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2014 Summer Dance Festivals Across the U.S.

Festivals are centers for new opportunities and creative experiences

By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.

Dance festivals offer unique and unparalleled opportunities for dancers to escape and immerse themselves into a new environment, a new style or a more intensive study – and there is no time like the summer to venture. With premier performances, exhibits, films, classes, artist talks and community events, summer dance festivals are constantly brimming with activity and excitement.

Some of the country’s top dance festivals are Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival and Vail International Dance Festival. These festivals offer top-notch educational programs and intensives, as well as premier performances, international debuts, special artistic collaborations, screenings and exhibits. The best part? Many events are free!

Other smaller and shorter dance festivals are also offered, each with their own style and flavor. Yet, no matter where you are in the country, what style of dance you are looking for, or what educational programs best fit your needs, there is guaranteed to be a summer dance festival for you.

Here’s some information on the top four summer dance festivals not to miss in 2014.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

Artist faculty of The School at Jacob’s Pillow created work on the dancers, who then performed it during the free Inside-Out series. Photo by Kristi Pitsch.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (June 14 – August 24)

In its 82nd season, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is home to America’s longest-running dance festival. Located in Becket, Massachusetts, it is a National Historic Landmark and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. “The Pillow,” as it is affectionately called, is known as “the dance center of the nation, possibly the world” (Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times.)

Following the record-breaking attendance of last year’s festival, the Pillow is reeving up for another thrilling season, presenting more than 350 free and ticketed dance performances, talks, tours, exhibits, films, classes and community events over 10 weeks.

The season will feature more than 52 companies performing on three stages: the historic Ted Shawn Theatre; the intimate Doris Duke Theatre; and the open-air Henry J. Leir Stage, home to the Pillow’s free Inside/Out Performance Series, which served more than 21,000 community members last season.

Ella Baff, Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artistic Director, comments, “This festival, in addition to some of the great and better known American companies such as Mark Morris Dance Group, Trey McIntyre Project and Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pillow audiences will discover less familiar, yet no less important, dance companies such as David Roussève /REALITY, Dorrance Dance, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group and Dance Heginbotham.”

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

Morning Jumpstart Classes are offered Mondays to Thursdays at 8 a.m. and range from Ballet to Arab American Fusion at Jacob’s Pillow. This is a Community Class in 2010. Photo by Kristi Pitsch.

“The 2014 season also features the work of choreographers from the U.S. and abroad, including Lee Sher and Saar Harari (Israel), Jorma Elo (Finland), Nacho Duato (Spain), Alejandro Cerrudo (Spain), Jiří Kylián (The Netherlands), David Dawson (U.K.), Norbert De La Cruz III (Philippines), Krzysztof Pastor (Poland), Fei Bo (China), Sonia Destri Lie (Brazil), Yaron Lifschitz (Australia) and others. The international mix is an important part of the Jacob’s Pillow experience and is meant to show that dance has a remarkable range of possibilities.”

As always, the famed School at Jacob’s Pillow will simultaneously be offering programs that are international and varied in scope. This year, pre-professional dancers from around the world have auditioned to take part in programs in Ballet (June 9-22), Tap (June 23-July 6), Contemporary (July 7-27) and Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance (July 28-August 18.)

Then, as the cherry on top, the Pillow offers unparalleled exhibits and archives that are completely free and open to the public. The collection includes historic correspondences, photographs, programs, books, costumes, films, audiotapes and more. For more information on Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, visit

American Dance Festival (June 12 – July 26)

The American Dance Festival (ADF), now in its 81st season, will once again lite up the city of Durham, North Carolina with world-class dance. Originally founded in 1934 in Bennington, Vermont, ADF has since relocated and set up shop on the southern coastline, where it regularly presents educational programs and performances.

Class at American Dance Festival

A teacher assists a student in class at American Dance Festival. Photo courtesy of ADF.

ADF is an international magnet for choreographers, dancers, teachers, students, critics, musicians and scholars to learn and create in a supportive environment. ADF’s numerous summer programs include performances, artist services, educational programs and classes, as well as community outreach, humanities projects, publications, and media projects.

This season, ADF will present 50 performances by 24 companies and choreographers from around the world in six weeks. As a special treat, the season also includes ADF’s second Trisha Brown co-presentation with the Nasher Museum of Art and a spectacular ADF exclusive performance by four of today’s leading choreographers.

