An Intern Journal

Eight Weeks at ADF by kelsey riner

Week 1

Week one was the start of an awesome summer interning at the American Dance Festival! The first day of the internship began on a Tuesday morning at the Epworth building located on Duke’s East Campus. Following the instructions on the acceptance letter I had received a few months back my first stop was to check in with my staff supervisor, Sarah Tondu, before gathering upstairs to start orientation.  Sarah greeted me with a warm welcome and then showed me which desk I would be using for the summer. We chatted about the different companies that were performing this summer while we waited for the other intern, Lindsay, to arrive.

As soon as we were both there Sarah went over the items that were placed on our desk which included a list of the companies that each of us would be responsible for taking care of. Lindsay had all the companies performing at the Reynolds Theater plus Doug Elkins & Friends and I had all the companies performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center plus Shen Wei Dance Arts. I was ecstatic about the list of companies I had.

Orientation was scheduled in the mornings followed by lunch as a group Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. During this time we got to know each other, learn about the different roles everyone had, take a tour of Epworth and the rest of East Campus, and familiarize ourselves with the history of the Festival as well as the classes and performances the season has to offer. After lunch we reported back to our offices where we began to take on our specific roles in the Festival. Lindsay and I began emailing the company managers we were working with to introduce ourselves and gather information regarding their stay. As Performances interns, one of our tasks was to pick up the company members from the airport which sometimes required a 15 passenger van. So during the first week, Lindsay and I practiced driving these monster vans to and from the airport, hotel, cast party locations, and the theaters.

The first week was a whirlwind experience jammed full of information to help us for the coming weeks!

Week 2

As if week one wasn’t exciting enough, week two drastically topped that! ADF officially kicks off this week with the arrivals of the students, faculty, the first two companies of the performances series: Doug Elkins & Friends and the Stephen Petronio Company, and the Footprints choreographers: Reggie Wilson, Helen Simoneau, and Jodi Melnick.  

In preparation for the companies and Footprints choreographers arrivals Lindsay and I worked on creating itineraries and welcome packets for our assigned company ; in my case the Stephen Petronio Company. There were many steps involved in completing each task. In terms of the itineraries, I was in constant communication via email with the company manager as well as ADF staff members in other departments in order to gather pertinent information regarding the company’s stay in Durham. The welcome packets included a brief welcome letter, the performance schedule, class schedule, menus from local restaurants, and visitor guides of Durham.

On Thursday evening, Doug Elkins & Friends performed an extraordinary rendition of The Sound of Music titled Fraulein Maria. Following the performance, Lindsay and I waited in the Green Room backstage until the company was ready to go to the Opening Night Fete at the restaurant, Parizade. It was a great evening full of good music, yummy food, and delicious drinks! I really enjoyed being able to talk with the dancers, as well as patrons, faculty, and staff of ADF. The best part was the dance party we had on the dance floor in the courtyard under beautiful star-filled night sky- we even had a conga line!

The Stephen Petronio Company performed “Underland” on Friday and Saturday night at DPAC. When I went backstage after Friday night’s performance I quickly learned that one of the dancers was injured and needed to arrange to see a physical therapist. I immediately called Sarah to inform her of the situation and she was able to make arrangements to see a PT in the morning. When everyone was dressed and ready to go, we made our way over to the cast party which was hosted and located at the home of ADF patrons.  Once again the night was filled with great food, great drinks, and great people as well as a fabulous pool and hot tub!

Saturday morning I drove Stephen to brunch at the Director of ADF, Jodee Nimerichter’s house. Stephen shared an excerpt from his memoirs to a group of ADF community members. After brunch Stephen and I spent the afternoon hunting down a recommended store where he could purchase a vintage watch as a gift. I attended the performance again Saturday night and was sad to say goodbye to such a great group of people. To finish up the weekend, I was able to squeeze in time to take one of the preview classes.

Week 3

The performances this week were by Keigwin + Company at Reynold’s Theater and the Scottish Dance Theatre at DPAC. I really started to get the hang of communicating with the company managers and building the itineraries and welcome packets. Also, the amount of airport runs for our office increased this week so we were constantly in and out of the office. Luckily, we had our three amazing staff assistants to help us out.  

Tuesday and Wednesday night I attended the Keigwin + Company performance. Wednesday morning we had our first intern seminar with Larry Keigwin. I enjoyed learning about his creative process and the

Larry Keigwin and one of his remarkable dancers taught the first master class of the Festival Wednesday afternoon in Brodie Gym. Unfortunately, I forgot my dance clothes back at the apartment so I was not able to take the class and Lindsay decided that she was going to sit and watch as well. When we got to the gym I’m pretty sure our jaws dropped in amazement; we were thrilled to see the gym packed with close to 100 students! Even though he had the option to cap the class at a certain number, Larry decided to open up the whole floor space of the gym and allow everyone to participate. The energy throughout the room was invigorating.

The cast party Keigwin + Company was hosted and located at the home of another ADF patron. Aaron and I rode together to the show and cast party; little did we know that it was the start of a great friendship. While at the party, we sat at a table with Larry and a few of the dancers eating, drinking, and talking about dance. 

Friday and Saturday were two of my favorite days of the summer. I was blown away by the Scottish Dance Theatre performance.

Week 4

The hottest week of the summer- I’m pretty sure we could’ve fried an egg on the sidewalk! Due to the extreme highs in temperatures throughout the week the school office had to change the location of some of the classes in studios without air conditioning and Durham Dances had to be moved inside.
I attended the Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion performance Monday and Wednesday night and the cast party following Wednesday night’s performance. To Lindsay and my surprise, the hosts of the party invited ADF faculty to celebrate with the company. The night was a blast!

