As The Richmond Dance Festival enters its fifth year, organizer and dance artist Jess Burgess took a quick break from her preparations to sit down with RVA Mag and highlight some of the best national and local artists performing in this year’s edition of the annual event.
The project of Manchester-based Dogtown Dance Theatre is a celebration of diversity and talent across multiple genres and disciplines. “I hope that every show offers something for everyone… even if the show has a piece you don’t like, it has two you do like,” said Burgess of the festival.
Burgess seeks to serve two audiences: Dance fans and local artists who need venues and performance spaces. She accomplishes that with a special free series, called the informal showcase. ”It’s open to anyone to submit any genre of art. We’ve had dancers, writers, poets, film artists show work.”
Including ballet, modern contemporary, hip hop and film works, the festival holds a variety of performance genres and talent here in Richmond. Featured companies include KARAR, Mamluft&Co, RADAR, and Agua Dulce. With all the national talent at this year’s festival, Burgess wanted to highlight the newer artists, saying they were shining just as brightly as the more well-known performers. “All the work in the Richmond Dance Festival this season, even the work that set on students is really smart,” she said. “And it’s cool to see Richmond have such a strong artistic voice alongside some of these national artists.”
For this weekend, RDF will feature a showcase from University of Richmond’s assistant dance professor, Alicia Diaz and her company Agua Dulce. Mamluft&Co, who Burgess calls an “insanely strong” modern dance company, stars in their own showcase as well. Alongside performances by Nina Simone and Eric Mullis, the English National Ballet will feature their film work directed by Jessica Wright. The final weekend show on May 11 & 12 will feature groups such as RADAR, Turning Key, KARAR and RVA Dance Collective with films by Nick Zoulek and Dylan Wilbur.
For the show on May 5, there will be a special matinee performance titled, RDF Next Generation. A brand new addition to the festival, the showcase will feature high school students having the chance to perform in a professional setting, something that Burgess hopes will help aspiring dance students. “They also get the opportunity to see Richmond Dance Festival, the professional performances that weekend as well,” she said. “I’m working with Appomattox Regional Governor’s School and they’re coming in the first weekend and I’m going to give them a tour of the building and talk about Arts Administration and other opportunities in the field for dancers and what you can do with a career, and they get to take a master class with one of the visiting artists and they perform in the second weekend.”
Although RDF is their big annual event, Burgess also wanted to point to the daily work at Dogtown as something to watch. “More and more I find I’m inspired by the artists that are coming in and out of this building as I progress in my career,” she said. “There’s just so many types of movement vocabulary out there and it’s cool to see them all have a home they can live in.”
On the 5th anniversary of the festival, Burgess said she was proud to see the ongoing growth both in the show and the talent. “It’s getting bigger every year, actually we increased the overall number of choreographers this year and got the additional funding for the Next Generation Performance,” she said. “So yeah, it’s definitely gaining traction and showcasing really cool work. It’s a mix of a lot of Richmond artists and then some national artists and then a lot of the film artists are international actually – the dance film that we’re showing. So, it’s a really cool show.”
This year, Richmond Dance Festival will showcase the work of 18 choreographers and nine film artists. The festival’s shows will continue to run on May 4-5 and 11-12 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.