To Bobbie Shelton, dance means inclusion.
"We moved here to Savannah when I was 10 from Long Island, N.Y.," Shelton says. "I had a very thick accent and was teased by the other children.
"My aunt had a dance studio," she says. "When I was there, I felt included - I felt I belonged. ... That was my way of getting involved in the community as a child and becoming accepted."
There were other benefits from the dance lessons.
"I learned how to keep time with music and became very familiar with classical music," Shelton says. "A byproduct is learning about the other arts that all go along with dance.
"I enjoyed it. It was exercise and I had a group of friends," she says. "I had school friends and dance friends. Dance exposes you to a whole new group of individuals."
Today, Shelton is a volunteer with the Savannah Dance Festival, which was founded with the intent of promoting dance and education.
"We are 100 percent volunteer, with no office," she says. "We're fairly new and did some fundraising last year. Pat Alley founded it.
"We decided Savannah needs to have great dance, just as now we have great film with the film festival and great music with the music festival. Our mission is to make Savannah a destination for dance."
On Nov. 2, the Savannah Dance Festival will host the East Coast premiere of "No Hero," created by the award-winning choreographer Alex Ketley of San Francisco.
It will feature members of Ketley's dance company, The Foundry.
"No Hero" premiered in San Francisco in 2012. Ketley was recently a winner of two Isadora Duncan Awards, one of which was given to "No Hero" for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Design.
"No Hero" is a multimedia production that combines dance with filmmaking and storytelling.
"It's very different," Shelton says. "Alex is very talented and he got intrigued with filmmaking.
"He went to the rural West and asked people, 'What does dance mean to you?' The people were all non-professional dancers, and they told stories about times in their lives when they met someone at a dance or were affected by dance in other ways."
Shelton herself has a story about dance.
"My mother met my father at a USO dance here in Savannah," she says.
The production features Aline Wachsmuth, a member of The Foundry.
"I've only seen excerpts," Shelton says. "When the people in the film are telling their stories, Aline listens to the story and gets up and does contemporary dance and follows along. It's very unique."
Ketley will conduct a question-and-answer session after the performance. A portion of the $25 admission fee will go to provide workshops for local students.
On Nov. 1, Ketley and several members of his company will conduct master classes in dance at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the Savannah Arts Academy and the Esther F. Garrison School of Visual & Performing Arts.
This is the first performance sponsored by the Savannah Dance Festival.
"Large dance companies are very expensive," Shelton says.
"Because The Foundry is small, we can get our feet wet and see what's out there," she says. "We will do outreach and education and show young people what dance is all about."
The organization of the Savannah Dance Festival is ongoing, and members hope to someday have a festival similar in scope to the Savannah Music Festival and Savannah Film Festival.
"We have to get more board members. We have to get funds together," Shelton says. "We're looking for corporate support. Eventually, we'll have an office and staff, but that takes time.
"To be on the board, you don't need to be a dancer," she says. "We're looking for community members who have fundraising experience, especially with the arts."
Shelton says she believes the people of Savannah will embrace the Savannah Dance Festival once they know about it.
"We hope to grow and have great dance companies of all kinds come to Savannah," she says.
"I think it will catch on and grow," Shelton says. "I think this will appeal to people of different interests - including filmmaking, storytelling, artists of all kinds - because it's very unique and different, very appealing to many different genres of artists."