Every summer, the Bates College campus is overtaken by several camps and academic conferences, as well as the Bates Dance Festival (BDF). The Festival consists of dance and dance-related courses (such as filmmaking and music) during the day and special guest performances and lecture-demonstrations during the evenings. BDF has programs for high school and college-aged dancers alike, and runs for two three-week sessions over the summer.

The Festival has been at Bates for 34 years. Over the years, BDF has grown to be one of the top summer dance festivals in the United States and draws dancers internationally and from universities throughout the U.S. Bates students have the lucky opportunity to attend the Festival with no additional tuition costs or fees; it is a requirement for the dance major to attend the festival at least once, but all majors are invited to join. Many Bates students do participate in the Festival, and this past summer six students participated as interns, dancers and musicians with the Festival.

Riley Hopkins ’18 attended the Festival for his second year. “I really enjoyed my time there last year and knew I wanted that experience again,” said Hopkins, regarding the Festival. Hopkins believes that his summers with the Festival contributed greatly to his dance abilities, and he “credit[s] a huge chunk of [his] dance knowledge to the Festival.”

Claire Sickinger ’19 says she attended the Festival because she “wanted to take full advantage of this amazing, world-class dance program that takes place on our campus.”

Both Sickinger and Hopkins took “DanceFilm and Media,” a course designed for dancers to explore the possibilities film brings to the presentation of dance. Sickinger was excited for this new opportunity, and the course turned out to be her favorite. For Hopkins, “it was a relaxed and low-pressure environment to try something [he’s] never done before.” Both students were able to explore a new medium of appreciating an art form that they hadn’t learned before, and had the option to create a short film to present to the community.

They also both took “Ballet Lab,” a ballet course designed to break down the basics of ballet and reteach students more natural approaches to alignment and balance. Hopkins noted that it made him “much more aware of body alignment, balance, coordination and technique.”

Sickinger also took a course titled “New Works,” meant for artists to workshop their works-in-progress pieces with two professional dancers as instructors to provide feedback. At the end of the Festival, these pieces were performed for the community. Of the experience, Sickinger states that “making a piece to present on stage with only three weeks of rehearsal time was a daunting process but I was happy with the results and plan to expand on the piece now that I have gotten feedback.”

Of the evening performances, both Hopkins and Sickinger agreed that Dorrance Dance’s tap piece stood out the most. “It made me appreciate that type of dance more than I did before,” according to Sickinger. Hopkins described it as “the most entertaining and mind-blowing piece of art [he’s] ever seen.”

Though the Festival is only a few weeks long, dancers and professionals squeeze a lot of instruction and energy into their days. Be sure to take advantage of this incredible experience next summer!