Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Arts in Durham: More than Disco!

Durham has long been a center of the arts in the Triangle, with dance being no exception. The American Dance Festival (ADF) has been a part of the Durham community since 1978. The ADF began in 1934 at Bennington College in Vermont and moved to several other New England campuses, until it finally settled at Duke University, where it has remained for almost forty years. This event helped to foster the many dance and performance organizations in the area and increase the popularity of dance in the local Durham community, as well as around the Triangle.

The “Arts in Durham” television broadcast documented several studios and clubs that stemmed from this popularity during the late 1970’s. Although the ADF focused primarily on modern dance, many different genres were represented in these broadcasts, including disco, ballet, jazz, and clogging. Below are three “Arts in Durham” broadcasts from DigitalNC’s North Carolina Sights & Sounds Collection, highlighting the wonderful and weird dance styles from the Durham community.

Arts in Durham: Arthur Hall Dance Company


Arthur Hall teaching technique at the American Dance Festival.

Arthur Hall, founder of the Dance Company with his name sake, came to the ADF from Philadelphia to teach techniques based in traditional African movements. Trained under a Ghanaian instructor, Hall dedicated his life to creating a space for black dancers to practice and perform traditional and original choreography. Outside of dance, Hall created a museum, cultural center and archive in Germantown. He has been called the “father of the black arts movement in Philadelphia,” and his techniques inspired the Durham Arts community during his time with ADF.



Arts in Durham: C’est La Vie Disco


C’est La Vie Disco

Although ADF showcased professional dancers and choreographers, professional dance was not all that existed during this period in Durham. C’est La Vie Disco embraced the disco craze of the seventies in a way that amateurs and professionals alike could enjoy. Located in Durham’s old Five Point Neighborhood, C’est La Vie Disco was housed in a restaurant that made room for DJs and dancers in the evenings. The broadcast features several professional teachers, demonstrating disco techniques, but the true highlights are the intro and concluding pieces that showcase community members busting some moves.


Art in Durham: New Performance Dance Company, April 1979


Probably the most entertaining of all of the dance-related audiovisual material on DigitalNC, this broadcast features the New Performance Dance Company, once located on Chapel Hill Street in Durham. The company choreographed and performed in the area and taught classes of various styles. The broadcast features several modern performances, disco choreography, and children’s classes. Many of these dance styles are quite unique and definitely worth watching!



You can see all of the dance-related moving images at the links below or continue exploring the Arts in Durham . Many thanks to the Durham County Library for contributing these pieces of history from the Triangle.

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