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Atlanta dancer, teacher and choreographer Catherine Messina has always valued community engagement as an integral part of who she is. So when the pandemic hit in March 2020, she asked herself how she could best serve the city’s dance community. Her solution was an outdoor multimedia festival called the Fall for Fall. She created an Instagram page for the event, posted a sign-up for choreographers, and recruited friends and colleagues to help make it happen. The September festival presented the work of 35 choreographers, raised more than $1,000 to divide among the artists and offered them a rare opportunity to present their work live.

On June 4–6, Messina aims to re-create the success of Fall for Fall with a second iteration, the Spring for Spring Dance Festival, which will use three metro locations. All three — The Lawn at Uptown Atlanta, the B Complex and the Decatur School of Ballet — are MARTA accessible with parking and restrooms. Like Fall for Fall, Spring for Spring will seat audience members in pods and ask them to wear masks. The event also will be livestreamed via Instagram and YouTube. 

The festival will present the work of 28 choreographers from metro Atlanta. Some, like Jacquelyn Pritz and Jessica Bertram, presented at Fall for Fall, while others are new to the festival. Messina is looking forward to the work of Nadya Zeitlin, who she describes as a “powerhouse.” She’s also excited to give a foot in the door to choreographers new to the area, such as Pendu and Janie Young.

Catherine Messina

Catherine Messina says Spring for Spring will include film and music in addition to dance.

Pritz, an Atlanta dancer, choreographer and arts administrator, will  present a piece titled Noodles, White Rice and Fruit Loops, Part One on Friday night. The work reflects on the violence experienced by Asian Americans and deals with themes of microaggression and the model minority myth. Pritz’s choreography plays with her contemporary background and training in the self-defense method known as Krav Maga, as well as the hip-hop background of her all-Asian cast. 

“My primary goal was to get more Asian representation onstage in Atlanta,” Pritz said. “I wanted to respond but not by just saying ‘This is wrong, let me educate you.’” 

Messina is also looking forward to Bertram’s bloody sacrifices/the feminine divine, a solo that Britanie Leland will perform on Sunday. The work deals with the experience of sacrifice that most women share. Bertram said that she built the piece using improvisation, journaling and “conversations around the sacrifices that women make that often go unnoticed and unrecognized.” 

Every choreographer who applied will be presenting at Spring for Spring. “I try my best to give everyone a spot,” Messina said, “because at the end of the day we need to focus on our identity as artists. A lot of grief has gone on for our careers in the past year, and I want to help that.”

Spring for Spring also will include films by Pulkit Sharma, Joie Yvonne and Loren McFalls as part of Saturday’s lineup. Atlanta producer and DJ Ptar will mix tunes after each performance, and Messina is looking forward to time to mingle with other artists and community members. 

Making the festival happen has required, according to Messina, “an element of chaos and an element of DIY that you have to be OK with.” Space, tables, chairs, equipment and cameras have all been donated, and Messina and her friends do the behind-the-scenes tech work. When it started raining during one  Fall for Fall performances, the team mopped the stage with towels and kept going. 

“Seeing how the community came together during Fall for Fall was so beautiful,” Pritz said, “and I know Spring for Spring will be just like that, everyone working hard to make this happen. It makes my heart fill up with joy and celebration. The resilience of Atlanta dance is amazing — even with COVID going on, we’re still making work happen in this city.”

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