The Bates Dance Festival (BDF) has been bringing artists and performers to Lewiston, Maine for more than thirty years of collaborative work. The festival, two three-week sessions of intense dance courses, performances and residencies occurs over the summer when the campus is almost empty. The first session is for high school dancers wishing to augment their training, and the second session is for collegiate and professional dancers. The festival is free for Bates students and part of the dance major course program.
At BDF, director Laura Faure brings both well-established and new companies to perform, teach and create work in the form of residencies. Of these residencies and performances, two stand out as capturing the spirit of the program: Sean Dorsey Dance, and David Dorfman with Korhan Basaran.
Sean Dorsey Dance has been involved in the festival for six years. Sean Dorsey himself is a transgender man creating work in the San Francisco bay area, and is an expert at using art as a medium for social activism. With generous support from Bates and other commissioners, Dorsey has been able to complete research and create works about many issues he considers important, such as studying the early AIDS epidemic in his piece The Missing Generation. The work he presented at Bates during the festival and school year pertain to experiences of LGBTQ community in the first half of the twentieth century, The Secret History of Love.
Dorsey has also had the opportunity to discuss and teach students in Dance, Theater, English and Women and Gender Studies courses. Assistant Professor of Dance Rachel Boggia and Faure agreed that his presence in the classroom and studio would allow students to “explore the connection between movement, art and storytelling.” Many students fondly remember his work in the fall 2014 Repertory course, with Emma Zulch ’18 agreeing that “his choreography was more than just copying the movement. It required emotional attachment.” Due to his wonderful work with the festival and school in the past, Faure and Boggia hope to continue their relationship with Dorsey and Sean Dorsey Dance.
David Dorfman also has a longstanding relationship with BDF; however, his work over the past few years has been commissioned by the United States Department of State. The State Department supports a program called DanceMotion, USA, which mentioned on their webpage, is a “cross-cultural exchange program that connects America’s finest dance companies with international artists and communities.”
During the year of 2014, DanceMotion, USA selected Dorfman to tour his company and works throughout Turkey, Armenia and Tajikistan, and instructed him to select a local company to come back to the US and create work together. Dorfman selected Korhan Basaran Company of Istanbul to come back to the US and work together, along with a few Armenian artists.
To create work, artists need a studio and place to live, and Bates provided both of those necessities once they arrived stateside. During the summer of 2014, both David Dorfman Dance and Korhan Basaran Company stayed and worked in the Bates community during the festival, and by the end of their residency they had created a full-length piece. Because the visiting dancers were from both Armenia and Turkish, the dancers wanted to create a work that discusses the reconciliation efforts between these two countries. The piece was breathtaking, entrancing and sometimes uncomfortable; it dissected how relations were still tense but calming down. The combined companies presented the work in progress during the final showing at BDF, and Boggia filmed a documentary about their creative process that she has presented to the Bates community a couple of times. The opportunity to host a multinational group of dancers as they create work is very rare, and the Bates dance community is lucky to have had that chance.
At Bates, we have remarkable possibilities to support the arts and imagination, to widen our students’ perceptions and enable great work to happen. We make a difference in the greater community by leveraging our ability towards those with whom we can create change and conversation.