Teaching Tips

How This Dance Festival's Co-Founder Is Supporting Up-and-Coming Artists

Dance Gallery Festival founder Astrid von Ussar (center) leading a class. Photo by Sharon Bradford, courtesy of von Ussar

Last year The Dance Gallery Festival celebrated 10 years. Since the beginning, co-founder and artistic director Astrid von Ussar has been in search of ways for the festival to make a real impact on the dance community and support up-and-coming choreographers. Here's how she's doing it.

This year's Dance Gallery Festival, November 3 at Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center in Brooklyn and November 4–5 at Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City, will feature 21 choreographers.


Mentor talent trying to get a foothold in the business.

Creating performance opportunities for up-and-coming choreographers and dancers who don't have the organizational structure or financial means to self-produce is a key component for a festival. Investing in artists over time, through commissioning series and offering residencies and master classes deepens the artist/mentor relationship. "It is exciting to see so many of our alums go on and receive commission opportunities with major companies," says von Ussar.

Ad Deum Dance Company performing at this year's festival. Photo by Lynn Lane, courtesy of DGF

Networking

Networking with other artists and the sharing of ideas that leads to new collaborations and commissions is extremely valuable. A festival is about creating a supportive and dynamic dance community that pushes the artform forward.

Form partnerships with universities.

For example, The Dance Gallery Festival has a partnership with Sam Houston State University, the Texas home of the festival. This partnership creates a symbiotic relationship where choreographers get access to university resources, while the students gain exposure to the artform and develop professional connections that lead to job opportunities.

Sean Carmon with Jacquelin Harris performing at this year's festival. Photo by Richard Calmes, courtesy of DGF

Expand dance audiences.

By bringing together artists from across the U.S. and Europe, the festival broadens its audience and entices critics to take notice. One of the ways to engage audiences is through the festival's Audience Choice Award. By empowering the audience to select future commissions, a much-needed dialogue about the direction of dance is created.

Victoria DeRenzo's piece at this year's festival. Photo by Kevin Schuster, courtesy of DGF

Production

Self-producing is a daunting and financially challenging endeavor for any artist. One of the big assets of a festival is production support. The model covers all production expenses, promotes and markets the artists, and provides valuable resources, such as archival video and photography of their work. "We are committed to helping our artists take the next step in their careers," says von Ussar.

For more info on The Dance Gallery Festival, visit here.

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