Most professional dance routines often take weeks, if not months, to choreograph, stage, produce and perfect. However, that is not the case at ChoreoFest, a one-of-a-kind dance festival hosted by Luminarium Dance that focuses on creating a sense of unity within the Boston dance community.
“ChoreoFest is a beautiful thing,” said Kimberleigh Holman, co-founder and artistic director of Luminarium. “It’s about making connections, strengthening the community and having time to think about your work.”
The festival, which begins Friday, takes place over a period of 24 hours and requires dance companies to choreograph and produce a brand new piece based on a randomly selected theme. In the past, themes have ranged from the whimsical “giant squid eyeball” to the more serious “logical fallacies.” They are submitted to Luminarium via email and social media, and are chosen out of a hat by each company at the start of the festival.
“Anything is fair game,” Holman said. “If you think it would make for a great dance piece, we want to know it.”
Several Boston-based companies and choreographers have chosen to participate in this year’s festival, including Impact Dance Company, OnStage Dance Company and a special combination of choreographers and performers from Luminarium, Monkeyhouse and Paradise Lost. The application process is competitive, and there are a variety of factors that go into choosing participants. Candidates submit both a written application and examples of their work, which Holman and fellow co-founder Merli Guerra carefully review each spring.
“We look for not only strong work samples, but we try to select those that could benefit from the intense, process-driven festival,” Holman said.
Holman also noted the festival’s unique ability to bring together dancers and choreographers of different styles, from tap to burlesque. This is one of the main creations of the festival — an artistic support system that does not disintegrate after the last performance.
“It is important to create a diverse blend of genres,” Holman said. “In addition to making new work, everyone is encouraged to meet new people, discuss and interact. Everyone seems to open [up] so much to each other and the connections made during the festival carry on infinitely … After the festivals end, participants often continue to work with each other on their own projects.”
Meghan McCaffrey, founder and artistic director of Impact Dance Company, has participated in ChoreoFest in the past and values the opportunity to observe her fellow dancers.
“I always try to learn something new, whether it’s about myself, my dancers or other dancers and choreographers,” she said in an episode of Backlight Boston, a web interview series run by Luminarium to help promote the festival. “It’s [about] making the best out of the experience.”
Jennifer Crowell-Kuhnberg, executive director of OnStage Dance Company, agreed with McCaffrey and emphasized festival’s ability to serve as a forum for networking as well.
“As a non-profit dance company, we’re always looking for opportunities to … collaborate with other companies in the Boston area,” she said. “I think the nature of the event, just being locked in the dance complex for the whole evening and getting the opportunity to get feedback from the other groups, will definitely help us build connections. I’m sure that going forward, we will be able to connect with them for other events, since we would already have that shared experience of something special.”
But those present at the festival are not the only ones to share the experience. The co-founders of Luminarium pride themselves on the level of at-home engagement accompanying the festival. The choreographing and performances are live-streamed on the company’s website, where they attract viewers from all over the world. In addition to the live-stream, there is the aforementioned web series Backlight Boston, as well as a new morning talk show that will recap the night’s events for those watching at home.
A major goal of the festival, according to Holman, is to allow outsiders to examine and get involved with the creative process.
“We hope that curious individuals will donate a theme, watch the live-stream overnight, check out our morning talk show and then ultimately decide to attend the shows and chat with the participants in person,” she said.
The unity and camaraderie built by bringing together several of Boston’s choreographers and performers are the focus of the festival, and Holman hopes that anyone deciding to duplicate ChoreoFest in their own city would make sure to capture that spirit.
“ChoreoFest is an invaluable learning experience for all [whom] it engages,” Guerra said. “For choreographers, it teaches them what their creation process is in a nutshell. For dancers, it teaches trust. For viewers, it gives them a glimpse into how choreography works. And for all, it provides the groundwork for creating powerful and lasting relationships within the Boston community.”