5 of the Best Summer Dance Festivals to Fuel Your Creativity

As dance students and working professionals, we are constantly searching for ways to inform and improve our craft. The summer months, where many dancers are off from contracts and other performance obligations, tend to be the best time to gain outside inspiration and training to further enhance dancers’ skill sets. Dance is an artform that is ever-evolving, so diving in to a new movement environment could be a spark for your creativity. If you are interested in traveling to find exhilarating workshop and performance experiences, then investing in a summer dance festival will prove to be beneficial to your career. Dance festivals are designed to bring artists of all backgrounds and experiences together, so most festivals are accessible to everyone.

To help strengthen your knowledge of what exciting events are available to you and your progression in dance, here is a list of five of the best International Dance Festivals:

b12 Berlin Workshop Festival © Tadas Almantas
b12 Berlin Workshop Festival © Tadas Almantas

b12 Berlin Workshop Festival (Berlin, Germany)

b12 is a multifaceted international dance festival for contemporary dance and performance art in Berlin lasting three to four weeks. At this festival, you can choose to participate in 10, 8, 6, 4, or 2-day workshops as well as research projects that span over an equivalent length of days. In order to suit different financial backgrounds and research ideas, there are now five different workshop length options. You can now mix and match and apply for the ones which best work for you.

The performance attractions have many different options to choose from. There are concerts by invited artists, site-specific showings, and midnight showings; there are also performance projects that give dancers the opportunity to have an in-depth experience with one choreographer, working on an idea and presenting it in a performance setting. The pieces are then presented at DOCK 11, a black box theater in the center of Berlin.

At b12, you can apply for research workshops, somatic research, outreach, and the framing motion workshop up until one day before the start of that particular workshop. However, the performance projects have a deadline that occurs mid-spring of each year. Send an email to researchordie(at)b12.space with the workshops that you would like to take, a sample of your dance footage, and your biography. You can also add a short motivation letter, or statement of purpose, explaining your interest in the workshop to which you are applying. Visit the b12 website for more detailed descriptions on each of these individualized workshops.

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There are 10 full scholarships that b12 offers to dancers/performers each year. They are available to participants from select countries which vary from year to year. The scholarship lasts one week and includes four four-day workshops or an equivalent, housing for the entire week, and a stipend of one hundred Euro.

Ballet Program in the Perles Family Studio at Jacob's Pillow © Noor Eemaan
Ballet Program in the Perles Family Studio at Jacob's Pillow © Noor Eemaan

Jacob’s Pillow (Becket, Massachusetts)

Jacob’s Pillow is a famous historical venue. It was first settled in 1790 by the Carter family between Boston and Albany, which is now Route 20. In 1931, the farm was bought by modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn as an artistic retreat.  Each year, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival features more than 350 free performances, talks and tours, exhibits, community events, classes, special and members-only events, and more.

Jacob’s Pillow is unique for its “Inside/Out” performances, always free of admission, and the Pillow Party Series. All Pillow Party Series events are ticketed and open to the public. Individuals of all dance abilities and ages are invited to participate and dance the night away at Pillow Party Series events in a stunning space described by Architectural Digest as a “study in cutting-edge design.”

The School at Jacob’s Pillow is a huge attraction to this international dance festival. The School is a pivotal professional advancement center for dancers, choreographers, and dance photographers to develop a uniquely resonant artistic voice. In order to apply to The School at Jacob’s Pillow, the application process generally requires an audition video, a written statement, a resume/CV, a headshot, and a letter of recommendation if you are 17 years of age or younger.

ImPulsTanz: Rhythmisa Dancer Dance Contest © Karolina Miernik
ImPulsTanz: Rhythmisa Dancer Dance Contest © Karolina Miernik

ImPulsTanz (Vienna, Austria)

Founded in 1984, ImPulsTanz has developed into one of the largest and best dance festivals of contemporary dance and performance worldwide. Each summer, thousands of dancers, choreographers, and artists from all over the world come together in Vienna to work together for five weeks and celebrate contemporary dance. ImPulsTanz workshops are open to beginners through professionals who use the opportunity to study the entire palette of dance with famous teachers.

This summer festival is divided into four categories: performances, workshops, research, and the soçial programme. This is where artists, audience members, dance aficionados, and music enthusiasts come together to talk, dance, and have fun. The ImPulsTanz festival lounge offers a programme with live gigs and DJ sets every night for the whole festival free of admission.

