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Dance Performance to Feature Appalachian Coal Mining Stories


The story about coal mining in Appalachia and the devastation of black lung disease will come to life when the Radford University Department of Dance presents "The Shadow Waltz," a dance and theatre piece inspired by oral histories of the miners themselves.

"The Shadow Waltz" performances will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26 in Albig Studio Theatre in RU's Peters Hall B112, Radford University. Admission is free and the general public is welcomed.

This interdisciplinary dance and theatre piece, which includes performances by students from the RU Department of Dance, weaves miners’ stories with dance, music and text to reflect the history and mysterious pull of Appalachian coal mining. Funded by a Radford University faculty research grant, RU Director of Dance Education and choreographer Deborah McLaughlin collaborated with Dr. Theresa Burriss, chair of the RU Appalachian Studies Program, to use Appalachian miners’ oral histories as well as her own research as seed material. 

“The stories which really surprised me were about the coal miners’ love for the mountains and for underground mining in spite of the hardships and often subsequent illness," McLaughlin said. "I found the miners’ daily confrontation with the possibility of death from explosions or mine collapses heroic."

The miners' tales speak to struggles humanity has dealt with throughout history. While developing the piece, McLaughlin was reminded of the song of the sirens in Greek mythology. She decided to layer mythology with reality to tell the story of Appalachian coal country, she said.

This is the third collaboration between McLaughlin and Burriss in a trilogy of Appalachian dance and theatre pieces which began in 2009 with "Eating Appalachia: Selling Out to the Hungry Ghost," a piece about mountaintop removal, and continued in 2011 with "Sounds of Stories Dancing," a work inspired by Appalachian women's oral histories.

These two pieces toured to the Paramount Theatre in Bristol after performances at Radford University and have been presented in part at conferences at RU, North Georgia State University and University of the Arts in Philadelphia. McLaughlin and Burriss will present at a conference at Miami University in Ohio in June. They plan to integrate the three works into a larger piece that tours the region.

Apr 23, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749

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