“During our 81st season we offer our audiences an exciting collection of classic, edgy, fun and groundbreaking work by dance artists from around the world, “ said ADF Director Jodee Nimerichter. “This summer, we continue to expand our reach beyond performance venues in Durham by commissioning four works to premiere in New York and one in Miami this spring.”

The return of festival favorites, the introduction of festival newcomers and a wide array of dance-related opportunities (many of them free) await dance fans this summer. The season, titled Shall We Dance, includes dance by both newcomers to the ADF stage, including Carl Flink and Netta Yerushalmy, and return appearances by companies such as Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Vertigo Dance Company. Perennial favorite Pilobolus also returns with two commissioned world premieres, while the Paul Taylor Dance Company comes to celebrate its 60th anniversary with two nights of new and classic works.

Class at American Dance Festival

Dancers in class at American Dance Festival. Photo courtesy of ADF.

The season will also feature the ADF debuts of South Africa’s Gregory Maqoma/Vuyani Dance Theatre, Israel’s Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor, Ballet Hispanico, Tere O’Connor Dance and four North Carolina artists chosen by a national panel of judges to present their work in a special shared program, Here and Now: NC Dances, in collaboration with the NC Dance Festival. During the festival’s final week, the ADF exclusive program, On Their Bodies, will showcase ADF-commissioned solos choreographed and danced by Ronald K. Brown, Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone and Shen Wei.

To learn more about ADF’s public programs and 2014 season, head to

Bates Dance Festival (June 27 – August 9)

The Bates Dance Festival, based in Lewiston, Maine for more than 30 years, offers four interwoven programs each summer: two professional training programs, including the Young Dancers Workshop (YDW) and the Professional Training Program (PTP); a mainstage performances series featuring renowned contemporary dance artists from around the world; and community outreach activities, including the Youth Arts Program serving local youth ages 7-16 with dance, music, theater and visual arts training.

The 2014 programs are scheduled for: June 27-July 18 for the Young Dancers Workshop (ages 14-18); July 19-August 10 for the Professional Training Program  (ages 18 and up); July 21-August 9 for the Youth Arts Program (ages 7-16); and July 11-August 9 for the Performance and Events Series.

David Dorfman Dance

David Dorfman Dance will perform at the 2014 Bates Dance Festival. Photo by Adam Campos.

The 2014 Performance and Events Series will present stunning new works, including renowned contemporary artists Prometheus Dance, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, David Dorfman Dance and Vincent Mantsoe | Yin Mei.

One unique offering is ​the festival’s annual Musicians’ Concert, a global mix of music by 10 remarkable composers and players. While many dance festivals are solely focused on the movement aspect of dance, Bates also recognizes the musicians who compose and create scores for dance.

Find out more about this festival by going to

Vail International Dance Festival (July 27 – August 9)

Celebrating its 26th season, the Vail International Dance Festival, located in the ski resort community of Vail, Colorado, will offer nine performances at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, two performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, and a series of master classes and free interactive events in the streets of Vail this summer.

Lead by Artistic Director Damian Woetzel, a former New York City Ballet Principal, the 2014 festival will present American Ballet Theatre’s Argentine superstar Herman Cornejo as artist-in-residence and Pennsylvania Ballet and BalletX as the companies-in-residence.

Summer dance festival

Vail International Dance Festival. Photo by Brian Maloney.

Throughout the festival, a host of other international dance superstars will make their appearances. Audiences can see Carla Kӧrbes from Pacific Northwest Ballet, tango artists Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión, the Memphis jookin’ sensation Lil’ Buck, the Martha Graham Dance Company and last year’s artists-in-residence Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet. A highlight will be the Vail premiere of Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature, which debuted at the Pillow last summer.

“The Vail International Dance Festival is more and more about collaboration – combining contrasting styles of dance, or dancers who have never worked together before,” Woetzel commented. “These explorations are what make the festival a unique experience for the dancers and the audience. Pushing the limits and experimenting with what is possible has really become the goal.”

In recent years, this element of cross-collaboration has been evident in the festival. Last year’s Now: Premieres program featured a duet created and performed by modern dancer Fang-Yi Sheu and Memphis jooker Ron Myles, as well as a trio by Brian Brooks that combined Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle (both from NYCB) with Gallim Dance’s Jonathan Royse Windham.

In addition to the collaborative mainstage performances, the festival offers frequent public performances at local farmers’ markets and city events for free. For more information, visit

Photo (top): The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, MET Dance, performing as part of the free Inside-Out performance series in 2012 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Photo by Taylor Crichton.

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