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

Festival Fever: Three Top Summer Dance Festivals on College Campuses

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

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search