For the first time since its inception 11 years ago, Dance St. Louis' annual Emerson Spring to Dance Festival — May 25 and 26 at the University of Missouri–St. Louis' Touhill Performing Arts Center — will be curated by someone other than festival founder Michael Utoff. That job fell to newly hired programming consultant Terence Marling.
Hailed as "arguably the best dance buffet in the Midwest" by the Chicago Tribune, the popular festival is known for championing lesser-known regional dance artists and companies. It will retain that focus under Marling, along with representation by more familiar names such as Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and Marling's former company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Houston Ballet's Connor Walsh and National Ballet of Canada's Chae Eun Yang. Photo courtesy Dance St. Louis.
While this year's festival has been downsized from 3 days to 2, Marling has expanded its geographic reach by bringing in more artists from outside the Midwest and more first-time participants."There has always been the idea that the festival would represent as much of the dance world as possible," he says.
Festival adjudicators Marling, choreographer Kate Skarpetowska and incoming Ballet Idaho' artistic director Garrett Anderson binge-watched over 80 submissions to choose 25-plus stylistically diverse professional dance companies. Because of Spring to Dance's tight budget, they looked for smaller companies who are able to accept a modest fee in exchange for having their work fully produced and in front of a larger audience.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Photo courtesy Dance St. Louis.
"In programming the festival I wanted to think about everybody's tastes," says Marling. "I didn't want to focus the scope of the festival down; rather I tried to open it up so it would appeal to as many people as possible."
In addition to contemporary, modern, tap and flamenco troupes, this year's lineup will showcase plenty of ballet, including Joffrey Ballet dancers Christine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez performing the Act II pas d'action from Giselle; Ballet Memphis in choreographer Julie Marie Niekrasz's Sa Voix; National Ballet of Canada's Chae Eun Yang and Houston Ballet's Connor Walsh dancing the grand pas de deux from Don Quixote; Kansas City's Owen/Cox Dance Group in Jennifer Owen's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, and international principal guest artists Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro performing the Black Swan pas de deux.
"The quality of work is going to be so high," says Marling. "It's not very often you get this level of talent concentrated in one place."
For more information on the 11th Annual Emerson Spring to Dance Festival, visit dancestlouis.org.