Five years in, Brooklyn Dance Festival is gaining momentum.


It started with a conversation at Starbucks five years ago: How do we create a platform to cultivate and curate concert dance in Brooklyn in a way that makes it easily accessible to the public?

Since then, Tamia Santana and Tracie Stanfield—executive director and artistic director of the Brooklyn Dance Festival, respectively—have watched their audience grow from friends and family to a dance-savvy audience, thanks in part to landing at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2015. “This is much bigger than we had envisioned. Now it’s a movement,” Santana says.

More than 300 dancers from about 30 dance companies will participate during the weeklong festival, which has three specific segments focused on New York City dancemakers: professional companies, emerging artists and youth ensembles. Some of the Main Stage performers include SynthesisDANCE, 10 Hairy Legs, Frederick Earl Mosley and The Bang Group. “The Main Stage is a professional stage, and we work with a strong, diverse group of like-minded performers,” says Stanfield, noting that some artists participate every year, and some are invited, and that both the emerging artist and youth stages are curated through a submission process.

One unique aspect of the festival is a professional-level boot camp experience for dancers. They audition for the Brooklyn Dance Festival Company and learn an entire piece from a guest choreographer in two days. This year’s guest artist is contemporary modern dance choreographer Sidra Bell. Company dancers will perform the piece during the Main and Next Stage shows.

Last year’s guest artist was Kristin Sudeikis, who returns in 2016 with new work on the Main Stage. “When I was invited to be a part of the festival, it was an immediate yes,” she says. “The dance scene in Brooklyn is vibrant, and this festival feels like it is at the exact right time and the exact right place. There is a pulse about it, a freshness to it, that is exciting.”

Main Stage performances are March 26 at BAM Fisher; the Next Stage and Youth Stage performances are April 2 and April 3, at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts. Rounding out the festival is Brooklyn Dance Festival Day and a gala on April 4 at Brooklyn Borough Hall. DT

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Hannah Maria Hayes is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photo by Jaqi Medlock, courtesy of Brooklyn Dance Festival

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