Led by Artistic Director Fran Spector Atkins, SpectorDance has announced that applications are open for the 2023 Choreographers Showcase: Dance That Makes a Difference! Since it was launched in 1997,  SpectorDance’s Choreographer’s Showcase has featured over 450 works by local, national, and international choreographers. The performances will take place October 7 & 8, 2023 at the historic outdoor Forest Theater located in the beautiful city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small beach city on California’s Monterey Peninsula. As of May 24th, the deadline for applications has been extended to June 4, 2023.

Readers may recognize a few of the choreographers who have participated in SpectorDance’s Choreographers Showcase in past years. They include Charles Anderson, Barkin/Selinsen, Brendan Barthel, Maria Basile, Mary Cochran. Liss Fain, Janice Garrett, Sean Green (Norma Phillips and Junji Dezki), Ramya Harishankar, Tracy Kofford, Jody Oberfelder, Larry Peck, Stacy Printz, Ananda Ray, Colton Sterling, Donna Sternberg, Annie Talmadge, Jones Welsh Talmadge, Phillip Wainwright, Margaret Wingrove, and Allen Xing.

SpectorDance Choreographers Showcase - Dancer: Shany Dagan - Photo by Mallory Pettee

SpectorDance Choreographers Showcase – Dancer: Shany Dagan – Photo by Mallory Pettee

Tracy Kofford, from Santa Barbara City College, has participated for at least 5 years bringing large groups of well-trained students. Atkins has invited Kofford to be on the Steering Committee for the Choreographers, along with Shany Dagan (NYC), Camryn Donally (Monterey), Alan Xing (Washington, D.C) Jonathan Lipow (Salinas), and Charlotte Smith (L.A). Some of the other choreographers who have participated more than once include Mark Foehringer, Shany Dagan, Jonathan Lipow, Ananda Ray, and Margaret Wingrove.

SpectorDance was founded in 2001 in Marina, California housing a school, a company, and a venue. Atkins described it as a light-filled 8500 square-foot state-of-the-art dance space, with 22 feet high ceilings and sprung Marley covered floors, designed and built by her and her late husband, James Atkins. “In this space, we established a school, a company that performed original,  socially relevant multi-disciplinary works with associated engagement programs, a residency program providing rehearsal space for selected artists, and the Choreographer’s Showcase,” Atkins said.

Each year SpectorDance offers a wide range of original and often cutting-edge dance works by a diverse group of contemporary choreographers. The 2023 Choreographers Showcase, Dance That Makes a Difference. I asked Atkins what inspired the title for this year’s showcase.

“From 1984-1986, I traveled alone around the globe teaching, choreographing, and performing. From Paris to London, from Denmark to Egypt, from the island of Gaum to Taiwan, from Italy to Israel and more, I wanted to understand the universal aspects of dance” she said. “Through my travels, I discovered that dance can be so many things including a tool for storytelling and diplomacy. I discovered my patriotism and my passion for America. I discovered that dance could have an impact. I realized that dance can be part of the conversation that contributes to issues and ideas. This experience began my journey for using dance to deepen understanding and address critical social issues.”

Atkins related how dance that inspires change and/or makes a difference is the core of her life’s work. She has created performance projects about our agricultural history and migrant farm workers (in collaboration with the United Farm Workers), gang violence (in collaboration with Rancho Cielo), ocean health and climate action (in collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and many more. She is currently working on Wildfires, a performance piece that brings together scientific and indigenous perspectives about fire ecology to premiere in early 2024.

2019 Choreographers Showcase at SpectorDance - Photo by Brian Schlining

2019 Choreographers Showcase at SpectorDance – Photo by Brian Schlining

“I want to nurture dance that can make a difference and positively impact the many issues that we are now confronting in our world. I invite other choreographers to join me” She said.

When asked why she started the annual Choreographers Showcase, Atkins responded: “My inspiration for creating SpectorDance came from my passion for dance and my desire to provide opportunities for others to express themselves through dance. Like all of us who devote our lives to, and sustain long careers in, this ephemeral art form, the inspiration is a calling.”

During the pandemic, 2020 and 2021, SpectorDance presented Virtual Choreographers Showcases but, like many dance organizations around the globe, was forced to close its doors in October 2021, as a financial consequence of COVID-19. Not willing to give up, in 2022 the company presented SpectorDance’s Choreographers Showcase Reimagined at Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley, CA with two sold out shows.

So, on October 7 & 8, 2023 the SpectorDance’s Choreographers Showcase will take place at the historic outdoor Forest Theater. Built in 1910, the 540-seat Forest Theater is one of the oldest outdoor theaters in the West. Previously run by the City of Carmel the venue was recently taken over by Steven Moore, director of Pac Rep Theater Company who has made it a place for the entire local community to attend plays and musicals, and as Atkins said, hopefully more and more dance performances.

Historic Forest Theater - Photo by Parker Seibold

Historic Forest Theater – Photo by Parker Seibold

I see the potential to establish a summer dance festival here, much like Jacob’s Pillow, she said. The large stage is set among the trees and is a very magical in ambience.” Atkins said. The 540-seat amphitheater is cuddled by the surrounding towering pines and huge open fireplaces, and it is against this stunning backdrop that participating choreographers’ work will be performed.

While in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the participating dance artists will have the opportunity to take advantage of the city’s well-known museums, art galleries and library of the historic Carmel Mission. Or they can hike along the Scenic Bluff Path that runs from Carmel Beach to the Carmel River State Beach that is home to numerous birds. The city is filled with fairytale-like cottages and offers many other beach and Pacific Ocean adventures.

It is a short walk to the ocean and downtown Carmel with amenities like coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping. There are numerous Bed & Breakfast, rustic inns, and boutique hotels in the neighborhood.”  Atkins noted.

Although artists are not paid to participate in the Choreographers Showcase, SpectorDance has never really profited from the event primarily because it depends on tickets to generate income. Ticket prices are only $15.00.Our only income has been ticket sales (which tends to break us even).

Although I am not a presenter, I have presented showcases for 27 years. Visiting artists often compliment me on how well organized and enjoyable it is to perform at SpectorDance and what a great audience we have. Audiences often tell me that the Choreographers Showcase is their favorite local event. In short, it is very successful, and the spirit for the event is high,” Atkins said.

This year SpectorDance is introducing several other opportunities for participating artists and audiences. On the afternoon of Friday, October 6, SpectorDance will offer a free performance for school age local youth bringing dance to those who live nearby that may not otherwise have an opportunity to witness this type of dance. If your school or class is interested in attending this free event, please contact events@spectordance.org. Six selected choreographers will present their work and these choreographers will be $250. Two choreographers will be selected to teach master classes for the community receiving $100 each.

Application Deadline: June 4, 2023

For More Information and Access the Application Form, Please Click Here!


For more information about SpectorDance, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Natalie Gibbs – Spector Dance choreographer – Photo by William Roden

Editor note: This article was updated on May 24, 2023 to reflect new application deadline.