palm springs international dance festival

Moving Forward

The Palm Springs International Dance Festival has adapted to the pandemic by incorporating fine arts, film, and photography, and extending its reach outside the U.S.

Carl Schoemig Arts & Entertainment, Current Digital

palm springs international dance festival

The Palm Springs International Dance Festival runs March 11-14 with a different event each night.

“We have been shut down for over a year, so how do we move forward?”

Michael Nickerson-Rossi’s answer to this question has come in the form of the Palm Springs International Dance Festival, running March 11-14, and incorporating three different genres of entertainment.

“We have done programs where we are still dance-centric, but because of the pandemic we figured out that we could fulfill so many other needs for other artists,” says Nickerson-Rossi, who is founder and artistic director of the Palm Springs Dance Academy. “That is why we accepted film, photography, and fine arts. That is how we moved forward.”

The festival will showcase a different event every day.

Opening Night, March 11:
5:30-8:30 p.m.
Bouschet & Ballet offers guests a three-course prix fixe meal tailored for festival attendees and prepared by Chef Tig from Bouschet Palm Springs. Following the dinner, guests will see the newly built Palm Springs Dance Academy and receive a first glimpse at the VIP photo exhibition with live music featuring vocalist Leanna Rodgers.A limited number of tickets ares still available.

Photo Exhibit, March 12:
6-9 p.m.
The photo exhibit officially opens by presenting the work of celebrity photographer and Coachella Valley resident, Michael Childers, and former American Ballet Theater dancer, Geoffrey Moore’s “5th Position” series on dancers of the San Francisco Ballet.
Additionally, six photographers nominated by the festival panel will compete for a chance to win a first-place prize of $500 and visitors can vote for their favorite artist.

Dance Film Series: March 13
7-8:30 p.m.
Following submissions from five countries and 18 U.S. states, the Palm Springs International Dance Festival panel narrowed down 65 short film submissions to 12 features.
The short films will be projected outside in downtown Palm Springs at a location to be determined. Tickets:

Dance Art Auction: March 14
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Purchase art work from some of the photographers in the festival exhibit and other dance-inspired works.

Palm Springs Life spoke with Nickerson-Rossi about pulling the festival together during a pandemic and more.

Why hold this event now versus waiting until later or not having it at all?

I think what COVID has proven is that the arts are so incredibly essential. Due to the amount of shutdowns and lock-downs, with all the restrictions in place, I had to be innovative and creative how I can keep dance current. Our festival is primarily movement based. There are a lot of master classes and education, a lot of performances throughout the city, in theaters, and outside. This year it will be different. We did a massive world call where we invited artists in film, photography, and fine arts. I was just blown away with the response. If I can keep dance current in that medium then it has been successful.

Why was it important to include a variety of events?

The festival is now the Palm Springs International Dance Festival, because of our international reach. Our dance festival will have live dance, live concerts, but it will now always have film, photography, and fine arts as well. We just had to change things. Artists are always told “no” during the pandemic. I just was not going to allow it. So we moved forward and this is what we created.

What were the biggest challenges?

The county and the city COVID guidelines. There is so much gray area that it is constantly changing. Every day, things were changing. So to me, that was the most difficult part.
So we already are almost at capacity for the opening dinner. After the dinner, we will do tours through the academy at 15 people each. So we will have 15 people at a time walking through our building, looking at all the wonderful art works.

How many photographers submitted their work for the photo exhibition and how difficult was it to choose the six semifinalists?
There were 17 artists who submitted work just for the photography exhibit. So my panel of four, we had to sift through each artist who provided three images for each category. The categories were: a point of view, most dynamic, and an emotional content.
The six semi-finalists are: Alex Budin, Los Angeles; Gabriel Encinas, Buena Park;Todd Fox, Miami, Florida; Lawrence Fung, Tempe, Arizona; Michael Higgins, Paris, France, and Jeff Mclean, Lakeside.
How did you narrow down the short film submissions from 65 to the featured 12?
Dance can either be created for film or dance can be edited to fit a film feature. The criteria were based on content and also choreography and creativity. And we looked at them in terms of their editing skills, was it cohesive or was it very abstract? What these artists have created in outdoor spaces, some worked indoor. It is just mind blowing.


How will the auction work? Is there an opportunity for people to bid on the phone as well?

I had some members actually call me and ask that if I could, once the exhibit is installed, take some photos and send them so that they were able to place a bid. On opening night, many guests will see the work. They already know that these pieces are going to be auctioned on Sunday. They will come in and either place a bid or purchase, and yes, it will be available online as well.

Why was Palm Springs a good location to open a dance academy?

For the last four years I worked at the universities on the East coast and I also opened a brand new theater back East where I worked as dance director. But I would come back for a total of four month to Palm Springs and produce the festival. A lot of participants were enrolled in our festival, because of the work that (executive director) Chad Allen Ortiz and I were doing. This is really how the motivation started, with artists coming into the festival over the years. That was what I needed for the academy. I needed a home base.

The best choice was to get our own building. And we did. The response has been wonderful. There is not a professional company that resides in Palm Springs. So we created the professional company, and our festival is a program. And now the dance academy is our school. Dancers who wish to pursue dance as a career or enter college can start here. Chad and I are bringing in professionals for the festival.

What plans do you have for the academy going forward?

There is an accreditation with the state of California. It is a two-year process. So once those two years are up, they send out a representative who tests the standards of the school. That will turn the academy into a conservatory. That is the future. And in that program we will offer students a post-secondary education. So by the time our students leave us and graduate, they will have a trade school degree.

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