CAMDEN, NJ—Professional dancers from across the Northeast will be making their way down to Camden this August for a one-of-a-kind dance festival that not only highlights some of the best dancers around, but also gives young dancers a chance to learn those very same professionals.

That Which Connects, Camden’s Festival of Dance will return to the Walter K. Gordon Theatre at Rutgers-Camden on Aug. 18 for two performances, one at 4 p.m. and one at 7 p.m.

The festival was started three years ago by Sonia James Pennington, a lawyer-turned-dancer who wanted to give a platform to professional dance in Camden.

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“It was actually the result of a piece that I choreographed for my company, Introspective Movement Project, that was called ‘That Which Connects,’” Pennington said. “The piece was about the connection of people through dance, and it just inspired me to think about ways to bring dance to Camden, and not just bring dance to Camden, but give back through it.”

However, she wanted the festival to be more than just performance. That desire led to the most important part of the festival, said Pennington — what comes in the days preceding it.

In the five days leading up to the festival, That Which Connects holds an intensive course for pre-professional dancers ages 13 to 18. Last year, it was able to provide about half of the dancers who attended a scholarship to attend the camp for free. This year, Pennington said, there is a good chance that the festival will be able to give out full scholarships to all of the dancers that attend. Twenty-five have already been awarded.

“We want all dancers to have access. That’s the first thing that’s so important with the arts, the lack of access and opportunity,” Pennington said. “The dancers get the opportunity to not only learn from the very best, but on the day of the festival they actually get to share the stage with them.”

Dancers in the five-day course will learn a variety of dance styles from those same professionals that will be performing on Aug. 18. The dancers will go through four classes a day learning classic dance disciplines such as ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, modern, contemporary, lyrical, Latin Jazz and musical theatre. At the end, they will perform what they learned for the live audience at the festival.

This year’s festival will feature works from professional dance companies like Introspective Movement Project, 10 Hairy Legs, Black Boys Dance Too, Putty Dance, Ballet Inc., The Lady Hoofers, The Positivity Project and Nickerson-Rossi Dance. The festival also took submissions from up-and-coming independent choreographers, and those selected will have a chance to showcase their talents to a wider audience.

The festival is still accepting applications from dancers who wish to attend the five-day intensive course, Pennington said. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.thatwhichconnectscamden.com. Group tickets will be offered at a discount.