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2014 Young Choreographer's Festival: Opportunities increase for dance artists

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“The struggle is worth it if you love what you do” exclaims Emily Bufferd, July 5, just before class at New York’s Broadway Dance Center. Today, the busy dance teacher, choreographer, and producer can see the struggle beginning to pay off; after a dance injury paused her performance career, she focused her energy on choreography which led to her spearheading the Young Choreographer’s Festival. With an aim to educate, foster, and support the cultivation of young artists in all genres of dance, Bufferd took a moment to share how the Festival has grown over the last five years which has happily led to more visibility and work opportunities for those involved.

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“As much as I loved dancing, I personally always enjoyed the process more than being on stage,” explains Bufferd when describing the development of her own choreographic career. With a desire to provide young choreographers such as herself a better opportunity to showcase their work, the then 20 year old Bufferd recruited a team of professionals to serve as advisory board and The Young Choreographer’s Festival was born. Over the past five years well known choreographers and directors have been board participants such as Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo from Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Michele Assaf (internationally renowned director- Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger, Michael Bolton) International Dance Superstar Desmond Richardson as well as an array of Master Dance Faculty from Broadway Dance Center, The Joffrey Ballet School, Peridance Dance Center, the Ailey School, and more.

The mission of YCF is to showcase the dance works of select 18-25 year old choreographers in a variety of genres such as ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, theater, and others, as well as provide additional resources to further choreographic careers. A key component leading up to the performance is the talkback panel, wherein Festival participants can interact with an esteemed panel of dance community professionals. This year’s panel was hosted by Broadway and commercial director/choreographer, Maurice Brandon Curry.

YCF also provides participants with a mentor and private workshop classes. Opportunities to learn side by side from such notable dance professionals as Ginger Cox (Professor of Dance and Anatomy, Pace University), Tracie Stanfield (Artistic Director, Synthesis Dance Project), Bill Prudich (Co-Founder, The EDGE Performing Arts Center in Hollywood, CA) Shelly Hutchinson (Choreographer SYTYCD Ukraine, Producer), have proven to be invaluable experiences. According to 2014 young choreographer Katelin Zelon, “YCF is wonderful. I was fortunate to be mentored by Maurice Brandon Curry, and working with him changed the way I looked at choreography; he fixed small details that before I would not have even noticed, and it made all the difference.”

The real goal of any choreographer is to get paid work, and each year the opportunities for those involved with YCF increase. According to Bufferd “Four of this year’s choreographers have been asked to present works in July at Usdan Center for the Performing Arts.” YCF alumni have gone on to teach at prestigious studios, highlighted in dance publications as well as get paid for their choreographic work including commissions for Joffrey Ballet, and Alvin Ailey.

YCF participants have received recognition, helping to advance their careers: Alexis Convento was interviewed in 2012 by Dance Spirit Magazine, Jeremy McQueen was the 2013 recipient of Joffrey Ballet’s Choreographers of Color Award. Bufferd herself was interviewed this year by Dance Magazine and will be featured in an upcoming edition of Dance Mogul.

Bufferd’s own professional dance career continues to grow: she is now on faculty for Joffrey Ballet, teaching contemporary jazz, currently preparing for a three week summer intensive. She also continues to teach at Peridance as well produce the annual APAP showcase, on guest faculty at BDC, and of course serves as Artistic Director for her dance company BEings.

The Young Choreographer’s Festival, like Bufferd herself continues to gain momentum in the dance community; both encouraging the development of young talent, and growing dance careers. Interested young choreographers may download application for YCF 2015, that is already in the planning stages.

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