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ImPulsTanz is also an exchange platform for dance professionals, offering activities for students, teachers, choreographers, dramaturges, and producers alike. Each year they bring about auditions, artist talks, teacher training, residencies, book presentations, workshop showings, and even conferences.

Since this festival caters to dancers of all levels, all are welcome to book workshop classes for a variety of fees. The research projects require an application consisting of a CV, motivation letter for each Research Project, a portrait and movement photograph, and name of the teacher(s) and title of the Research Project(s) of choice.

photo courtesy of the Vail Dance Festival
photo courtesy of the Vail Dance Festival

Vail Dance Festival (Vail, Colorado)

The annual Vail Dance Festival features both performance and educational elements, firmly establishing the Vail Valley as one of the top summer dance destinations in the world. The festival was a product of the highly successful performances by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow in 1989, when there were three sold-out shows in the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater after they were canceled in Houston. This relationship with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy continued to flourish and develop the festival into the annual dance hub that it is today.

Along with the many performances in several locations around the festival are the Fringe Events which include a master class series and festival forums. Seats for these events can be reserved online through a ticketing process.

The two week-long festival also offers an Intern and Ambassador program for ambitious graduate and undergraduate students. This unique opportunity allows you to work behind-the-scenes alongside some of the world’s greatest dancers, choreographers, and artistic leaders. There is no dance background requirement to apply for this program.

Springboard Danse Montreal © Michael Slobodian
Springboard Danse Montreal © Michael Slobodian

Springboard Danse Montréal (Montréal, Quebec)

Springboard Danse Montréal, led by Artistic Director Alexandra Wells, is a nonprofit organization that connects leading contemporary companies, choreographers, and dancers (ages 21 and up) in a dynamic artistic ecosystem. This three-week festival is designed to connect dancers from all over the world to paid jobs in the field. Dancers are given the opportunity to network with world-renowned companies, choreographers, producers, directors, and casting agents within the stimulating environment of Montréal. Since its inception in 2001 it has curated artists from over 40 countries and directly connected more than 500 dancers to paid jobs.

In addition to open classes and auditions, there are emerging and resident choreographer programs that provide selected artists with elite dancers and rehearsal space to create and perform new works alongside Principal Companies. Application information for emerging and resident choreographers is available in the Fall, and selections will be made in February of the following year.

Though this summer festival is known for being a job placement resource for emerging dancers and choreographers, it is also a valuable tool for career development at any point in an artist’s journey.

For information on Canadian auditions and inquiries, email danse(at)springboarddansemontreal.com. To inquire about New York and Mail-in auditions, contact preregister(at)springboarddansemontreal.com. For the Emerging Choreographer program: emerging(at)springboarddansemontreal.com

Each of these festivals offer so many forums and workshops that go beyond performance art. Dance is a spectrum of creativity that includes what is not presented on the stage, and attending any of these festivals will give you valuable exposure in these fields. If these five festivals do not suit you best, there are plenty of other great workshops and festivals that you can pursue. Make sure to look for chances to explore dance styles that you may not be used to, opportunities to explore your choreographic voice, the ability to be involved in a performance, and the option to attend organized feedback sessions, or forums. No matter the dance festival or your level of involvement you decide upon, you are sure to experience dance in a new light. These five international festivals have shaped artistry and career pathways for thousands of dancers from around the globe. So if you are looking to connect with international artists, perform in some of the most exclusive destinations, or expand your knowledge on composition and choreography, you will want to immerse yourself in the environment of these top performing arts festivals.

main photo: courtesy of Vail Dance Festival

About the author

Alex Hlavaty is a Michigan native, graduating from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a Minor in Creative Writing. Alex dances for Eisenhower Dance Detroit where he has performed and taught nationally and internationally to Israel and Poland. Alex has performed works by Laurie Eisenhower, Stephanie Pizzo, Meg Paul, Edgar Zendejas, Joshua Manculich, Darrell Moultrie, Joshua Peugh, and Ohad Naharin among others. He has also choreographed for several artistic platforms from formal dance concerts to Ballets to Musical productions. Alex’s choreography has been recognized at festivals and at the competitive level, including Youth America Grand Prix where his choreography has received top twelve placements. Follow @a.j.hlavaty to stay updated on dance in Detroit!