Grammy-nominated country-bluegrass performer Dierks Bentley takes the stage at this year's Appalachian Summer Festival, an annual outdoor concert and arts celebration held in Appalachian State University's football stadium. Bentley croons his way through songs from his latest album, Up on the Ridge, and plucks audience heartstrings while revisiting career-defining tracks such as “What Was I Thinkin’,” and “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do." Bring a blanket and watch firework displays with awed eyes, or thumb-wrestle aggressive praying mantises encroaching on your sandwich plate.
The eighth-annual Red White and Bluegrass Festival unites ears at Catawba Meadows Park with the floating notes of 40 different bluegrass acts over five days (including the free "Fan Appreciation Day" acts on June 30). Bring a blue lawn chair and delight in the high, lonesome sound of such headliners as Larry Sparks & the Lonesome Ramblers, JD Crowe & The New South, and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, which will close out the festival just before the fireworks. Half of the bands in the 2011 lineup have never performed at the festival, while the other half have been playing a collaborative art piece together since the festival's inception eight years ago.
It takes a lot of pirouettes to fill a half-century. And since 1963, Asheville Ballet has staged seasons full of fluid choreography, dazzling costumes, and French vocabulary. As the area's only professional adult resident company?and one of western North Carolina's oldest non-profit organizations?the ballet has become a creative pillar of the community. An average of 23,000 audience members flock to see their productions each year, marveling at masterworks such as The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Swan Lake. In addition to their classical credentials, the company also gracefully tackles contemporary, full-length pieces featuring multi-media elements.
At Aerial Space, workouts unfold in midair. Practitioners weave through suspended silks, flow through yoga poses supported by hammocks, or practice acrobatic moves on the static trapeze and lyra, a suspended hoop. Aerial Space's aerial circus-arts classes, offered privately and for groups of children and adults, instill equal parts grace, fitness, and newfound skill.
Cracker brings their signature brand of irony and irreverence to a performance of their 1993 platinum album release, Kerosene Hat, which produced three radio hits including ‘90s alt-rock jam “Low.” The band’s power-pop-punk tunes have been bopping heads for more than 15 years and over the course of eight albums—making the musicians veterans of the rock scene. The indie-rock showcase includes a performance from Camper van Beethoven, a band that shares a lead singer and a backstage bathroom with Cracker.
As the resident company at New York’s 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, Doug Varone and Dancers strive to tell emotionally resonant stories through original, technically complex modern dance pieces. During "Lux," the graceful, athletic bodies of the troupe's eight dancers, including Waynesville native and Carolina Day School graduate Erin Owen, overleap imaginary potholes and fire hydrants to the music of renowned Candyman II composer Philip Glass. Spectators slotted into the Diana Wortham Theatre's 500 comfortable seats can also squint at the footnotes of "Chapters From a Broken Novel," which intertwines several short-story vignettes, or wave farewell to "Boats Leaving." Those seeking extra background and insight into the routines can attend a 7 p.m. pre-show discussion free to ticket-holders and left-footed ballerinas.