This month the Dance Gallery Festival celebrates 10 years of helping hundreds of choreographers establish a foothold in the business. Its alumni have gone on to present work at Jacob’s Pillow, The Joyce Theater, international venues and on TV.
“We want to find the next artist and the next voice, and we want to create a place for artists to get together and to share,” says Astrid von Ussar, the festival’s co-founder and artistic director. “It’s very hard to be a working artist without funding, and it’s hard to present if you don’t have an audience or a following. The festival gives up-and-coming choreographers a chance to show their work and hopefully have their careers take off.”
That means there is no performance fee and participants get to show work on a state-of-the-art Manhattan stage—complete with a production staff, marketing and public relations support, professional photography and video, and a dance-savvy audience.
The festival celebrates with three programs this year. The new “Best Of” features top alumni, including Sidra Bell, Gabrielle Lamb (a 2014 New York City Center choreography fellow), Manuel Vignoulle and Joshua L. Peugh (2015 Dance Magazine “25 to Watch”). Vignoulle’s M/motions and Peugh’s Dark Circles Contemporary Dance both appeared at Jacob’s Pillow this summer.
“Astrid’s standards for excellence are very high, and her dreams for the festival are big,” Peugh says. “She encourages innovation and trusts her artists to challenge themselves, and she allows them space to push boundaries and explore new things.”
The “Level UP” program showcases three companies/choreographers selected from applicants, alumni or by recommendation, each receiving a stipend and 25 minutes of stage time. This year’s participants are Mike Esperanza’s BARE Dance Company (NYC), Robert Priore (Washington, DC) and Christopher Rudd’s RudduR Dance (NYC).
The “Main Event” has two shows with more than 20 choreographers—including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Sean Aaron Carmon, recently featured in The New York Times for his piece Freedom.
A long-term goal, von Ussar says, is to establish additional teaching and performance partnerships with satellite universities. To that end, two artists from last year’s festival participated in the annual Sam Houston State University residency in Huntsville, Texas, where they spent two to three weeks setting new work on upper-level dance students. Twelve artists from this year’s festival will teach master classes at the university. The “Main Event” portion of the festival will be presented, November 4–5, at the university’s Gaertner Performing Arts Center. The full festival takes place at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center in NYC, November 11–13.
For more: dancegalleryfestival.com