Area’s only dance festival fills weekend with performances, classes


Emily Rice

Dancers perform at Big River Dance Festival.

Last weekend marked the first Big River Dance Festival, which brought dance to Huntington as the area’s only professional dance festival.

The weekend of festivities included community classes, master classes, a “dance on film” film festival, a pre-professional concert and a professional concert.

Huntington native, Gaige Koontz, 22, who is currently pursuing a degree in dance at Radford University, performed in Friday night’s pre-professional concert.

Koontz performed an original piece entitled “Perception Mispercepted” to a musical mashup of “Sunday Neurosis” by acoustic duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela and “Pretty Hurts” and “Haunted” by singer-songwriter, Beyoncé.

“I really enjoyed it and I enjoyed the process of creating everything because I just started a couple weeks ago in a dance program for school,” Koontz said. “So, it’s really fun to actually understand everything and why I created it.”

Fellow performer, Kristin Boyd, 21, from Beckley, West Virginia is currently enrolled in the nursing program at Marshall University.

Also performing an original piece, Boyd performed “Don’t Give Me Up” to folk musician, Birdy’s song “Not About Angels”.

“I loved the process and I always love performing and any opportunity I get to perform,” Boyd said. “I love choreographing my own pieces and going for it.”

According to both Koontz and Boyd, creating an original piece must first begin with the music.

“I love choreographing my own pieces and going for it.”

— Kristen Boyd

“For me, I found the piece of music I used a year ago and I never really did anything with it and I found it again just kind of out of no where and just decided to finally expand on what the music was and come up with something for it,” Koontz said.

Both performers pick songs that will translate well on stage and draw inspiration from the way the music makes them feel.

“I usually, as well, pick a song that I like or that I listen to and I think it would be good for a dance,” Boyd said. “Then I listen to it and figure out how the song makes me feel depending on, you know, if it makes me sad or whatever type of emotion. Then I branch from there and try to pick a concept for the dance.”

Both Koontz and Boyd said they would like to see the festival grow and bring many different cultures and facets of dance to the Huntington community.

“I want it to expand way bigger into the community,” Boyd said. “I think it would be amazing to have some sort of festival production, like maybe, at Ritter Park where it’s like that huge field just having everyone just dancing and moving and growing.”

Friday night’s pre-professional concert was followed by educational dance classes and a professional concert on Saturday.

Kelsie Lively can be contacted at