Carrie Cox and the Bates Dance Festival

Ohio State Dance Production Manager Carrie Cox has spent many years as a stage manager and lighting designer perfecting the art of stuffing magic rabbits into top hats and strategically cajoling artists on and off stages. Over the years, she has supported shows for Lynn Dally’s Jazz Tap Ensemble, BalletMet Columbus, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Carlota Santana Spanish Dance Company, Robert Post Comedy Theatre, Momix, David Dorfman Dance, Roxane Butterfly, Karl Rogers’ Red Dirt Dance, RythMEK, Yin Mei and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts. Most recently, Cox supported international choreographer Vincent Mantsoe at New York City Center’s 2017 Fall for Dance Festival. For over a decade, Cox provided production management for the Bates Dance Festival (BDF) in Lewiston, Maine. For the Ohio State Department of Dance, Carrie teaches production and manages the Barnett Theatre. She is a proud company member of the Columbus-based Available Light Theatre.

Cox is now at Ohio State Dance during her summers in order to offer the studio and Barnett spaces to community partners and visiting artists, but we recently sat down with her to ask about her time working as the production manager for the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine.

Q: How long did you work for the Bates Dance Festival and what were your primary responsibilities there?

A: I have been privileged to call the Bates Dance Festival my home for fourteen glorious summers. Serving as the festival’s production manager for over a decade, my primary role has been to support the health, happiness and technical requirements of the festival’s performing artists in Schaeffer Theatre, while also mentoring a small 4-5 member cohort of production interns. We sweat. Yes, the hours in the theatre are long. We are often sleep-deprived. But somehow, we make the theatrical magic happen. In so doing, we forge life-long friendships. Lobster and a day at the beach every now and then is obligatory.

Q: How old is the Bates Dance Festival, how is it similar to other US dance festivals and what makes it unique?

A: The Bates Dance Festival, going on its 36th year in 2018, is the youngest and smallest of the three major US dance festivals, including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, MA, and the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC. Like its sister festivals, BDF commissions and provides residencies for the development of new work from festival artists, and like its sister festivals, it also provides students invaluable opportunities to learn from active dance makers in the field. Having experienced the cultures of each festival over time, I can honestly state that this is where the similarities of BDF to other festivals begins to adopt a singular, unique experience for a participant, where physical proximity and the porousness of ideas are central to the BDF culture.

Q: Bates Dance Festival is known for its noncompetitive, community spirit. Can you attest to this?

A: Under the 30-year tenure of director Laura Faure, BDF has crafted a culture of being both artist and student forward. Artists receive the space and time to craft their art in unpressured environments; opportunities for compositional feedback abound by way of informal showings and question and answer sessions. The student experience is equally rich, where repertory class opportunities further the understanding of performance techniques. Supporting this rich culture is the close-knit community of the festival at the small and gorgeous Bates College. Along the right angle of College and Frye Streets, the BDF community eats, sleeps, dreams, rehearses, porches (that’s a verb) and makes music together. BDF is known for its strong commitment to live musical accompaniment by world class musicians. You could easily find yourself sitting at a table in the dining hall across from Bebe Miller or Nancy Stark Smith. Or you might find yourself improvising musically on the musicians’ porch with David Dorfman. What is transferred in a studio or on a performance stage continues to resonate in this hallowed place; ideas and inspirations continue to percolate outside the boundary of class periods. Safe exchanges, brave trials and the drive to find novel ways of communicating through a medium of contemporary movement is what fuels the BDF experience. It is a truly an intentional community of artists who seek the revelations--through a short 3-week immersion period-- of sustained and deep physical, intellectual and noncompetitive exploration and sharing of their practices, pedagogies and crafts.