You could be forgiven if you thought American Dance Festival was solely about the performances at Duke’s Reynolds Theatre and the Durham Performing Arts Center. But ADF also hosts 385 student dancers from such far-flung locales as Singapore and Cambodia.
One of the students is Kat Folckomer, a rising senior at Hollins University in Virginia. The last two years, she’s taken the ADF’s January intensive sessions in New York City. Hollins also requires that each dancer earning a bachelor of fine arts attend two ADF summers, with credit given out via pass/ fail grades on Duke transcripts, earning a total of 16 credits. Folckomer says six or seven students from her university’s program are attending this year.
Although she’s danced since she was about 10 years old, Folckomer was unaware of ADF’s reputation until relatively recently. She attended high school at North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied modern dance, and marvels at the fact of having an internationally renowned dance festival taking place just an hour and a half up the road. “I didn’t know how huge ADF was [when I was] in high school,” Folckomer says.
Folckomer spent her freshman year at East Carolina University, where one of her professors told her about ADF. She then decided to transfer to Hollins’ dance program after visiting a friend there.
“ECU’s program was based around musical theater, and you didn’t have much chance to experiment. At Hollins, students play a role in making decisions in the [dance] department,” Folckomer says. She also notes that ECU had a larger program, enrolling over 100 students whereas Hollins boasts a close-knit program of around 20 students.
The first weekend of ADF is termed “preview weekend.” During this time, dancers can take all classes offered and find what fits them best. Auditions for repertory workshops and the Past/ Forward workshops are also held at this time.
Folckomer participated in the Past/ Forward workshops during each of her previous summers. In 2008, she was one of six dancers chosen to perform, and the work focused on the finer points of technique and spinning. The following year, she worked with the same choreographer and was one of two dancers selected for the second time in consecutive years.
Folckomer says participating in the festival also has added benefits in networking and future career opportunities.
“I know one guy from Past/ Forward who now dances with a company. And some people who used to be students are now teachers here. It’s a good way to meet people,” Folckomer says.
This year, Folckomer has decided to focus on research for her upcoming senior thesis so that she can build her foundation. But she’s still psyched about spending the next month in the presence of other like-minded dancers.
“I can’t imagine my summer without ADF. It’s an important place to grow all-around as a person, and a great way to perform and experience new things,” Folckomer says.