About ADF

Since 1934, the American Dance Festival has been a recognized leader in modern dance presenting dance performances, and offering educational opportunities and community programs, while maintaining an international reach.

​​ADF ensures that modern dance remains a powerful and universal form of human expression and that this art form is accessible to all, now and for generations to come.

A large outdoor amphitheater at night

Hosting performances and residencies by major established companies and emerging artists from around the world.

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  • One of the most important functions of ADF throughout its history has been to provide choreographers with the opportunity to produce new works, many of which are especially commissioned by ADF. ADF has played a critical role in increasing the repertoires of our country’s modern dance companies, having been the site of over 700 premieres, over 440 commissions, and over 50 reconstructions.
  • ADF has supported, commissioned, and helped launch the careers of choreographers such as 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, among others, most of whom continue to present work at ADF.
  • ADF has co-commissioned or co-presented works with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina State University, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the North Carolina Dance Festival, and Motorco Music Hall.
PDI students in class

Training through summer and winter dance intensives and year-round classes at Samuel H. Scripps Studios.

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Our intensives are a training site for those who want to perform, create, research, and build lifelong connections. For over eight decades, it has been a career-defining destination for dancers around the world. ADF provides the critical meeting ground for vibrant, diverse dancing bodies to mobilize, align, and become the leaders our society needs us to be.

  • At the heart of ADF is the Summer Dance Intensive (SDI), where dancers from around the country and around the world come to train and to create, to see and to be seen. Students of all levels are invited to engage in collaborative creative processes with ADF’s diverse and outstanding faculty, extraordinary musicians, and vibrant student body. 
  • The Pre-Professional Dance Intensive (PDI) is designed specifically for the training and education of dancers from the ages of 13 to 17.
  • The Dance Professional Workshops are week-long intensives that provide practitioners and educators with the opportunity to study with the ADF faculty in classes that have been specifically designed to address their needs and interests.
  • ADF provides full and partial scholarships to students based on both talent and need. Approximately, 50% of ADF students that attend summer programs are awarded financial assistance.
  • In 2018, our summer programs were comprised of over 300 students, along with over 60 faculty and musicians, from 25 countries and 36 states.
  • The Winter Intensive in New York offers nine days of classes, panels, performances, and more, allowing students to study with outstanding teachers, learn in a supportive environment that offers individualized attention, hear about the NY dance scene from the artists who are currently creating it, and see open rehearsals and performances from an insider’s perspective.

The Samuel H. Scripps Studios, ADF’s first permanent facility, opened in the summer of 2012. The programs at the studios are dedicated to providing a sound scientific and aesthetic base for all levels of training from beginning to professional. A variety of classes are offered, for the dancer and non-dancer alike, designed to strengthen the body, increase flexibility of movement, and foster an appreciation of dance. The studios serve as a center for creative activity where students learn in a welcoming and non-competitive environment from faculty who are experts in their fields. Over 4,200 students attended classes during its first year of operation.

Kids holding hands and dancing in a circle

Community Outreach

Offering the breadth of the festival’s resources through our community programs.

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  • ADF Project Dance is 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.
  • ADF partners with Durham’s Central Park School for Children to offer 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 and see dance in the making.
Teaching Tribute awards ceremony


Giving status and importance to accomplished dance figures and to the profession itself.

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  • For distinguished choreographers, ADF has established the $50,000 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in modern dance. Recipients of the Scripps/ADF Award include Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Hanya Holm, Alwin Nikolais, Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Erick Hawkins, Twyla Tharp, Anna Sokolow, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, Trisha Brown, Meredith Monk, Anna Halprin, Fayard & Harold Nicholas, Pina Bausch, Pilobolus, Garth Fagan, Maguy Marin, Eiko & Koma, Bill T. Jones, Murray Louis, Mark Morris, Laura Dean, Ohad Naharin, Martha Clarke, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, William Forsythe, Lin Hwai-min, Angelin Preljocaj, Lar Lubovitch, Lucinda Childs, Ronald K. Brown and posthumously in honor of Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, José Limón, Pearl Primus, and Helen Tamiris.
  • For distinguished teachers, ADF has established the Balasaraswati/Joy Anne Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. Recipients of the Chair include Pearl Primus, Daniel Nagrin, Betty Jones, Bella Lewitzky, Ethel Butler, Anna Halprin, Donald McKayle, Bessie Schönberg, Matt Mattox, Pauline Koner, Viola Farber, Mary Anthony, Walter Nicks, Jane Dudley, Sophie Maslow, Pearl Lang, Martha Myers, Carmen De Lavallade, Gus Solomons jr, Gerri Houlihan, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Davis, Linda Tarnay, Douglas Nielsen, Dianne McIntyre, Carolyn Adams, Ruth Andrien, Sharon Kinney, Yang Meiqi, Donna Faye Burchfield, Ana Marie Forsythe, Phyllis Lamhut, Irene Dowd, Zvi Gotheiner, James Sutton, Jaclynn Villamil, Anne Green Gilbert, Liz Lerman, Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio, Ana “Rockafella” Garcia, and Bettie de Jong.
    A photo from the 1930s of students in a Graham technique class at ADF

