Ballet Stars

Three Smaller Summer Dance Festivals to Keep on Your Radar

American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian (center) is launching the Hamptons Dance Project with a cast of fellow ABT dancers this August. Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

From coast to coast, and on the shores of Lake Michigan in-between, professional dancers and choreographers are going one step beyond putting together a summer pickup company. Some are now curating multi-evening festivals in their hometowns and beloved vacation areas, and featuring an impressive range of companies, dancers and dance styles. So get ready to plan your next trip—here are three dance fests in beautiful resort areas to keep on your radar.


Traverse City Dance Project, July 17–18

The setting: Founded seven years ago in northern Michigan, Traverse City Dance Project functions as a creative laboratory for an international roster of choreographers. Each summer, artistic directors Jennifer McQuiston Lott and New York–based dancer Brent Whitney (a Traverse City native) bring a group of 12 dancers and four choreographers together for an intense 20-day incubator. While the end result is celebrated in proscenium style performances at the opera house, the process engages and collaborates with the local audience along the way with open rehearsals and workshops. And this September, TCDP is expanding outside of Michigan, with performances at Triskelian Arts in Brooklyn, New York, and at Lambertville, New Jersey's Music Mountain Theatre.

The program: Top dance professionals from Michigan, New York City, and Los Angeles perform with acclaimed drummer Ian Chang and avant-garde ensemble Tenth Intervention in new dances by Lott, Whitney, guest artist Austin Reynolds (formerly of Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet), and Jakevis Thomason, the first recipient of TCDP's Emerging Choreographer Residency. July 17–18 at City Opera House.

Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, July 24–26

New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder performs Red Spotted Purple at the 2018 Lake Tahoe Dance Festival.

Jen Schmidt, Courtesy Lake Tahoe Dance Project.

The setting: Just a few hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, Christin Hanna and Constantine Baecher are one week away from presenting their seventh annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival in Tahoe City, California. Hanna, who moved back to the lakes' west shore after several years as a freelance artist with New Chamber Ballet in New York City, was originally inspired by her time performing outdoors at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. "The feeling of performing there, the presence of dance history and how that environment makes you feel—that's what I wanted to create," says Hanna. "Two communities benefit: the artists and the audience."

To accomplish that in a vacation area centered around recreation and outdoor sports, where the audience includes both locals and visitors, Hanna programs both rarely seen historical works, as well as newly commissioned contemporary dance. The often sold out shows are outdoors; the stage framed by massive pine trees, a very blue lake, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The program: New York City Ballet principal Abi Stafford and Stephen Hanna (NYCB, Billy Elliot) in Agnes DeMille's The Other, Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company in Jacopo Godani's Al Di La, plus new choreography from Baecher, Roya Carreraa, Katherine Duke, and Traci Finch. July 24–25 at Gatekeeper's Museum, Tahoe City; July 26 at West End Beach, Donner Lake.

Hamptons Dance Project, August 10–11

From left, front row: Carlos Gonzales, James Whiteside, Cassandra Trenary, Tyler Maloney, Erica Lall, Isabella Boylston, Jose Sebastian. Back row: Thomas Forster, Sung Woo Han, Blain Hoven.

Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

The setting: Head to the beaches of East Hampton for the inaugural Hamptons Dance Project, led by American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian. "The Hamptons brought me to dance," said Sebastian, who spent summers vacationing there as a child and learned his love of movement jumping on the sand. "It's been a dream of mine to bring dance to the Hamptons."

Sebastian, who was adopted out of New York CIty's foster care system as a toddler, has a vision for eventually creating a dance camp for foster children, as part of what he hopes will be an annual event. In addition to being the festivals founder and artistic director, he will also be one of its dancers, alongside nine other ABT dancers, including Isabella Boylston, Cassandra Trenary and James Whiteside.

The program: World premieres from Gregory Dolbashian (DASH Ensemble), Joseph Hernandez (Dresden SemperoperBallet) alongside Hamptons' premieres from Gemma Bond, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and James Whiteside with a cast of notable ABT stars. August 10–11, Guild Hall, East Hampton.

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