The Tucson Effect: Local entertainers bring talent to Beta Dance Festival

Allyson Yoder began dancing at a young age and, this year, will serve as the Beta Dance Festival’s coordinator. (Photo courtesy Allyson Yoder)

By Mckayla Hull

Dance is bringing Tucson and Phoenix together.

The fifth annual Beta Dance Festival will be held in Phoenix on September 22 and September 23 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts Third Street Theater. Tucson residents are playing big roles as coordinators, dancers and choreographers.

Allyson Yoder, coordinator

Born and raised in Tucson, Allyson Yoder started dancing at a young age at a local parks and recreation center where she took a creative dance movement class. She furthered her studies at the Arizona Ballet Theatre and University and Rincon High School. In 2012, Yoder was awarded the Flinn Scholarship to attend ASU. She graduated four years later, with honors, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance and a certificate in socially engaged practice.

Beta Dance Festival founder Michaela Konzal asked Yoder to coordinate the event this year. She was thrilled.

The Phoenix Center for the Arts, which hosts and runs the event, “provides the venue, the space for the rehearsals for the residency program and marketing,” Yoder says. “I’m in charge of getting the word out to the dance community, forming the panels who will review applications and decide who’s ultimately selected. I create a scoring system and then communicate with the artists.”

The Beta Festival’s primary focus is to serve the dance community, Yoder says.

“The community can be insular and that might be the result of just how big Phoenix is,” she adds. “The festival is an opportunity for many different facets of the dance community to come together and engage in a dialogue about onstage performance and hopefully offstage about dance in our community and see what each other is doing.”

The performances will address today’s political climate.

“There are a number of works that really speak to the political and social moment that we’re in and directly address various political issues and the context that we’re living in,” Yoder says. “The festival will strike a really nice balance between the world we’re living in and sense of escape celebration.”

Michelle Marji, performer

Performer Michelle Marji was introduced to dance in middle school and continued to hit the stage at University High School and ASU, where she studied psychology and dance.

Since her 2017 graduation, Marji has “been choreographing, performing and teaching dance during community outreach projects,” she says.

This year’s Beta Dance Festival is Marji’s first. She applied after seeing information about it online and hearing about it through friends. Marji will perform solo and in a trio.

“The Beta Dance Festival is a really great way to connect emerging dance artists and allow them the opportunity to show their work and interact with other artists in the community,” Marji says. “It’s really inclusive and diverse and it represents the diversity in the community.”

Kevin Godfrey-Chevalier, choreographer

Kevin Godfrey-Chevalier has been in musical theater since age 15, but he took up dance so he could land better parts.

He fell in love with ballet, tap and jazz and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona in 2003. He resides in Phoenix and teaches in Grand Canyon University’s dance department.

Godfrey-Chevalier is choreographing festival performances for the first time this year, although he has attended in the past. He signed on to gain experience outside of GCU.

“There are not enough dance performances in downtown Phoenix,” Godfrey-Chevalier says. “(The Beta Dance Festival) is not a festival that you have to pay to appear in, which is good for new and emerging artists because they may not have the financial ability to pay to be in a festival or put on their own show. It’s good at creating exposure for those folks as well.”

Allyson Yoder began dancing at a young age and, this year, will serve as the Beta Dance Festival’s coordinator. (Photo courtesy Allyson Yoder)