While at the office this week, I was extremely busy preparing for the arrival of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hubbard II. I was in constant communication via phone and email with the company manager to address any questions or concerns that she had. The company had a large number of people travelling and had several activities going on throughout their stay. On Wednesday we had another intern seminar and lunch with ADF staff members. Each company this week had a master class which Lindsay and I transported and introduced whoever was teaching the class. Durham Dances was Saturday afternoon immediately following the Children’s Matinee performed by Hubbard II; I was responsible for leading the group of dancers to the table where they would sign posters and take pictures with their young fans.

In addition to the funfilled weekend, on Friday night the Scripps/ADF award was presented to William Forsthye. HSDC opened their show with the performance of a piece that William Forsythe’s choreographed.  The cast party was Saturday night at Parizade. After dropping the company off at their hotel, Aaron and I went to hang out with a group of ADF students.

Week 5

By the fifth week caffeine and naps in vacant rooms on the second floor during our spare time were the things that got us through. The Monica Bill Barnes & Company performances were Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night and their cast party was at Jodee’s house following Sunday night’s performance.

Pilobolus performed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday was a long day in Durham. It started bright and early with a 9 am master class. Their cast party was Saturday night which is always hosted by the same couple. The cast party was then followed by a party with the students.  

As usual, the work in the office consisted of responding to emails, creating itineraries and welcome packets, as well as airport runs. I was also able to take a few classes this week.

Week 6

This week consisted of several airport runs which for the majority occurred during the day when Aaron, Samantha, and Josh were in class so Linsday and I were constantly in and out of the office. Ragamala performed at Reyonld’s Theater Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This was the only company I did not see perform due to airport runs and such. I was able to make it to the cast party though!

Vertigo was the company performing at DPAC this weekend. The company is based in Israel and it was their first time travelling to the United States as a company. They brought a phenomenal evening length piece that left me in awe. On Saturday I picked up the Artistic Director, Noa Wertheim, and took her to a building on East Campus where she gave the MFA chat.

Week 7

Week seven was an extremely busy week with the Brian Brooks Moving Company, Shen Wei Dance Arts and the Paul Taylor Dance Company performances. Monday I began driving the students who were performing in the Shen Wei Dance Project to and from the North Carolina Museum of Art. Monday evening I attended the Brian Brooks Moving Company performance.

Tuesday through Thursday I spent the mornings in the office or doing airport runs and the evenings in Raleigh at NCMA. Tuesday was the opening night of the Shen Wei Dance Project which was then followed by a lovely reception where I was able to get to know some of the dancers a little more. By 10:30 the students were exhausted and ready to head back to Durham. Due to the overlap in time with the Brian Brooks Moving Company performance I was unable to attend their cast party.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company arrived Thursday. Since they have been performing at ADF for many years the company had the route down solid and chose not to have a cast party.

When communicating with the company manager last week I noticed that they did not have a master class schedule and I asked if they would be interested in having one, they agreed. The students were excited to have the opportunity to take one last master class. Again, I transported and introduced the company member delegated to teach the master class.

While I was working in the office Friday I received a phone call from Aaron who urgently told me to grab my purse and hop in his car that was parked out front. Unsure of what exactly he had planned, I was thrilled for the adventure. The journey led us to a large department store called the Beauty Department where we hoped to find the perfect wig for him to wear in the dance he was going to perform next week. Of course I wasn’t going to just sit there and let him have all the fun so I put on one of those goofy black spandex hair caps and tried on wigs with him. I’m pretty sure we made everyone around us laugh as we both strutted around the store, flipping our hair, and checking ourselves out in the mirror. It was so much fun!

Week 8

The word of the week is bittersweet.

Throughout the past few weeks I’ve stopped by to watch some of Reggie’s rehearsals. I enjoyed being able to sit and watch how he works with his dancers and how he constructs his work choreographically and artistically. The Footprints concert took place Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week and it was extremely satisfying to see how Reggie’s piece came together.

Tuesday night was the night Aaron performed in Mark Heim’s piece which took place at 8 pm in the Ark. He did a phenomenal job dancing in pumps, a mini skirt, a cheetah print tub top and his long wavy brunette wig. I was so proud of him!

Wednesday night was a blast! While the last Footprints performance was going on Sarah, Lindsay, Samantha, Aaron, and I were setting up for the cast party in their honor. ADF had rented a space nearby that had a great dance floor, lots of tables and chairs, and fantastic lighting that allowed us to adjust the brightness which helped to create a fun party atmosphere.

Following the cast party, Aaron and I went with some of the other students to hang out at one of their houses.  If Aaron and I never started hanging out outside of the office, I would have missed out on so many great experiences. As an intern that had little interaction with the students, it was nice to have a friend who was a student because I was able to attend events that I would have never known about and I had the opportunity to get to know the students better.

The Mark Morris Dance Group arrived Wednesday and Thursday. We had to work closely with the school operations office since we needed two 15 passenger vans and a cargo van in order to transport the company. Friday morning I had drove two of the dancers to and from one of the dance studios where they taught a PD class.  

Saturday Lindsay and I assisted Ryan, one of the dancers in Mark Dendy’s piece, with a dramatic behind the scenes costume change. The costume was resembled Godzilla made from water bottles. Since the costume was so delicate we weren’t able to practice prior to the showing. The pressure was on, we only had one chance to get it right and we succeeded terrifically with close to a minute to spare. Sunday we had three airport runs and we celebrated after the last one.

The last two days were spent packing up our office and reminiscing on the great times we had this summer. I couldn’t believe how fast these past 8 weeks flew by. Goodbyes were tearful but I knew in time my sadness would be replaced with nothing but pure happiness as I look back on the best summer of my life.