You’re Invited!

July 29th, 2014

metaacademyimp-bdf1A message from Rachel Boggia to all members of Dance-tech Pedagogy on dance-tech: 

WHO:  David Zambrano, Kerstin Kussmaul, Jennifer Lacey, and Rio Rutzinger (ImPulzTanz)  David Dorfman, Angie Hauser, and Chris Aiken (Bates Dance Festival) will discuss their ideas, perspectives and research on dance teaching and dance education with YOU!

WHAT: Please join us for a google+ hangout to discuss contemporary perspectives on dance teaching with faculty from Impulstanz and Bates Dance Festival. 

WHEN: Wednesday, July 30th from 12:45-1:45 p.m. EST 

WHERE: If you want to be a part of the conversation, then email to request an invite. Also, you have the option of simply viewing the livestream here:

RELATED: “This summer BDF continues its support and engagement with Meta-academy to foster a vibrant creative community online.”


This post was written by Ashley Yergens. Ashley is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2014 summer.


Notes from the Creative Process

July 26th, 2014

Lida Winfield and I have just wrapped up the first week of our Emerging Artist Residency and, throughout the week, have found ourselves thrilled, overwhelmed, inspired and exhausted.

As collaborators we’ve worked long-distance the past 3 years, jumping head first into our friendship and our artistry in intensive bursts of activity – one week here, three days there, a show, a workshop and then off to our separate lives.  It’s been such a gift to have this time at Bates to reconnect and dig more deeply into our duet work.

Three weeks feels deceptively luxurious – in truth it’s flying by.

We’ve chosen to focus our residency on developing a new duet with Choreographer/Filmmaker Tiffany Rhynard.  A grant from the Vermont Community Foundation allowed us to commission the new work with a four-day residency at Middlebury College in January.  Those four days of rich, challenging work left us with about 20 minutes of raw material to sort through and continue to craft here at Bates.  We’re continuing our collaboration with Tiffany, sending her thoughts and video clips for feedback and direction along the way.

Here are a few notes and questions to share from our creative process thus far:

-Exploring memories of power and powerless-ness through movement and storytelling…

-How can we embody the joy and energy of powerful moments?  What about times of physical oppression, restraint, being subdued?

-Can we overpower one another without being rough or violent?  What dynamic range is possible there?

-How can we re-enter work begun 6 months ago (untouched since then)?  This distance makes knowing and editing the work feel tougher than usual.

-Can we really allow ourselves to enjoy this opportunity to explore and investigate, without too much pressure to produce a finished product?  Can we pace ourselves, have fun, find moments for reflection, make time to explore dead ends, relax, open up, take risks?

Ellen Smith Ahern


Better Together

July 25th, 2014

YAP student learns about percussion.

As the BDF social media intern, I am spoiled rotten. Seriously. I get to investigate DanceMotion USA’s residency with David Dorfman, Korhan Basaran‘s group of Turkish dancers, and two Armenian dancers. I pop in and out of classes led by stellar faculty such as Jennifer Nugent and Cathy Young. I even get bits of wisdom from Meredith Lyons and Laura Faure on arts administration. I am privileged to experience this festival from such diverse and knowledgeable perspectives.

In a past post, I shared my “fly on the wall” perspective regarding the type of creative courage that BDF creates:

“At this festival, it’s about getting back to that very human thing. As dancers, our duty is to connect to other human beings. Even if you just pick one person that you can impact for the better, with work that might not work — that is vulnerability and art in its highest form. It’s giving what you can give, and taking everything that you can take.”

While our Professional Training Program succeeds at doing this, there is another program that brings us even closer to our humanity. It’s a program that invites youth and teens from the Lewiston/Auburn area to join the festival.

This summer marks the 21st year of our Youth Arts Program (YAP). As soon as registration opened, participants signed up quickly. This comes as no surprise. YAP engages youth ages 7-16 in an encouraging and intensive three weeks of dance, yoga, music, theater, visual arts, storytelling, poetry and writing.

Now, I know you already know all about the benefits of the arts because you read a certain previous post. However, I need to reiterate one thing: In order to fully cultivate a culture of curiosity and diversity, we need youth arts programs. More specifically, the Lewiston/Auburn area needs YAP.

RELATED: Read “From Play to Purpose” here.

As the world continues to change, students’ stories become more bountiful and complex. In everything that YAP does, the program wants to make sure that these stories are fully realized and innovatively communicated. By producing dance and other forms of art, YAP youth go above and beyond the average classroom lessons. They practice tolerance. They become upstanding citizens of a globalized world. Most incredibly, YAP students teach adults how to be human again … Let’s face it. We tend to forget what really matters every once in a while.

