The Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers’ office in downtown Kalamazoo is crammed full of people and files. Five women sit on a ragtag collection of office chairs, some balancing papers on their laps, in a space intended for two. They speak across the room to one another, fielding client phone calls and emails simultaneously. The cause of this veritable dance warzone is the approaching Regional Alternative Dance Festival, or RAD Fest.
RAD Fest is a showcase of contemporary dance, where 200 dancers from around the country and the globe will gather to celebrate their innovative art through live performance and screen dance on Friday, March 10th through Sunday, March 12th.
“My goal as a curator is to bring innovative dance makers here. Not only so the Kalamazoo community can see these people’s work, but also for all of these artists to meet and network,” said Rachel Miller, the RAD Fest Curator.
This is the festival’s eighth year, and Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers received over 130 submissions for this year’s event. In addition to live performances, the festival will also feature a screen dance category, which will be shown for free at the Alamo Drafthouse.
“Screen dance is kind of like a music video, but where dance is the star,” said Kate Yancho, the Operations Manager and Dance Academy Coordinator for Wellspring.
The intended audience for RAD Fest is “Everybody!” according to Yancho. “We have the best of the best dance-wise here, and we want to make sure that people in our community get to see it.”
RAD Fest will also impact the greater Kalamazoo community. According to Yancho and Miller, the event will share the city with 200 new faces. These artists will “see the beauty that is Kalamazoo and our thriving arts community,” said Yancho.
The festival has strong connections with the Kalamazoo College community. Jon Reeves, a faculty member in K’s Theatre Department, does technical direction for the event. His technical crew for the show is composed of K College students and alumni.
“The tech crew for RAD Fest is superhuman,” said Miller. “They’re tech-ing and performing 42 dance pieces in a matter of 3 days.”
“We all work in a variety of capacities during RAD Fest,” said Sarah Levett, K’17, a member of the tech crew. “We move props and furniture, open and close drapes, help run projections, and communicate via headset with Jon Reeves, who is up in the control booth running lights and sound.”
Levett is a Theatre Arts major, and this is her third year working at the festival. Levett recounted her favorite RAD Fest story via email, which included a dancer who invited children to sit on the stage for her performance, during which she pulled out a piece of moss, a slab of raw meat, and scattered skittles across the stage.
“This wasn’t the last dance of the day, so there was a rather stress-inducing two or three minutes while we worked to clear every Skittle off the dance floor before the next performance” said Levett. “Long story short: with RAD Fest, you never quite know what to expect, which is both exhilarating and somewhat nerve-wracking.”
RAD Fest’s focus on alternative styles of dance emphasizes innovation and the artist’s personal voice. Many performances will focus on current political subjects, such as one dance inspired by the Flint Water Crisis. “The subject matter of these pieces are things that are important to us,” said Yancho. “RAD Fest is about how you can use your voice as an artist to make a difference in the world.”
Tickets for the event are available online at http://www.midwestradfest.org/.