Since 2017, the Boulder Contemporary Dance Festival has provided audiences with cutting-edge choreography from local talent. With the pandemic still looming, the fourth annual event — featuring nearly one dozen Colorado-based companies — has found a new home online.
“Initially, I was convinced that I had to cancel the festival altogether, which felt incredibly devastating,” said Cindy Brandle, festival founder. “This event is near and dear to my heart and I realized I needed to keep it going, not just for me, but for my fellow dance artists.”
While crowds will not be able to gather at the Dairy Arts Center, like in previous years, viewers can now tune into pre-recorded segments crafted during and before the pandemic at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Providing a virtual platform for the festival seemed like the most prudent choice, as we were holding it towards the end of October — qnd as we know, Colorado weather is nothing if not unpredictable,” Brandle said. “So, I reached out to all the artists that have been in the festival over the past three years and they all, without exception, were thrilled to be a part of the show.”
Tickets range between $7-$20, with all proceeds going directly to participating artists. Following the stream of performances on Friday, audience members will get to participate in a talkback session with artists via Zoom.
“Most of the dance-for-camera pieces have been created during the pandemic,” Brandle said. “I have taken great efforts to edit the videos together to create a fairly seamless offering that feels very much akin to a performance. The choreographers made introduction videos to say hello to the audience and give a brief description of their pieces. I may be biased because these are my colleagues and some of my favorite dance artists, but it is a genuinely beautiful show.”
In addition to the Cindy Brandle Dance Company, participating organizations include Evolving Doors Dance, Industrial Dance Alliance, 3rd Law Dance, Boulder Ballet, Nosilla Dance Project, Moraporvida Contemporary Dance, Impact Dance Company, Kinesis Dance Company, Nu-World Contemporary Danse Theatre and VisKosity Dance Collective.
Vivian Kim — a member of Moraporvida and co-founder of VisKosity Dance Collective (VKDC) — has participated in three Boulder Contemporary Dance Festivals and has submitted two in-progress pieces to this year’s virtual event.
“’Recurrent’ is a piece that observes the repetitive nature of relationships — the monotony, the cycles that seem never-ending and how those cyclic events can turn a relationship sour or resentful,” Kim said. “Eventually, this dance will evolve into a longer work that will be added to the VKDC repertoire.”
Emotion-filled and captivating, the artistry found in a number of performances in this virtual installment draws upon the layered essence of what it means to be human, the isolation felt by many this year and current events.
“The second piece is one that I’ve co-choreographed with my creative partner and co-director, Keith Haynes,” Kim said. “‘On The Pavement’ is a raw, unfiltered, imperfect duet choreographed in response to the rising racial unrest and tensions in the United States. I think audience members can expect to be uncomfortable and feel unsettled as they watch these two pieces. Perhaps even connect in surprising and unsuspecting ways.”
While Kim stays busy crafting new choreography, just when she will be able to display it on a stage in front of a live audience is yet to be determined.
“Honestly, I’m not quite sure how the dance community, the performing arts community in general, will bounce back from this — but I’m hoping we will soon,” Kim said. “As of right now, many of the works I am creating are being choreographed with the thought of it being shifted into a dance for camera, while also being prepared for in-person concerts. I think in the mid- to late-spring into summer we’ll be seeing more outdoor shows. Hopefully this is a time when venues are finding ways to accommodate for dance to be outdoors and socially distanced.”
From fresh vignettes created for film to performance footage from previous years, viewers will get to see 90 minutes of inventive works that simultaneously delight the eye and spark thoughtful reflection.
“I believe, now more than ever, that dancers and choreographers should be innovative about performances,” Kim said. “For now, that option is virtual. I think this is such a great way for local dance festivals to have a further reach to dance enthusiasts, dancers, choreographers and companies that are out of state.”
The Cindy Brandle Dance Company was granted a Community Project Grant from the Boulder Arts Commission and Project Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance for its upcoming concert “Project Human” — the group’s third and final installment of the “A World On Fire” series
“It is slated to premiere in October 2021 and I may have to reassess, evaluate and pivot the model of how we pull it off, but the beauty in that is the unexpected new challenges and possibilities as we create a work that may look like nothing we have done before,” Brandle said. “So, there is something exciting about the unknown. Right now it feels a bit like a waiting game and circumstances will dictate the path we take. To be quite transparent, I’m worried about the future of live performing arts, but I have to believe that we’ll all be together again in the sacred space of a theater, putting our hearts and souls on display.”
Despite a global health crisis, Cindy Brandle continues to grow her company through virtual auditions.
“We spent time watching auditionees on video and then had in-depth conversations on Zoom to really get to know the dancers,” Brandle said. “So, even that process was unique and unusual. But now we will be having rehearsals on Zoom and we’ll be shooting some new dance films, all while staying safe and following COVID guidelines.”
This winter, Brandle will continue the new virtual platform with another online festival featuring dancers throughout the country.
“I want viewers to take away the message that beauty and hope can still be found, even during the most tumultuous of times,” Brandle said. “That we all need to come together to experience art and entertainment. And that now, more than ever, support of artists is needed deeply. We are languishing and we need to create and keep moving forward. Also, it is gonna be like 34 degrees on Friday in Colorado so it is the perfect time to hunker down and watch some dance in the comfort of your own home.”