Dance companies from around the Poconos and beyond will showcase their artistry at the Sherman Theater on Sunday for the 14th annual Mountain Dance Concert.

Dance companies from around the Poconos and beyond will showcase their artistry at the Sherman Theater on Sunday for the 14th annual Mountain Dance Concert.

Maria Triano, producer and artistic director, originated the event to bring people together in the experience of concert dance and "to give choreographers an opportunity to put their work out there, to give dancers a performance opportunity, to be able to inspire one another and our local audience, to raise the level of dance awareness, dance performance and technical dance training in the Poconos."

When companies come together to perform, it not only gives dancers and choreographers a chance to show off their talents, but it can reduce the amount of time and money needed to produce an individual concert, said Triano, who is also the director of PA Dance Vision and Network in East Stroudsburg.

"Having a shared experience where someone else produces an event takes care of all of the pre- and post-production work, and is much more doable. This way companies can show up and do what they do best, and that is entertain," she said.

There will be 10 dance groups performing, and one of them is Sharp Dance Co. from Philadelphia. "Last year, we had the pleasure of performing at Mountain Dance Concert and we had a wonderful time," said Diane Sharp-Nachsin, artistic director and choreographer.

Sharp Dance Co. will perform "Unguarded Moment." "It is a solo done on pointe shoes in a straight-jacket. (It) tells the story of one girl's escape when no one was watching. Escaping from what is for the audience to decide," Sharp-Nachsin said.

Escaping the ordinary is the subject of "Di-Ver-Gence" being presented by Tannersville-based FuSia Dance Company. The inspiration for the modern dance came directly from the meaning of the word "divergence," the act of moving away in a different direction from a common point, artistic director Francesca Stigliano said.

"I felt that this idea was relatable to the experiences of our generation; breaking away from the norm and expressing ideas of a different perspective. I felt that sharp and direct movements powered by percussive music was an interesting avenue to explore in the first section of the piece as it quickly changes into a more subtle and gentle movement quality at its end, symbolizing a break from conformity," Stigliano said.

She has both performed and presented work in past years at the concert. "I have had many positive experiences with the concert and have left feeling inspired and excited about dance. I look forward to this concert as it shows the power of art of dance in the heart of the Poconos. As a teacher and choreographer in the area, I believe that the Poconos is open to the idea of dance and embraces it very well," Stigliano said.

Triano agreed. "We have the largest dance population here now than ever before. Being born and raised in the Poconos, I've been watching it grow each year. With the many businesses, groups and organizations operating right here in the Poconos each offering something unique to their population, a child, teen or adult — male or female — can learn to dance, continue their dance education, or simply be with other like-minded individuals for fun and exercise," she said.

Triano organized the first Mountain Dance Concert in 1997 at Cohen Recital Hall on the East Stroudsburg University campus. The ESU Dance Company has been a part of the event from the beginning.

Dr. Elizabeth Gibbons, director of the ESU Dance Program, said the Mountain Dance Concert gives a broader exposure to ESU dancers and choreographers, and it's simply an enjoyable event.

"It also gives the student dancers the opportunity to experience performing in a beautiful old/new theater — the private boxes on the side, the cold but quaint dressing rooms in the 'bowels' of the theatre, sneaking up to the mezzanine to watch other dances, are all fun parts of the event for a dancer," she said.

The students enjoy meeting dancers from other schools and professional companies from around the region. "Everyone brings a different perspective, and it's a mini-cultural-exchange. Of course, one of the most important aspects is that the students get to see a wide range of choreography, some innovative concepts," Gibbons said.

The concert also helps to revitalize the student artists. "They come back to the beginning of the upcoming semester re-energized and full of new ideas, excited about diving into a fresh semester of creativity," she said.

In 2006, the Mountain Dance Concert moved to the Sherman Theater. "The response has been pretty strong. Dance is a great show of art and athleticism, and we are excited that we can offer a facility like this to our local and regional dance groups," Rich Berkowitz, executive director of the theater, said.

Regardless of location, Stigliano said dance can make a difference in peoples' lives. "I believe that dance can change each and every one of us ... because no matter who we are, we all have a dancer inside of us," she said.