The American Dance Festival is entering its 80th year as performances begin in Durham.
The national festival opens Thursday at the Durham Performing Arts Center. This year's celebration includes dance companies from as far away as Argentina, Ireland and Taiwan.
Festival director Jodee Nimerichter says the next six weeks of performances explore the wide variety of techniques used in modern dance as it has evolved over the last 80 years.
"We try not to define what it is or where it's going," Nimerichter says. "It was totally built as basically a rebellion against the constraints of ballet and it's built on individual creativity and expression, so the possibilities for us are limitless."
This week's show is dance inspired by the surrealist painter Paul Delvaux. The festival ends with work described as a poetic meditation exploring the Taoist ideas of Yin and Yang.
"It is really a wide palette," Nimerichter says. "There could be dance theatre that borderlines on people saying, 'That's not dance,' but it incorporates movement and theatricality. And then there are things that would look almost like Cirque du Soleil, but a more 'dancy' version."
The annual festival moved from Connecticut to North Carolina in the 1970s. It runs through July 27 with 14 productions in Durham and at Duke University, and others in New York.