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When Eureka Dance Festival’s performances run at Dance Place this weekend, most audience members won’t have any idea of the effort that went into making the event a reality. But festival organizers Orit Sherman and Kate Jordan hope it’ll show in the quality of the work onstage.

Last year, not-yet-established choreographers Sherman and Jordan were talking about their struggles to get a foothold and produce quality work in the area. Eureka Dance Festival is the result of that conversation: it’s an ambitious project that the duo hopes will serve the D.C. dance community as a whole, particularly new choreographers.

“The idea came from our needs as young artists—we’d found that what’s available is limited and you need to have a big resume and line of experience behind you, or else you’re not accepted,” explained Sherman. “We found it frustrating—how can you build your resume if no one gives you an opportunity? So this is where you can start.”

It’s a pretty detailed process. The project kicked off last year, but its most recent iteration began six months ago. This summer, Sherman and Jordan invited choreographers to come and talk about their work—not to bring finished samples, because the focus is on encouraging newer artists who might not yet have a body of work to display. Instead, aspiring choreographers talked about their ideas and plans of action, and Eureka Dance Festival reps chose the most promising ones.

Over the next few months, the group organized a series of facilitated showings where participating choreographers could run their pieces and get feedback. Two of the eight showings were closed; the rest were open to the public.

“The showings took the work to such a higher level of development and expression,” said Sherman, explaining why she and Jordan view them as a vital component of the process. “You can be so focused on something, but it’s hard to see it [objectively]. Then someone says, ‘This is really beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be so long.’ It was amazing how the works evolved and changed through the showing process.”

Sherman and Jordan also organized master classes, including one featuring a Peruvian choreographer whose work will be part of this weekend’s performances, and held conversations between dancers and affiliated artists like videographers and actors, trying bridge a communication gap between the groups.

The end result is this weekend’s shows, which feature pieces by Nathan Andary, Glade Dance Collective, Keira Hart-Mendoza, and Roxie Thomas, as well as  Jordan and Sherman.

Meanwhile, Eureka Dance Festival is already planning events and classes for the new year. What’s most impressive is that Sherman and Jordan are doing it completely on their own dime: though they’ve gotten support from a bunch of dance studios and related groups, it’s largely been in the form of free studio space rather than financial help.

Sherman is diplomatic about how helpful the in-kind assistance has been, but admitted that “we still need the financial aspect—we’re doing it all ourselves. We’re working very hard.”

The performances are Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20, or $18 for artists, students, and seniors. Last year’s shows sold out, so the festival’s organizers encourage people to buy their tickets ahead of time.

Photo by Maggie Picard