    Humanities and Media Projects

    Illustrating how modern dance serves as a special window on American history and culture.

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    • Produced by ADF, the Emmy award-winning PBS television series Free to Dance: The African American Presence in Modern Dance was a three-part documentary that chronicled the crucial role that African American choreographers and dancers played in the development of modern dance as an American art form.
    • The PBS special Dancing in the Light presented six historic dances by pioneering African American choreographers filmed at ADF. Originally recorded for Free to Dance, the works appeared in the series only as brief excerpts.
    • Created in 1987, the Black Tradition in American Modern Dance project preserves, celebrates, and creates access to classic dance works by African American choreographers. To date, 23 historic works have been reconstructed on leading US repertory companies.
    • ADF has issued a series of humanities publications including The Aesthetic and Cultural Significance of Modern Dance (1984), The Black Tradition in American Modern Dance (1988), and its sequel, The African American Genius In Modern Dance (1993). In conjunction with its 75th anniversary season, ADF published a highly selective look at American modern dance and its philosophies by Philosopher-in-Residence, Dr. Gerald E. Myers, entitled Who’s Not Afraid of Martha Graham? (2008).
    • The ADF Archives serves as the repository for records of enduring historical value created and collected by ADF including the collections of Laura Dean, Mark Dendy, Harper Theater Dance Festival, and Pearl Primus. The Archives preserves its collections for use by the dance community, including students, scholars, and the general public.
    • We’ve highlighted the diversity of events taking place during the festival through video coverage of classes, rehearsals, and performances, as well as interviews with choreographers, faculty, and scholars. For ADF’s 80th anniversary, a video project titled 80 Faces featured special stories and memories from eighty people who have been a part of the festival’s history, including modern dance legends such as Ronald K. Brown, Martha Clarke, Bill T. Jones, Shen Wei, Paul Taylor, and Jennifer Tipton.
    Artists in the International Choreographers Residency having a discussion around a table

    National and International Initiatives

    Special conferences, workshops, and projects designed for dancers, choreographers, and audiences.

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    • Since 1984, through the International Choreographers Commissioning Program and the International Choreographers Residency program, ADF has over 486 choreographers from 93 countries on 6 continents to ADF to share, exchange, and experience the work and ideas of people from cultures around the world.
    • ADF’s Institutional Linkages Program has included mini-ADFs in Korea, Russia, India, Japan, China, and Argentina and teaching residencies in 30 countries. ADF has helped develop modern dance in China, Russia, and Mongolia and introduced French, English, Russian, and Chinese modern dance and Japanese Butoh to US audiences.
    • ADF’s Audience Memory Program, directed by Dr. Ruth Day, is conducting groundbreaking research on the way audiences and dancers perceive and remember movement.
    • Since 1995, the International Screendance Festival has explored the ever-evolving relationship between cinema and dance. Audiences have the opportunity to see numerous films over a two-day period specially chosen to represent the best of this film genre.
    • Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism was held at ADF from 1970 to 1991 and again from 2003 to 2010. The three-week residency program allowed dance journalists to develop a deeper understanding of dance and to strengthen their writing and criticism skills.

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    ADF Board

    Honorary Chairpersons

    • Mrs. Laura Bush
    • Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton
    • Mrs. Barbara Bush (1925-2018)
    • Mrs. Nancy Reagan (1921-2016)
    • Mrs. Rosalynn Carter
    • Mrs. Betty Ford (1918-2011)

    Board of Directors

    • Curt C. Myers, Chairman
    • Jodee Nimerichter, President
    • Tallman Task III, Treasurer
    • Nancy P. Carstens, Secretary
    • Charles L. Reinhart, Director Emeritus
    • Bernard E. Bell
    • Natalie Dunn
    • Richard E. Feldman, Esq.
    • James Frazier, Ed.D.
    • Susan T. Hall, Ph.D.
    • Diane B. Linfors
    • Christine Mark
    • Carlton Midyette
    • Adam Reinhart, Ph.D.
    • Arthur H. Rogers III
    • Judith Sagan
    • Rosemarie Sweeney

