Each July, the Bates campus transforms into a destination for contemporary dance in the Northeast. This summer’s upcoming Bates Dance Festival will be the event’s 37th year, and its second under the direction of Shoshona Currier. Currier joined the Bates Dance Festival just after the summer of 2017, replacing Laura Faure. Working at the helm of the festival is Currier’s most dance-specific position yet. She also fundraises and does creative, marketing, and administrative work year-round in preparation for the festival’s summer program.
On average, 150 students participate annually in the Bates Dance Festival, including about 10 Bates students. The festival is made possible by a staff of six, aided by a team of twenty-six student interns. This year, the festival will officially kick off with a prelude weekend from July 12th to the 14th. The festival’s main performance series will take place over nine dance-filled days, running between July 25th and August 3rd.
Since Currier has taken office, she’s inaugurated a few changes regarding the festival format and upkeep. The Bates Dance Festival used to occur over a period of five weeks in total. Performances took place once or twice a weekend, and the entire program was a much more episodic engagement. “That doesn’t feel as much like a festival,” Currier said. She condensed the program to nine days. That way, “local community members, as well as tourists or visitors, know that there is a shorter, jam-packed period of time where there are lots of performances.” Currier’s concentrated performance series is a “more manageable option for locals,” and gives visitors the opportunity to see up to four shows per weekend while experiencing Lewiston and immersing themselves in dance.
Whereas the Bates Dance Festival pre-professional training program used to be one three-week session, the training program now operates as three separate week-long sessions. In making this change, Currier was cognizant that a three week, all-intensive experience is a huge commitment for dancers, instructors, and administrators. So, to allow dancers to dabble in all the available summer dance training programs, and to accommodate for faculty members that are working parents, Currier offers a more manageable training schedule. Fortunately, those dancers that are able to commit three weeks in a row are still encouraged to participate in the three consecutive sessions.
By making these changes, Currier is helping the Bates Dance Festival evolve in order to serve its niche while simultaneously broadening its horizons. “The festival itself has a great feeling of community around it,” Currier said, adding that she enjoys talking to audience and community members about the performances. “Being available for that direct feedback is really important for both sides,” Currier said. She prioritizes making the festival both accessible to local residents and welcoming to the larger community. “The artists are out and talking to people…there’s no separation between ‘the people who really know art’ and the people who don’t,” said Currier.
Currier is also working to assemble a national pedagogy committee of advisors to help the festival stay up-to-date with national trends in dance training. To maintain a dance festival that creates current, influential art, Currier believes it is important to “get input from the outside world” on what programming should be offered at the Bates Dance Festival each year. Currier’s other goals include bringing more performative work to Bates and organizing shows outside of traditional theater spaces and settings. “I really want the campus, during those nine or ten days, to feel like an arts festival,” she said.