Pictured: TDIF 2017 Participants at TCU | Photo: Erika Record
The Texas Dance Improvisation Festival (TDIF) is an annual event organized by Texas artists to inspire, challenge and build diverse improvisational dance communities through a festival featuring classes, jams and performances at an affordable cost.
Grounded in the emergent, embodied practice of contact improvisation, the festival welcomes all improvisational dance practices and features a variety of improvisational dance techniques, methods, styles and contexts. Through a lean organizational structure of volunteers and the leveraging of university resources for the benefit of the wider university and improvisational dance communities, TDIF supports the inclusion of new and learning dance artists, providing a high-quality dance improvisation festival experience at low cost.
TDIF was first held at TWU in 2009 hosted by Jordan Fuchs and Sarah Gamblin. It featured guest artist K.J. Holmes, no registration fee and brought together 115 participants. Since that time the festival has grown to over 250 participants a year and brought to Texas guest artists of national and international renown, including some of the biggest names in improvisational dance.
Initially conceived of by Jordan Fuchs as a means of strengthening the improvisational dance community throughout Texas, TDIF places improvisational dance practices at the center, rather than at the edge of contemporary dance. Modeled on contact improvisation dance festivals such as WCCIjam in Berkeley and Freiburg Contact Fest in Germany, TDIF utilizes contact improvisation practices such as jams to provide a common base and meeting ground, while welcoming a diverse array of improvisational dance practices.
With an ethos based on administrative sustainability and financial accessibility, TDIF relies on an intentionally lean and efficient organizational structure of collaborating volunteers to leverage Texas university resources for the benefit of the wider university and improvisational dance communities. As a result, the entire three-day festival is not only one of the largest improvisational dance festivals in the US, but also the most affordable.
TDIF is an ongoing work-in-progress and values diverse visions of what the festival can be in the future.
The festival is organized through a series of volunteer roles and one paid administrative position.
The Coordinator of the festival organizes the yearly workload and deadlines necessary for producing the festival as well as initiating broader changes in the festival as needed. For the first ten years of the festival Jordan Fuchs was the Coordinator. In 2019 Sarah Gamblin became Coordinator.
The Coordinator is advised by an Advisory Board, which has approximately 12 members, and is comprised mostly of former and future hosts and interested volunteers with prior experience of the festival. Formerly referred to as the Coordinating Board, the Advisory Board advises the Coordinator, approves significant changes to the festival, comprises the adjudication panels for festival teachers and performers, recommends festival guest artist as well as festival hosts, in addition to other tasks such as serving as jam hosts as required.
Each year the festival is held at a different university hosted by a faculty member from that university. This host is responsible for accomplishing the logistics necessary to producing the festival at that university and serves as the liaison between TDIF and university. Duties include arranging class, jam and performance spaces, approving and then contracting with the guest artist, creating an online registration system for receiving registration fees, paying the annual web site registration fees etc. All TDIF registration fees go to the Host to reimburse the Host for the costs of producing TDIF.
The Administrator advises the Host and supports the Coordinator through providing administrative and institutional knowledge and templates from one year to the next. Additional duties include maintaining and acting as the contact person for the TDIF website and social media platforms. Since the position was developed in 2017, Erika Record-Sparks has served as the Administrator and receives a modest fee for her services from the Host.