The World Is Our Stage

Monday, June 8–Monday, June 15

American Dance Festival

Local dance makers weren’t expecting to hear from the American Dance Festival after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out its summer 2020 season in Durham.

But then, in mid-May, 20 of them received a challenge from the venerable modern dance festival, with the promise of payment and a fast-approaching deadline. The assignment? Make a new dance video—exactly 60 seconds long—over the next two weeks and follow social distancing guidelines while you do it.

We’ll see the results in the virtual mini-festival The World Is Our Stage. Monday, June 8–Friday, June 12, the festival will screen four videos each day in a special section on its website. On Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14, when the full collection of videos has been posted, viewers across the world will vote on their favorites.

The creators of the three most-popular videos will win honorariums from $250 to $1,000 and free studio time at ADF’s dance studios on Broad Street. (All participants will receive a $200 stipend.) The winners will be announced Monday, June 15, three days before the festival was originally scheduled to start.

“We’re trying to find ways to continue to support local artists and stay in conversation with our audiences,” executive director Jodee Nimerichter says. “In a time when it’s difficult to know what to do, this gives artists an outlet to be creative, to have a voice, and be seen. It also lets our audience see artists they’ve never seen before.”

Durham choreographer Justin Tornow might have a slight edge on some of the other entrants. Since the start of the shelter-in-place restrictions, she’d already been making short dance films and posting them online. She made a piece called And Now, This with sound design by Ultrabillions, her collaborator in the dance-and-sound duo Beta Tests.

The project helped fill the gap when Tornow’s company lost its chance to perform at the festival this summer, and the virtual form does have its advantages.

“In film we can disrupt space and time,” Tornow says. “Plus, 60 seconds is fun. We’re all kind of used to that on Instagram already. Many artists struggle with editing; to be legible, clear, and interesting in that time frame is a beautiful challenge.”   

The festival, which is sponsored by the continuing-care retirement community The Forest at Duke, also features Megan Yankee, Anna Barker, Alyssa Noble, Kristin Taylor Duncan, Ronald West, and other local choreographers and dancers who are familiar to INDY readers.  

For the lighthearted film Car Tunes, it took West and filmmaker Clark Ivers 12 hours to animate objects in every room of West’s house with stop-motion and other techniques.

“They find their voices. They’re singing popular songs and calling me as I wake up, go through the house, and dance with them,” West says.

While some artists chafe at time constraints like these, he considers them a gift: “You can cross off all these things and then focus on what the opportunities are.”

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