2017 Virginia Arts Festival

March – June 2017

Norfolk, VA

The Virginia Arts Festival commissions and presents incredible works of art from some of the world’s greatest composers, choreographers, and playwrights. The centerpiece of the 2017 festival will be the Virginia International Tattoo, an exhilarating performance featuring military drill displays from Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, Irish dancing, and music from the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

The 2019 Commemoration has also partnered with the Virginia Arts Festival to present several performances influenced by the converging of Virginia Indian, English, and African cultures that occurred in Virginia in 1619. Related events include:

March 26, 5 PM: Kathleen Battle – Underground Railroad

Hear the voice hailed as “one of the very few most beautiful in the world” (The Washington Post). Grammy® Award-winning soprano Kathleen Battle takes the audience on a journey of hope and salvation in this concert that combines traditional spirituals like He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired, and Go Down Moses with the writings of abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Ms. Battle’s performance is backed by the mighty Norfolk State University Choir, which has performed twice at the White House and is known for the beauty of its choral tone.

April 22, 8 PM: Urban Bush Women (World Premiere)

Weaving contemporary dance, music, and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora, this astonishing troupe performs innovative, exciting works that bring untold stories to life. In their Virginia Arts Festival debut, the company will perform the world premiere of Hair and Other Stories, an evening-length work that addresses matters of race, gender identity and economic inequality through the lens of physical appearance, including the cultural significance of African American women’s hair.

April 27 – 30, 7:30 PM: Virginia International Tattoo

For centuries, the cry “Tattoo” echoed throughout Europe — first a call by to innkeepers to “Turn off the taps!” — and then as the name for a grand display of military bands and drill teams. The legendary Tattoos of Edinburgh and Nova Scotia are now rivaled by the largest Tattoo in the U.S. — our own Virginia International Tattoo. Mounting a mighty spectacle that changes every year, the Virginia International Tattoo summons more than 1,000 performers including fife and drum corps, bagpipers, military bands, precision drill teams, and performing ensembles ranging from step dancers to motorcycle stunt drivers. A salute to international friendship and an emotional call to the love of country in us all, the Tattoo is an unmissable celebration.

Be sure to visit the 2019 Commemoration booth at the free Hullabaloo before each Tattoo! The Hullabaloo features musicians, dancers, drill teams, drum lines, food trucks, and even craft beer! Come out and enjoy three hours of fantastic, free entertainment!

May 6, 8 PM: Richard Alston Dance Company Performance

Ask a dance critic to name the great living choreographers, and Richard Alston’s name comes at the top of the list. This British master is acclaimed for his unparalleled musicality and his “ravishing, arrestingly theatrical” (The New York Times) dance. His hand-picked troupe of dancers is his instrument, astonishing audiences with their fleet grace: “Even in a season full of excellent dancers…it’s a tonic to watch the Richard Alston Dance Company…[They] take to the air with heart-catching immediacy” (The New York Times).

May 19, 8 PM: Lula Washington Dance Theatre Performance

Lula Washington’s choreography has been seen in films including Avatar and The Little Mermaid, but perhaps this indefatigable choreographer’s greatest gift to the future lies in the hearts and minds of the more than 45,000 South Central Los Angeles children who have found inspiration in her dance school. Her dances, which are rooted in the African-American experience, are joined in the company’s repertoire by works from Donald McKayle, Christopher Huggins, Donald Byrd and Rennie Harris. See dance distinguished by power, grace, and “a sure theatricality that is captivating” (The New York Times).

To learn more about the Virginia Arts Festival, visit vafest.org.