“Asheville gave me wings,” says poet Glenis Redmond. After visiting for a weekend some 30 years ago, Redmond realized the city’s creative milieu was fertile ground for the art of the written word. She became a frequent participant in Asheville Poetry Slam (run by Allan Wolf who many consider the godfather of slam poetry) and discovered what she still believes to be the best bookstore around, Malaprop’s Bookstore, before she and her family made Asheville their permanent home for 17 vibrant years.
“I came to Asheville for poetry.”
“Asheville in the late ‘90s was super open as far as the arts,” Redmond says. Poetry, dance, mime, puppetry, music, and storytelling often came together in the same space freely, an ethos that continues today. “Art was everywhere; it was so organic,” the poet describes, crediting the city with giving her the start she needed to be a touring artist. “It saved my life and allowed me to blossom.”
Redmond went on to become a co-founder of WordSlam, a poetry slam for teens, in 2007, and local paper Mountain Xpress awarded her WNC Best Poet so many times that they eventually inducted her into their Hall of Fame.
How to channel a love of dance in Asheville
“I believe every floor is a dance floor,” the writer says. In addition to dancing down the aisles of all the grocery stores in Asheville, Redmond frequently took her two daughters to concerts, including Tracy Chapman at Harrah’s Cherokee Center (then known as Asheville Civic Center).
“I often danced and recited at Jubilee on Sundays,” she says, adding, “Dancing is definitely poetic. It is the kinesthetic kin to poetry. Dance amplifies poetry. It is my first love and my first language.”
Like Redmond, you too can get inspired by movement with performances by some of Asheville’s most renowned dance companies. Stewart/Owen Dance is the resident dance company of the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, where they offer mainstage performances and open community classes year-round. Come summer at the Wortham, Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance takes center stage, showcasing talented dancers from across the country.
Redmond reminisces about attending her friend Debra Roberts’ epic African dance classes and recommends visiting The Orange Peel (where she once saw India Arie) and The Grey Eagle for nights out dancing. She also suggests LEAF Global Arts Experience as a place to let loose during weekly classes.
You’ll find plenty of dancers at the Drum Circle, which attracts hundreds of revelers downtown in Pritchard Park every Friday night, April through October, and which Redmond would occasionally join. “I would just happen to be downtown on a Friday night and the drums would call,” she says.
More Asheville venues and restaurants
Music is everywhere in Asheville. At Little Jumbo, you can listen to live jazz on Mondays and experimental tunes by Musica Universalis on Tuesdays. DJ dance parties take place on select Saturdays and the Taco Billy food truck serves tacos out back nightly except Sundays. DJs also spin regularly during monthly dance nights at The Golden Pineapple, which features an extensive food and drink menu that’s ideal for late-night eats. (Pro tip: the wings are delicious.)
To fuel up before or after dancing, follow in Redmond’s footsteps and check out her favorite spots. “If I am going to visit a friend or coming in for a gig it’s…Salsa’s,” she says. Her other go-tos include Zambra for Mediterranean and Table for restaurateur Jacob Sessoms’ seasonal fare.
For more live music options, check out the Asheville Music Hall. Its celebrated Shakedown Sunday Family Band Jam is a local favorite. At Ben’s Tune-Up, a trendy brewery and beer garden, enjoy live music (that we hear regularly leads to dancing) most nights of the week with house sakes, craft beers, and a Japanese-American menu.
If you’re looking to learn how to swing dance, Swing Asheville offers weekly lessons for all levels at the cozy Cork & Keg inside Weinhaus. For a truly unforgettable New Year’s experience, the annual Lindy Focus is an internationally renowned swing dance camp held at the Crowne Plaza Asheville that features some of the world’s best dance instructors.
The rich, cultural experiences of Asheville are what drew Redmond here originally—and today she attracts fans herself as a cherished part of the arts scene, with regular poetry performances at places like the new venue Story Parlor. For lovers of music, dance, and other art forms, it’s this inspired and inspiring mix of creativity that makes the city so rewarding.