Summer Dance Festival Season Hits Full Swing

June 25, 2024

Summer dance festival season is heating up across the country—and the pond. Here’s what to look out for.

American Dance Festival

Two dancers smile brightly at each other mid-flight. The shirtless male dancer balances on one leg, his working leg raised in attitude side. A leotard-wearing female dancer flies through the air, both knees bent as she appears to rest on her partner's upraised leg. Their inside arms wrap around each other's shoulders, while their outside arms rise at the same angle to the side.
Paul Taylor Dance Company. Photo by Elyse Mertz, courtesy American Dance Festival

DURHAM, NC  Following performances by Ballet Hispánico, Hung Dance, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Baye & Asa, Doug Varone and Dancers, Kayla Farrish, and Les Ballet Afrik in June, American Dance Festival bookends a busy July with Netta Yerushalmy’s festival debut (MOVEMENT, July 2) and Paul Taylor Dance Company in a trio of its founder’s classics (July 26–27). In between are ADF-commissioned premieres from Dom-Sebastian Alexis, Iyun Ashani Harrison, Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen, Stacy Wolfson and Curtis Eller, Milka Djordjevich, and ShaLeigh Dance Works; the ADF debut of Shay Kuebler’s Radical System Art; Urban Bush Women in Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s SCAT!… The Complex Lives of Al & Dot, Dot & Al Zollar; and more. Plus, the festival continues to expand beyond the summer, with Chris Yon & Taryn Griggs presenting YOGGS FAMILY NEWSLETTER, 2014-present (at the Nasher Museum of Art on Sept. 12); and the premiere of Carl Flink’s Battleground, for Black Label Movement (Oct. 11–13).

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Three dancers are captured midair against a white backdrop. Their knees are gently bent, feet pointed; they present their wrists forward, collarbones thrust forward as they look over their left shoulders. They wear crop tops and high-waisted trunks of different cuts but all in black and white.
Parsons Dance will perform in the Ted Shawn Theatre in August. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow.

BECKET, MA  Among the multitude of dance artists making the pilgrimage to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this summer will be The Royal Ballet, which takes over both the indoor and outdoor stages for its weeklong Pillow debut—and with a new work by Wayne McGregor among its offer­ings. Camille A. Brown & Dancers also premieres I AM, inspired by an episode of “Lovecraft Country.” Multi-day engagements mark the Pillow debuts of Social Tango Project, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, MoBBallet’s Pathways to Performance, Dancers of Damelahamid, and Gibney Company, while other intriguing programs from the likes of Shawn L. Stevens and Friends, Miguel Gutierrez, Annie Hanauer, Kankouran West African Dance Company, DaEun Jung, and Princess Lockerooo appear for just one evening—plus many more performances and events across the nine-week extravaganza. June 26–Aug. 25.

Bates Dance Festival

Aretha Aoki dances on a fog-filled stage. She wears red, and her head is tipped back to the ceiling. Ryan MacDonald wears a bear costume with glowing eyes, and stands behind a set of shelves to the right. Another figure sits swinging in a swath of blue fabric suspended from above like a swing.
Aretha Aoki and Ryan MacDonald’s IzumonookunI. Photo by Colin Kelly, courtesy Bates Dance Festival.

LEWISTON, ME  Aretha Aoki and Ryan MacDonald kick off the performance series at Bates Dance Festival with the premiere of IzumonookunI, inspired by the founder of kabuki and featuring the couple’s 7-year-old daughter. Sean Dorsey Dance returns to Bates to give the local premiere of The Lost Art of Dreaming, and Shamel Pitts’ TRIBE offers BLACK HOLE — Trilogy and Triathlon. New this summer is an invitational dance battle featuring breaking, hip-hop, and house dancers, moderated by Shakia “The Key” Barron and Duane Lee Holland Jr. July 12–Aug. 2.

Vail Dance Festival

Sara Mearns is barefoot as she leans into one hip and arches away from it, dragging the other behind her. She presses one palm to her chest as the other arm reaches for the sky. She wears a dark green nightgown.
Sara Mearns in Bobbi Jene Smith’s MASS at the 2023 Vail Dance Festival. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Vail Dance Festival.

VAIL, CO  The always-starry Vail Dance Festival boasts eye-catching debuts among its eclectic offerings this summer, including artist in residence Sara Mearns in Martha Graham’s Clytemnestra, American Ballet Theatre stars Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, and New York City Ballet’s Roman Mejia’s first Apollo outing. Michelle Dorrance puts on a full evening celebrating the history and progression of tap dance (July 31), while the Colorado Dances program (Aug. 4) showcases Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Colorado Ballet, and DanceAspen. It all culminates in the NOW: Premieres program Aug. 5, with new works by Kyle Abraham, Dorrance, Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck, Tiler Peck, artist in residence Jamar Roberts, and Pam Tanowitz. July 26–Aug. 5.

Edinburgh International Festival

Aakash Odedra dances in a spotlight on a darkened stage, the yellow fabric of his costume flaring around him as he turns on one foot. His expression is serene as he looks down over his shoulder.
Aakash Odedra in Songs of the Bulbul. Photo courtesy Edinburgh International Festival.

EDINBURGH  The Scottish capital bursts at the seams every August, but a trio of dance gems can be found at the Edinburgh International Festival this year. Brazilian troupe Grupo Corpo presents two UK premieres, Gil Refazendo and Gira, Aug. 5–7. Aakash Odedra debuts a new solo, Songs of the Bulbul, exploring a Sufi myth about a captured bulbul (a songbird that symbolizes the pursuit of religious enlightenment in Sufism), developed in collaboration with Rani Khanam, Aug. 9–11. And Kidd Pivot brings Assembly Hall, Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s latest dance theater work set at the annual general meeting of a group of medieval reenactors where the lines between Arthurian myth and reality blur, Aug. 22–24.