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White Plains Choreographer to Debut 'Duel' Season

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Fresh out of Yale, Sidra Bell, 32, launched a community dance initiative in Harlem ten years ago that blossomed into a "formal" dance company. Now, the White Plains resident is rehearsing for a March season that explores the act of performing, which has dominated the last decade of her life.

Bell says the "Duel" season Sidra Bell Dance New York will bring to the Baruch Performing Arts Center this March highlights the personal and shared elements of dance.

"Stella," which will be performed on March 22 through 25, explores how America has grown desensitized to public performance by "breaking down the wall so the audience will experience it more as a a party than a performance." "ReVUE," which will be presented on March 29 through April 1," centers its commentary on a lead dancer-clown who tries on several routines, and outfits, including heels, before finally revealing make-up-smudged cheeks that "have no more faces to put on."

"Both have to do with private and public space. When you perform it's both. It's yours, but it's your actions in public," Bell said of 'Duel.'

Bell, who got involved with choreography while studying history at Yale, says her dance style evolved out of the classic ballet classes she began at the Dance Theater of Harlem at age eight and the modern dance she later learned at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

"In a general sense, you can call my style contemporary because it's all new, but it's so much more than that. It’s technical work. It uses a lot of ballet for a launching pad and includes references from jazz and pop. My work is really 3-D and I like to play with costuming a lot," said Bell, who moved from New York City to White Plains about 10  years ago. "Very few people know how to make narrative dance and that's why people tend to abstract art. I would say that my work straddles those lines. It has an emotional context, but you can still just see it as a physical work."

In addition to her company, Bell teachers workshops for dancers of all ages and gets commissioned to choreograph dances for schools, organizations and companies across the world. She is currently crafting routines at the College of Arts in Philadelphia, and has also been commissioned by Juilliard, New York University's Tisch School of Arts, and River North Chicago Dance Company.

"When I first started choreography, I thought I had to write everything down before I went into a studio with a dancer. Now I do a lot of improv," said Bell. "It flexes all of your muscles, physical, intellectual, creative and artistic, if you allow yourself to go there."

Tickets are available through Baruch's Performing Arts Center website . General admission costs $25 or $10 with a valid student ID.

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