget that creativity and innovation are critical to success,” he says. “The arts develop that from within for audience members and patrons.”

Co-chair Abigail Trittschuh is a lifelong devotee of dance, who studied ballet most of her life. Together, they are ardent about the importance of DCDC and work indefatigably to make its fundraiser a social and financial success.

“We try to make it a social party. An opportunity to walk around, visit with friends, see America’s Packard Museum, eat, drink, and interact with the dancers,” Trittschuh says. “The goal is to raise money to support this great organization, and we want to have a lot of fun doing it.”

Braided throughout the evening is the company’s brand of award-winning dance. Artistic Director Debbie Blunden-Diggs and Associate Artistic Director Crystal Michelle have choreographed the four staged dances, which will be shown in eight-10 minute sets. According to Blunden-Diggs, they will rely on the traditional music of the region to make dances that complete the evening’s ambiance. “There is a whole genre of music out of New Orleans,” she says. “You get down there and become saturated with the food and music you can hear from every street corner. The choreography will reflect that.”

The staged sets for dance are strategically positioned to help patrons move through the party and enjoy the beignets of the evening’s theme and other culinary treats by Elite Catering.

According to Jennifer Leopold, Elite’s event director, and Chef Eric Yung, beignets are featured at one of the food stations. Leopold described the New Orleans delicacy as “fried dough, much like a doughnut, traditionally topped with piles of powder sugar.” Chef Yung is inspired by Café du Monde—known for its beignets—and plans a twist: toppings of praline bacon, bananas foster, strawberry, and chocolate in a “create-your-own-beignet” station.

At additional, attended, small-plate stations, guests can experience food infused with African, Canadian, and French techniques, and bayou ingredients.

“We have a fantastic menu planned for all to enjoy from Cajun-fried catfish to Bourbon Street sweet potato wedges to Jambalaya,” Leopold says.

In a museum filled with historic cars, dancers, maybe even a second line of reveling patrons, and support for the arts, proceeds from “Soulstice: Beignets on the Bayou” help balance the company’s income mix of ticket sales, touring, education programs, and contributions—the ingredients for making contemporary dance that garners interest and audiences around the world.

‘Soulstice: Beignets on the Bayou’ takes place Saturday, May 13, from 6–11 p.m., at the Packard Museum, 420 S. Ludlow St. in downtown Dayton. Tickets are $150. For tickets or more information, please call .937.228.3630 or visit TicketCenterStage.com and DCDC.org.


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Arnecia Patterson has an infinite capacity to view concert dance. She found her former career as dance executive, funder, and consultant extremely satisfying—and finds writing about dance equally rewarding. Reach DCP Resident Dance Critic Arnecia Patterson at ArneciaPatterson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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