When Ariane Malia Reinhart makes her American Dance Festival solo debut at Reynolds Industries Theater today and Wednesday at 8 p.m., she'll have the unusual sensation of having danced on the stage before - and having sat in the audience for many moons.
"This theater and I know each other," Reinhart said during an interview at ADF's summer headquarters in Wilson Dormitory at Duke University.
Much of the dance world and the four choreographers of the pieces she'll be presenting - Martha Clarke, Mark Haim, Doug Varone and Shen Wei - also know Reinhart. Each created a piece exclusively for her.
Ariane, 24, is the daughter of ADF co-directors Charles and Stephanie Reinhart. Though she spent her childhood in New York and still lives there, she literally grew up at the festival, coming summer after summer with her parents.
When ADF moved to Durham from New London, Conn., in 1978, Ariane was a 5-month-old infant. Her development has, in a way, run parallel to that of the institution synonymous with her parents.
"ADF's 25th year [in Durham] is almost my 25th year," said Ariane, who attended the festival's summer school a record 23 times and first danced at Reynolds in 1992.
The decision of ADF's leaders to book their daughter for the season has drawn criticism. Paul Ben-Itzak, editor and publisher of The Dance Insider, wrote in March that he has long admired ADF's commitment to dance but is skeptical about this programming choice.
"Ariane Malia Reinhart may be talented; I haven't seen her in performance, so I can't say," he wrote. "But even if Ms. Reinhart were the second coming of Martha Graham, Marian Anderson, and Sarah Bernhardt combined, she'd still be the daughter of Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, and it would still be highly inappropriate of them to program her at their own theater as part of the ... festival they direct. That these respected leaders of the dance community would take this misstep is a tragically embarrassing blemish on their otherwise salutary records of lifting up the art form."
A graduate of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Reinhart said she realizes that many people will question whether she is making her first solo performance at ADF because her parents run the arts organization.
Her answer: "I tell them to go see the show. You don't want to make judgment on something until you see it. These choreographers are unbelievable people."
She performed this same program to crowds (two sold-out) at the Joyce SoHo in New York last fall. Though her show happened about two weeks after Sept. 11 and she lost about 20 hours of valuable rehearsal time because the recovery efforts closed access to parts of the city, the show garnered positive reviews from The New York Times and the Village Voice.
Her father, Charles, said he understands concerns about nepotism.
"I think it's a good question. I would ask it," he said.
But he said Ariane proved herself in New York, when she came up with the idea of approaching four choreographers on her own.
"She showed very good management skills. ... She did the performance under a real glare, 'Oh, my God, it's the Reinharts' daughter.' She had tougher odds than most people because everyone was watching her to watch her fail," Charles said. "And this was her way of getting to do what she wanted to do - combine music and dance."
In two of the works, Varone's "The Drawing Lesson" and Clarke's "2 a.m.," she'll showcase her other talent: singing. Her high-caliber voice is a rare commodity among dancers.
"This is such diverse work, I had wanted to combine music and dance, but not musical theater. I wanted to approach people who were also directors," Ariane said. "So I asked. These people are family to me. It was like 'Auntie Martha.' But they're not the type of people to say yes just because or to feel pressured."
Ariane's bloodline seemed to predestine a career in dance and the arts: a first performance with John Wilson, one of the Joffrey Ballet co-founders, at age 9; a recent background appearance on HBO's "Sex and the City"; administrative work with The Paul Taylor Dance Company; and a singing slot with a New York Gilbert and Sullivan troupe.
But Ariane said her parents did not push her toward their chosen career.
"Actually, it's interesting because they themselves didn't have anything to do with it," she said. "They just kind of stood back and watched. I just wanted to jump in. The only thing they did was encouraging."
Her father remembers when he and wife Stephanie were traveling to promote modern dance abroad about 20 years ago. Ariane went along.
"I think she was maybe 5 years old, and we did our first ADF in Japan. One day, I look up and she was in the front row of a class, and I said, 'Don't let her up there.' The teacher said, 'No, she put herself there,' " he said.
Charles Reinhart still subscribes to a philosophy of hands-off support.
"I'm strictly a father," he said. "I shut up completely unless I'm asked. And I think that maybe she's done that - once or twice."