FLICfest: Brooklyn’s new festival of Independent Feature-Length Choreography
The gripes of choreographers and dancers in NYC are numerous, if well-founded—the shortage of affordable rehearsal and performance space, the grind of working four jobs to cobble together a living, the difficulty of attracting audiences beyond the roommate and parents.
Jeramy Zimmerman, a Brooklyn-based choreographer, is not the wallowing type. After self-producing her own evening-length show, Homeland, at The Irondale Center in Fort Greene in February 2010, she began searching for other performance outlets for the work. With four dancers and four musicians, the work wasn’t an ideal candidate for touring, and she couldn’t find any festivals in the NYC area for existing evening-length works that offered a stipend. (DanceNOW NYC sets a seven-minute cap on pieces, and while others such as Movement Research or White Wave/DUMBO consider longer work, the limit still runs around 15 minutes.)
As the creator and one of the original producers behind 60×60, a madcap series that packed 60 second dances into 60 minutes, Jeramy clearly has a knack for organizing people and events. In fact, in the process of thinking about what to do after Homeland, she realized, “I missed the community aspect of 60×60, but my interest in one minute dances had pretty much played itself out. So I started to think about how I could create that type of community but also give people an opportunity to create or remount feature length works.”
Knowing that The Irondale Center wanted a larger presence as a dance venue, Jeramy approached them after her show in the spring of 2010, and FLICfest was born. The partnership, between CatScratch Theatre (Jeramy’s company) and Irondale, is based on a 50-50 division of the $40,000 budget. Irondale is hosting the festival and handling the production side of things, while Jeramy, with the help of her very active five-member board, took on fundraising to cover artist fees, public relations, marketing, and theoretically, her own salary (she admits that this last budget item may not come through, although she was laid off from Grace Church School last year, so the silver lining here is that her unemployment has helped subsidized the festival). This $20,000 is coming from a Kickstarter campaign, additional individual donations, and a box office split.
FLICfest, which opens this Thursday, January 20, takes place over two weekends. Each night, two choreographers will present a 50-60 minute work, followed by a mix of cabaret acts. The 12 choreographers were chosen by Jeramy and her board from 80 applicants and will receive a $1,000 performance fee: “It’s not a festival for emerging artists, but it’s also not a festival for some one with a solid $100,000 yearly budget who has a structure behind them. And it’s probably not their first attempt at an evening-length work. The choreographers selected take their craft and this opportunity seriously.”
Part of what distinguishes FLICfest, aside from the focus on evening-length work, is the community building aspect of the festival. Jeramy’s working on this angle with the Kickstarter campaign, which tapped social networks to bring in new supporters, the post-show cabaret, aimed at persuading audiences to stick around, and of course, the mainstage shows, curated as complementary programs to encourage audience cross-pollination.
The goal is to produce FLICfest on an annual basis—assuming it’s financially viable from the box office side—and even though we spoke two weeks before the festival started, Jeramy already has a whole raft of lessons learned with an eye towards next year: have some one else curate the cabaret performances, build partnerships with other organizations, involve the choreographers more in both the festival fundraising and marketing, get an intern, and hold an open round-table discussion about the issues choreographers face in NYC.
Jeramy says, “I’m really trying to make it a fundamentally different festival, so it’s not just about submitting work, showing up, and performing.” She ultimately sees the festival as being “artist-driven, where the line between the artists and producers of the festival is deliberately blurry. I want there to be a collaborative approach, and figure out how can we all come together to make this sustainable.”