After hearing so many spectacular reviews about the Young Choreographer’s Festival (YCF), I had to get a hold of the brilliant mind behind the scenes and ask her a few questions. Emily Bufferd, founder of the YCF and creative director of BEings dance, is also a young choreographer in New York City and believe it or not, has had her own share of challenges along the way. Being a young choreographer in the dance world can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, the YCF provides much needed clarity for young choreographers. Let’s see what Emily Bufferd has to say on the subject:
James Koroni: In your own words what types of struggles have you come across as a young choreographer?
Emily Bufferd: I think as a young choreographer, the hardest part is getting people to take you seriously, and feeling like you have to prove your ability. Applying to shows in the hopes of being presented when you have no track record is asking someone to take a chance on you, and since dance is such a fragile art-form to begin with, it sometimes is really hard to find that person who is open to being the first one to present you. You have to continuously prove that you are capable of handling the job.
Koroni: Are these the reasons why you created the Young Choreographer’s Festival(YFC)?
Bufferd: It is definitely a big part of it; I was fortunate enough in the early stages of my starting to choreograph that one of my mentors/friends suggested I attend a selection panel he was sitting on with him as a learning experience. It really showed me how hard it is to get your work presented, especially as a young artist who doesn’t have tangible proof of why you should present them. It can be hard when watching so much dance to be able to see past the fact that it is rehearsal footage, or not costumed/lit/finished… any number of reasons. I wanted there to be something that looked past all of those factors, and only looked at the caliber of the work.
Koroni: Did you anticipate that the YCF would be such a big success?
Bufferd: 100% truth, I had no idea. Is it a big success? I hope someday it is; we’re getting there I think (I hope). I want all of our young choreographers to book jobs and work; I would love to be able to provide them with more opportunity and education.
Koroni: Aside from supporting and celebrating young choreographers, does your selection process consider other criteria such as innovation?
Bufferd: The selection process takes many things into consideration… quality of the choreography (in all genres) is top priority though.
Koroni: From receiving your newsletters, it seems that you are offering programs or informative lectures for selected choreographers. Would you please tell me a little about this?
Bufferd: I think education can make the difference between being a successful artist and a not so successful one, so we have introduced programming for that purpose. The selected choreographers this year got a mentor (this was the first year of this!), and will have a talk back panel with industry folks. Sometimes the best way to learn is simply just to listen to someone who has been where you hope to go and let what they tell you sink in so I love to be able to have those with more developed careers sit down with our young artists to give them guidance, and answer some of their questions.
Koroni: I’ve also seen that you have invited established choreographers to present their work at the festival. I imagine that the purpose of their presence is to elevate the expectations of selected young choreographers. Have the young choreographers found it challenging to put work up on the stage before or after these professional choreographers?
Bufferd: My main purpose of having guest choreographers is, quite honestly, to inspire the young artists… a ‘this is what I can become’ kind of situation. In my personal experiences, I have never felt more excited (or nauseous) as I did when I saw my name on a roster with the likes of Sidra Bell, Rhapsody, and Jason Parsons for the first time – it was an indescribable feeling of gratitude and accomplishment. With that said, I have never felt in the years of having YCF that the young choreographers’ works didn’t stand up just as well as the guest artist’s pieces… I guess that’s why they were selected.
Koroni: Do you have plans to expand upon your vision for the YCF, for example, choreographer summer intensives or business workshops?
Bufferd: YCF will definitely continue to grow, and absolutely is aiming to build our educational aspects – next year is our 5 year celebration and we have some exciting things in the works for it.
Koroni: With a new group of choreographers each year there must be a whole different feel from festival to festival. What should we come to expect this year?
Bufferd: Each year is exciting because a show definitely does take on a vibe due to who is being presented. This year’s show has a really nice mix of genres being represented, and with 22 wonderful pieces being shown, it’s going to be a full dance party!