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Performance Combines the History of Coal with Dance

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Over the coming weeks, the Arts and the coal industry advocates will join forces to provide a unique cultural experience for communities in Southern West Virginia.

The National Coal Heritage Area Authority and the WV Dance Company, the State's professional, touring modern dance company, will be presenting "A Coal History" at events in Beckley and Huntington.

The primary focus of the performances is to tell the story of the coal mining industry in Appalachia from the turn of the century to the 1920's. Choreographed by state native and Managing Artistic Director for the WVDC, Toneta Akers-Toler, the series of works depict immigrants passing through Ellis Island, African-Americans coming from the south and locals all making their journey into the mines.

"It's a passionate, engaging and entertaining tale showing a variety of emotions - including adventure, promise, love, fear, joy, sorrow, camaraderie and strength - that affected workers, families, and their respective communities in company towns" Toler said.

Christy Bailey, director of the National Coal Heritage Authority, notes that they felt it was important to present a project like this in their area.

 "It expands our work of interpreting the history of coal and coal communities through a different medium," Bailey said. "The lives of the early coal miners and their families are portrayed in this remarkable performance, giving us a way to honor their sacrifices and struggles. The story we will be presenting is theirs, and we are very proud to showcase that story through the art of dance."

The performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 at Huntington High School.

The free performances are open to the public. Also featured at the performances are new works from Donald Laney, Gretchen Moore, and an American Masterpiece, "Five Chapters from a Broken Novel," choreographed by Doug Varone.

To learn more about the WV Dance Company, visit

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