American Dance Festival

Dance class
Modern dance class. Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

The American Dance Festival (ADF) is an organization created to support and encourage modern dancing. The program consists of four-week-long and a six-week-long educational sessions as well as six weeks of scheduled modern dance performances. The performances are held at Duke University and the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, North Carolina.

The Festival was created to serve professional and pre-professional dancers, both nationally and internationally located.

The festival prides itself on its extensive (and growing) repertoire and entertains audiences around the world with modern dance performances. Besides entertaining, the Festival also provides world-class instruction to hundreds of dance enthusiasts at its school.

ADF also serves as an opportunity for art students interested in the fine arts. The Festival offers internships in all areas of arts administration and production. Administrative internships provide hands-on experience for those interested in arts management. Interns have the opportunity to work in an exciting arts environment as an important part of the ADF staff. Each intern is given an important role at ADF to serve dance, dancers, choreographers, and artists in related fields.

History of the American Dance Festival

The American Dance Festival was created in 1934, originally known as the Bennington Festival. The festival started as a summer program at Bennington College where modern dance pioneers Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman came together to teach dance technique and perform new works and new choreography.

In 1947, Martha Hill started a pilot program at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut, for dance teachers, college dance groups, and young dancers. Due to the success of that pilot program, the Connecticut College School of Dance/American Dance Festival opened officially in 1948. The name of the festival officially changed to the American Dance Festival for the 1969 season.

In the fall of 1977, under the direction of Charles L. Reinhart, the Festival  moved to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Reinhart directed the Festival from 1968-2011, with his wife Stephanie Reinhart. Reinhart served as Co-Director from 1993-2002. Following Reinhart's retirement after 43 years, former Associate Director and Co-Director, Jodee Nimerichter, was appointed Director of the Festival.

Training Program

The training program of the American Dance Festival attracts dancers from around the world.

  • The Festival hosts a six week program known as the Six Week School (6WS), where dancers from around the country and around the world may come to train. In 2013, ADF attracted 415 students from 23 countries and 43 states.
  • Dancers aged 12-16 may attend the three week program known as Three Week School (3WS).
  • The Dance Professionals Workshop is a nine-day intensive for dance instructors. Attendees may study with the ADF faculty in classes that have been designed with their needs and interests in mind.
  • The Winter Intensive in New York offers nine days of classes, panels, and performances. Students can also see open rehearsals and performances from an insider’s perspective.
  • ADF provides full and partial scholarships to dance students based on both talent and need. Approximately half of ADF students are given financial assistance.
  • The Samuel H. Scripps Studios offers training for beginners as well as professionals. A variety of classes are offered, designed to strengthen the body, increase flexibility of movement, and foster an appreciation of dance.


The Festival hosts a six-and-a-half week series of dance performances by major dance companies and emerging artists from around the world. ADF takes pride having helped launch the careers of several choreographers including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris, Meredith Monk, Pilobolus, Trisha Brown, Donald McKayle, Martha Clarke, Eiko and Koma, Ronald K. Brown, John Jasperse, Shen Wei, Tatiana Baganova, and Rosie Herrera.

Community Resources

The Festival has established the following resources for the community.

  • ADF Project Dance:  A free, year-round program that introduces the community to dance through creative movement workshops and complimentary tickets to performances. Annually, ADF offers over 350 creative movement classes to more than 1,000 students and works with with local non-profits to distribute over 500 free tickets to organizations that work with individuals, families, youth, and seniors in need who otherwise could not attend performances.
  • Central Park School for Children: offers dance classes as an alternative to more traditional physical education classes.
  • Free festival tours provide community members an opportunity to go behind the scenes of the ADF School.
  • Experience Dance:  In an effort to make the performing arts accessible to as many groups as possible, ADF distributes complimentary performance tickets to nonprofit organizations that work with individuals, families, youth, and seniors in need who otherwise could not attend performances.

Children's Program

The Children’s Saturday Matinee series presents performances by three professional dance companies from the season. The shows are one-hour in length and take place at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The performances are designed to ignite and inspire the imaginations of children. Each show is followed by a free Kids’ Party in the lobby, complete with live music, face-painting, snacks, and additional activities.

Samuel H. Scripps Studios

The permanent studios of ADF, Samuel H. Scripps Studios, offer year-round programs at ADF’s all levels  of dance training from beginning to professional.

Our studios are located in Durham, North Carolina. Classes are designed to strengthen the body, increase flexibility of movement, and foster an appreciation of dance. Students can choose to attend adult drop-in classes, youth classes, workshops, and dance camps.

Local Look & Listen: The Look and Listen program is available to local dancers and choreographers to rehearse and show their developing work to the community and receive feedback. Community members are encouraged to give constructive feedback and learn how to become thoughtful viewers and critics. Each month, ADF’s Local Look & Listen will feature three dance companies/choreographers. Presenting companies will pay a fee and receive the following for participating in the program:

  • 5 hours of rehearsal in ADF’s Samuel H. Scripps Studios
  • Additional rehearsal hours at a discounted rate
  • Increased exposure in the community
  • The opportunity to present up to 10 minutes of their choreography
  • 20 minutes of constructive feedback from community members and a local arts writer

International Programs

Many dance students attend AFD from other countries, participating in the International Choreographers Residency Program (ICR). The International Choreographers Residency program is a six-and-a-half week program that includes the following resources:

  • An internationally-known faculty, special workshops, seminars, master classes, lectures, and discussions with visiting artists, critics, and scholars.
  • The opportunity to see performances by the masters of modern dance as well as the newest emerging talent (from the U.S. and around the world).
  • The opportunity to present work created or set on ADF students.
  • The opportunity to teach one master class.
  • An archival repository containing film and video footage of ADF’s performances and special activities dating back to the 1930s.


During ADF's Six Week School, dancers from around the country and around the world come to train and to create choreography. Students of all levels are invited to take three two-hour classes a day,  choosing from approximately 40 daily classes. Available courses will include Contemporary Technique, Composition, Improvisation, Repertory, Ballet, African Technique, Voice & Gesture, and Hip Hop. Special workshops and master classes are offered on certain days of the week..

Movies by Movers

ADF's Movies by Movers is a bi-annual festival dedicated to the celebration of dance in film. Students, emerging artists, seasoned professionals are invited to attend the dance film festival, The broad program features modern dance, ballet, jazz, cirque, parkour, skating, sports., and many more venues. ADF believes that film making is experimental, and digital technologies, documentary, choreography for the camera, animation, and student work need to be mixed together.