Dances Made to Order

Get out the vote: an online dance-film festival on themes chosen by you

Ellen Bartel
Ellen Bartel
Photo courtesy of Derrick Fore

The word "choreographer" evokes a pensive, intense presence, a figure with his or her back to the mirrors, facing a studio full of dancers and attempting to bridge a gap between a Big Idea and the reality of the dancers' bodies and minds, music, space, and the limitations present therein. With methods that range from the cerebral to the introspective to the jazz-hands flamboyant, choreographers respond to high-order concepts often dictated by – or at least developed in collaboration with – producers, boards of directors, or commissioners.

This is one reason why Kingsley Irons, founder of the Los Angeles-based project Dances Made to Order, believes that "concert dance has lost touch with our audience." To rebuild the connection, Irons asks audience members to vote on the themes that drive the works in each city-specific edition of her online dance-film festival. After an eight-day voting period, three choreographers – a curator chosen by Irons, plus two choreographers picked by the curator – have two weeks to make their films before they premiere online. For the Austin edition, curator Ellen Bartel, who has her own impressive record of dance-community building, chose to show her film alongside those of Katherine Hodges, who regularly includes film work in shows produced by her company, Ready|Set|Go!, and Kathy Dunn Hamrick, known for her longevity and healthy following in the Austin dancescape.

But don't let the idea of voting confuse you: The project is not a competition. "That is so tacky," says Irons, whose interest lies not in pegging choreographers against each other but in illuminating the diverse ways in which choreographers respond to the same themes. Films from other cities have also illuminated geographic and cultural bonds that underlie radically different work. So, is there an "Austin" style of dance? How much is that style a response to the collective preferences of the local audience? Answers to these questions require a large sample of voters, so be sure to sign up and vote online before voting closes on Oct. 25. Once signed up, you can also purchase a one-month or annual pass ($10 or $50, with 65% going to the choreographers) to view the films, which premiere on Nov. 14 – and which, by the way, you can watch in your pajamas.

For more information and to vote and purchase a pass, visit

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