By Crystal Harrell

This year’s Palm Desert Choreography Festival will take place on Saturday, November 12, and Sunday, November 13, including a competition/performance in two divisions.

Choreographers were instructed to submit work in one or both divisions with the goal to maximize the Festival’s ability to present deserving work.  During that Saturday, choreographers will be working with professional dancers of seasoned artistry and fully mature technique. All dancers must be at least 18 years of age and the choreography must not exceed 11 minutes.

On that Sunday, choreographers will be working with dancers of all ages from aspiring and emerging companies, colleges, academies and studios.


Choreography must not exceed 7 minutes. Finalists will be selected for both divisions based on the materials submitted prior to the competition.

Finalists chosen will travel to Palm Desert, California to perform the submitted choreography live at the McCallum Theatre before a general audience and panel of judges and compete for cash awards. The finalists traveling from out of the country must provide documentation to work in the United States in order to receive their stipend/award money and proof of full COVID 19 vaccination.

The Choreography Festival is dedicated to the advancement of dance as an art form, specifically through the support and promotion of quality choreography, this festival includes a choreography competition, outreach projects, workshops, residencies and a Lifetime Achievement Award presentation. Since 1998, the Festival has presented 704 original pieces of choreography and awarded over $690,000 in prize money.

“To say that this experience was incredible and thrilling is an understatement. It is an honor to have shared the space with such wonderful artists and such a present audience. I am irrevocably thankful for everyone that was part of making it happen,” shared Dolly Sfeir, the 2019 Grand Prize winner.

Saturday’s competition has a grand prize total of $10,000 and Sunday’s competition is $3,000.

The finalists for the Palm Desert Choreography Festival on Saturday, November 12, are as follows:


Franco Nieto – “Bloom” (Open Space Dance)

Aidan Carberry/Jordan Johnson – “Ice Man” (JA Collective) Joshua Manculich – “Manners” (WhirlWind Dance Company) Boroka Nagy – “He Came Running” (Re:borN Dance Interactive)

Small Group

Dasha Tertova – “Cutaway”

Ye Li – “The Daylight Within”

Mate Szentes – “House of Bourbon” (Ballet Project OC)


Seda Aybay – “Dedikodu” (Kybele Dance Theater)

Dolly Sfeir – “It Will Happen Again Tonight”

Omar Roman De Jesus – “Los Perros del Barrio Colosal” (Boca Tuya) Christina Ghiardi – “Nuvole Bianche” (Nevada Ballet Theatre)

Lane Gifford – “Flux” (LaneCoArts)

The finalists for Sunday, November 13, are as follows:


Azuki Umeda – “OO1” (au.thenticity dance co.) Taylor Knight – “Rain” (LUX Contemporary)


Gunta Liepina-Miller – “Me, Myself and I” (The Premier Ballet School of Orange County)

Small Group

Seyong Kim – “A Poem of Sacrifice Written at the Cross” (Project SK+A) Ye Li – “The Part That is Missing”

Lauren Blair Smith – “Intruder” (Lauren Blair Smith Dance Company)


Jacob Gutiérrez Montoya – “Unravel” (Hawkins School of Performing Arts) Cristina McKeever – “Don’t Be That Way” (McKeever Dance Theatre) Danielle Diniz – “Everything Old is New Again” (Golden State Ballet)

Brian Golden – “This is 22!”

David & Crystal Zibalese – “Pathways” (Dance Creations)

Shani Robison – “Obscured” (Chrysalis Ballet Company)

Amy Nakamura – “Untold Things” (Mt. San Antonio)

MJ – The Resistance of the Emerging Flesh (Innovate Dance Company)