So, what’s the best part of my job? It’s listening to kids as they explain problem-solving, generosity, and how our world would improve if we all had a “better together” mindset.

better together

This post was written by Ashley Yergens. Ashley is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2014 summer. 


The Wall as Dancer

July 24th, 2014

I keep thinking about the wall currently set up on the Schaeffer Theatre stage for the upcoming performances of “Come, and Back Again” by David Dorfman Dance. Filled with curated “pots and pans of civilization” as my thesis mentor Sam Ball used to say, this wall, created by Brooklyn-based sculptor Jonah Emerson-Bell, is our lives. We accumulate and accumulate and accumulate. Things become complex. Relationships become complex. Life becomes complex. We have a choice: Keep everything the way it is, or simplify, “Clean it up” as Dorfman says, “Or not.”

Amazing that this wall, inert as it is, becomes a dancer as well, tied to the choreography and setting a tone for the entire work. Like our own accumulations, the wall, according to Dorfman, is a “bunch of junk that is extremely profound.” It tells a story rich in layered meanings that will ultimately unfold with the dancers, musicians, and other design elements in performance.

Another consideration of the wall as a design element is its personality. Toned white, all the individual elements become a whole. Dorfman talked about each dancer having a unique signature that becomes an important building block in choreographic process. These signatures inform phrases and become strengths in the work, even as all the dancers function collectively to express the larger choreographic idea.

The wall has many individual signatures—everyday signatures. Each item has a story, a role to play. At the same time, the composition and treatment of these elements imbue the wall with a higher purpose. The larger wall becomes animate and expressive as it comments on the evolving dance. When treated with projection and light, and counterpart of shadow, it breathes with the dance. No matter where you sit in the house, the dynamic gestures of the dancers will always be backed by this presence. And like the hidden pictures in a Highlights magazine collage, you will find yourself seeing something you didn’t see before, and work this image back into the meaning of the dance.

I realize Dorfman intentionally held back in the Show & Tell, he said as much. So in performance with complete choreography, music, projection, costume, and light we will fully experience Emerson-Bell’s contribution to Dorfman’s larger vision in “Come, and Back Again.”

This post was written by Jim Thurston. Jim is a professional designer and educator who researches the relationship between choreography and design for the stage. He is the chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Colby College and is delighted to collaborate with artists and scholars at the Bates Dance Festival.


On Creative Courage

July 19th, 2014



Professional Training Program students begin to arrive at registration.

There is a dynamic shift that happens at BDF this weekend. For those of us who have been here from the get-go, we start to adjust to a new energy on campus. Of course we are incredibly excited for all of the new dancers, faculty, events, performances, and classes to take place. However, there is something in the air that I’m picking up on, and I’m not quite sure what it is.

Perhaps, it’s anxiety? For me, anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. So, why am I so afraid of failing in such a nurturing environment? Furthermore, what am I afraid of failing at? As dancers, why are our nerves doing such a strange dance today?

Embodying vulnerability. Believe it or not, I think some of us are afraid of not being vulnerable enough.

Vulnerability and risk-taking gets back to this idea of what we are truly afraid of as young professional dance artists. I, for one, am not necessarily afraid of taking artistic risks and practicing vulnerability in performance — I am more so afraid of settling for less. I am afraid of not giving what I can give. And, I am certainly afraid of not taking everything that I can take while I’m here.

And so we find ourselves waiting for our chance to really experience vulnerability. During this waiting period, we find ourselves having an internal debate. Why am I here? What is my work? Is my work good enough? Well, you are your work. You are good enough. You and I are here because we’re addicted to vulnerability. With vulnerability, innovation and discovery comes. This is where rich work takes flight.

As Seth Godin puts it: “When we share [our work], when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked in front of the person we’ve given the gift of our art to. We have no excuses, no manual to point to, no standard operating procedure to protect us. And that is part of our gift.”

At this point, it’s not about where you came from, your dance education, or your resume. Most importantly, it’s not competitive at all. At this festival, it’s about getting back to that very human thing. As dancers, our duty is to connect to other human beings. Even if you just pick one person that you can impact for the better, with work that might not work — that is vulnerability and art in its highest form. It’s giving what you can give, and taking everything that you can take.

So, that “anxiety” that some of us are picking up on? It’s not really anxiety at all. It’s creative courage in the making. I can’t wait to witness all of these incredible professional-level dancers as they take flight.

This post was written by Ashley Yergens. Ashley is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2014 summer.

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