    Advisory Committee

    • Robby Barnett
    • Brenda Brodie
    • Ronald K. Brown
    • Martha Clarke
    • Laura Dean
    • Mark Dendy
    • Garth Fagan
    • William Forsythe
    • Stuart Hodes
    • Gerri Houlihan
    • Bill T. Jones
    • Alex Katz
    • Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
    • Lar Lubovitch
    • Akaji Maro
    • Meredith Monk
    • Mark Morris
    • Martha Myers (1925-2022)
    • Ohad Naharin
    • Eiko Otake
    • Takashi Koma Otake
    • Stephen Petronio
    • Ted Rotante
    • Yoko Shinfune
    • Twyla Tharp
    • Michael Tracy
    • Doug Varone
    • Shen Wei
    • Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

    Notable ADF School Alumni

    ADF students have danced with many professional companies, choreographers, and shows, including:

    African American Dance Ensemble
    Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
    Bill T Jones/ Arnie Zane Company
    Company Wang Ramirez
    John Jasperse
    Kate Weare Company
    Jose Limon
    Lucinda Childs
    Mark Dendy
    Mark Morris
    Monica Bill Barnes
    Pascal Rioult
    Paul Taylor
    Rosie Herrera Dance Theater
    Shen Wei Dance Arts
    Sleep No More
    Stephen Petronio
    Trisha Brown


    ADF alumni include the following performers, choreographers, teachers, and artists:

    Shawn Ahern
    Brenda Angiel
    Ephrat Asherie
    Jack Arnold
    Tatiana Baganova
    Ivonne Batanero
    David Beadle
    Christopher Bell
    Kevin Boseman
    Hope Boykin
    Brian Brooks
    Trisha Brown
    Nate Buchsbaum
    Donna Faye Burchfield
    Krystal Butler
    Guilia Caratenuto
    Li Chiao-Ping
    Lucinda Childs
    Madonna Ciccone
    Martha Clarke
    Maggie Cloud
    Benjamin Coalter
    Mary Cochran
    Blondell Cummings
    Merce Cunningham
    Hannah Darrah
    Mark Dendy
    Peter DiMuro
    David Dorfman
    Senta Driver
    Kitty Dukakis
    Domingo Estrada
    Betty Ford
    Sarah Gamble
    Gail Gilbert
    David Gordon
    Charlotte Griffin
    Miguel Gutierrez
    Charis Haines
    Anna Halprin
    Talli Jackson
    Ellen Jacobs
    Margaret Jenkins
    Shayla-Vie Jenkins
    Eriko Jimbo
    Burr Johnson
    Sara Juli
    Larry Keigwin
    Parisa Khobdeh
    Sharon Kinney
    Heather Lang
    Nicholas Leichter
    Paula Levine
    Janet Lilly
    Lar Lubovitch
    Sean Mahoney
    Mariah Maloney
    Carla Maxwell
    Yang Meiqui
    Manelich Minniefee
    Meredith Monk
    Tess Montoya
    Zuzanna Mrozek
    Martha Myers
    Alwin Nikolais
    Jennifer Nugent
    Ryan Page
    Steve Paxton
    Ursula Payne
    Michelle Pearson
    Jillian Peña
    Pamela Pietro
    Lonnie Poupard
    Sherone Price
    Joshua Reaver
    Don Redlich
    Jenna Reigel
    Gabrielle Revlock
    Christine Joy Ritter
    Thryn Saxon
    Sara Segar
    Ruby Shang
    William Siegenfeld
    Ryan Rouland Smith
    Alex Speedie
    Katie Stirman
    Pam Tanowitz
    Linda Tarnay
    Paul Taylor
    Jennifer Tipton
    Simon Thomas-Train
    Leah Verier-Dunn
    Doug Varone
    Holt Walborn
    Elizabeth Walton
    Shen Wei
    Gwen Welliver
    Abigail Yager
    Jesus David Zambrano


    ADF Alumni – would you like to be included in this list? We would love to hear from you!
    Email school@americandancefestival.org with a brief summary of your work and accomplishments post-ADF. We would love to know if and how ADF helped your dance career! 

    2021 Annual Report

    Despite the uncertainty and challenges the performing arts have experienced in the face of COVID-19, ADF has been resilient with the incredible support of our board of directors and donors and the dedication of our extraordinary staff, faculty, and artists.

    Learn more about our year in the 2021 Annual Report

    View the ADF History and Timeline.

    View ADF’s most recent 990 and audit documents.