Labor Day-weekend gets off to a fast and frenzied start Friday with lots of eye-candy at the inaugural three-day Crossroads Festival at First Ward Park.

Free dance and fitness classes, food trucks and local brewery sales, live entertainment including three performances of the newly created aerial and circus arts-infused dance, “Crossroads,” focusing on Charlotte’s origins as a crossroads for culture and trade.

The event is supported through a grant from the Knight Foundation and is organized by Caroline Calouche who is serving as the festival’s executive and artistic director. Calouche is a familiar name around Charlotte dance circles as she is the founder and creative force behind her own eponymous aerial dance troupe, Caroline Calouche & Company, as well as the founder and organizer of the long-running annual Charlotte Dance Festival.

“In researching the background of the space that is now First Ward Park,” says Calouche, reflecting on her inspiration for the dance, “I came to discover how there were many railroad lines connecting here after the Civil War. Charlotte truly was, and remains today, a crossroads. I wanted to create a piece that reflects that.”

The original dance and circus arts work celebrates the creativity and growth that occurs when diverse paths intersect, and incorporates a thrilling combination of cirque and contemporary dance. Showcasing the diverse nature of the Charlotte community, the performance incorporates many cultural traditions ranging from Latino and Scots-Irish music to Brazilian capoeira and jazz.

In addition to the performances of “Crossroads” by Calouche’s troupe, festival-goers will be entertained by her youth ensemble, the NC Brazilian Arts Project, MILA Dance Team/ Karsen Gresham & Falon Spearman, Mrudani School of Performing Arts, No Limits Dance Company, Maha’s Dances of India, MufukaWorks Dance Company, Charlotte’s  Jazz Arts Initiative and others.

Special artistic guests over the weekend will include: Capoeirista and dancer Reba Bowens, capoeirista and dancer Adamma Haith, circus artist Anthony Oliva, slam poet Boris ‘Bluz’ Rogers, drummer Tim Scott, B-Boy and Cyr-wheel performer Jarrell Wallace, narrator Iesha Hoffman, B-boy and juggler Brandon Lomax, and others.

Food trucks Lobster Dog, Ole Buddy’s Oinker Express, The Dumpling Lady and Rue 72 will be on hand.

“This is an amazing free event for the entire family,” says Calouche, who noted the city has never held an evening outdoor circus arts event. “We’re expecting up to 3,000 people each evening and are really excited to showcase all the great local talent we have in this city.”

Want to go?

What: Crossroads at First Ward Park (301 E. 7th St.)

When:  Fri.–Sun. (Sept. 1-3)

  • 3-6 p.m. – Free dance and fitness classes
  • 6 -7:30 p.m. – Pre-show performances
  • 8 p.m. – “Crossroads” performance – Caroline Calouche & Co.

 More information: http://carolinecalouche.org/crossroads/.

Photos: Caroline Calouche & Co.

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