Arts & Culture

Iowa Dance Festival moves creatively to online stage for 2020

A group performs at last year's Iowa Dance Festival as one of the On the Street performances. This year's On the Street
A group performs at last year’s Iowa Dance Festival as one of the On the Street performances. This year’s On the Street is a Drive-in Live performance at the Iowa City Municipal Airport and tickets are already sold out, but it can be watched online through a live stream. (Iowa Dance Festival)

Despite the challenges of 2020, the Iowa Dance Festival is set to take center stage this week. That “stage” just looks a little different this year.

The Iowa Dance Festival starts on Thursday and goes through Saturday this week, offering performances by local and international, amateur and professional dancers in a variety of settings. Organizers have made the transition to online delivery and safe outside performances.

“For the past 14 years, we have brought dance to the Iowa City community through collaborations between amateur and professional artists — both locally and internationally. And we decided this year would be no different despite the world turning upside down,” said Tatum Beynon, communications manager. “Resilience is our key theme this year, because we have seen how hard artists have had to work to push through the difficulties that 2020 has brought... now more than ever, artists are called to create, innovate, adapt and preserve authentic connection with our beloved community. And we are proud to provide artists with a platform.”

“We have On the Stage, which are finished dance pieces presented in a proscenium setting, On the Screen, which is the International ScreenDance, and On the Street, which are live and lively street performances,” said Eloy Barragan, a dance professor at the University of Iowa Department of Dance, co-director of the Iowa Dance Festival and founder and co-director of the Iowa International Screen-Dance Festival. The festival also includes Master Classes and promotes collaborations between dancers, choreographers, writers and musicians, all in live performances.

“Of course, this year the approach is totally different because of COVID-19,” said Nora Garda, founder and co-director of the Iowa Dance Festival. “On the Stage and On the Screen will be presented virtually while On the Street is a Drive-in Live performance at the Iowa City Municipal Airport.”

Garda said she is most excited to be hosting the Drive-in Live performance at the airport on Saturday evening, which will feature works by aerial dancers, an internationally known juggler/dancer, contemporary dance, Near Eastern dance and Contemporary Ballet.

The festival — which Garda started in 2009 — has long had a mission of educating and entertaining, despite the circumstances. Organizers are excited for the opportunities this year brings. “We believe that by going virtual because of the pandemic, we will reach, inspire, teach and entertain more people than ever before,” said Barragan. He noted that in putting together the On the Screen, he received 98 dances from 25 different countries.


“And I am excited to continue encouraging the collaborations between dancers, choreographers, composers and musicians,” added Barragan.

Over the years, the festival has staged performances at the Iowa City Rec Center, the Iowa City Public Library and The Senior Center, Old Brick Auditorium, the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, hotelVetro, Old Capitol Center, the Englert Theatre, and the streets of Iowa City.

Garda said the goal has always been and will continue to be keeping the festival exciting for performers and audience members.

“The arts bring us together. They touch our soul. They make us feel warm and believe in humanity. They make us feel human,” said Garda. “And in times of crisis and separation and pandemics, we need them more than ever.”

There is no cost to enjoy any of the performances of this year’s festival, but they are accepting donations. Tickets for Saturday’s drive-in event are already sold out, but can be watched online through a live stream. To find out more and to see the full line up of performances visit

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.