Festival Fever: Three Top Summer Dance Festivals on College Campuses

Students at American Dance Festival (Grant Halverson, courtesy American Dance Festival)

Summer means ballet intensives and Nationals, right? Right. But it also means dancers are descending on college towns around the country for multi-week festivals—opportunities to hone their modern skills and rub shoulders with some of today's star choreographers. Interested in expanding your horizons, working with the pros and getting a taste of campus life? Here are three of the biggest and best summer dance festivals held on college campuses.


Bates Dance Festival

Bates Dance Festival is held at Bates College in Lewiston, ME, and has a strong relationship with the Bates dance department. “Many artists who teach at the BDF return during the year to teach and set work," says festival director Laura Faure. The festival's Young Dancers Workshop is offered for dancers ages 14–18, and its Professional Training Program is available for everyone older than 18. BDF is proud of its welcoming, yet rigorous, environment. “You're gaining access to an essential professional network in a noncompetitive community," Faure says. Expect classes from rising modern choreographers like Dante Brown and established masters like Doug Varone. Because of the campus setting and faculty crossover between the festival and the dance department, participants get a good sense of the college's dance program while still being exposed to a variety of teachers. High school students can meet with a Bates admissions counselor to ask questions about attending the college.

Details: batesdancefestival.org

Salt Dance Fest

The University of Utah hosts Salt Dance Fest each summer, inviting local artists, University of Utah faculty and choreographers from around the country to use the school's top-notch facilities in their exploration of the creative process.

Salt is restricted to college-aged dancers, and is less focused on technique (though a few classes are available) than other summer festivals. Salt participants come to experiment in classes like “Hot Mess," taught by San Francisco–based choreographer Alex Ketly, which asks dancers to confront what it means to do something badly.

Details: dance.utah.edu/events

American Dance Festival

American Dance Festival takes place on the Duke University campus in Durham, NC. ADF offers two different summer training programs: the Six Week School, for dancers ages 16 and older, and the Three Week School, for dancers ages 12–16. Both are modern focused, offering everything from Cunningham to Gaga—with options to take ballet, composition and more. Participants may have the opportunity to learn existing repertory (past students have tackled choreo by William Forsythe) and have brand-new work set on them. “The ADF experience is very comparable to being a dance major," says ADF dean Leah Cox. “Festival participants can live on campus in the dorms. There's a feeling of community and stability."

Details: americandancefestival.org

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(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

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