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RDF Artist Spotlight: KARAR Dance Company & Julianna Raimondo

Dogtown is ecstatic to be presenting the Richmond Dance Festival this coming June, with both live, in-person performances and streaming options via Dogtown STREAM. After such a hard year for the arts, we are honored to build and maintain connections with artists and provide our community with opportunities to witness their work. To celebrate Richmond Dance Festival and introduce all of these artists to the Richmond community, the Dogtown blog will be spotlighting artists periodically up until the festival. We are kicking it off this week with KARAR Dance and Julianna Raimando. We cannot wait to watch them grace our stage yet again.

KARAR Dance Company was founded in 2016 by Kara Robertson, a graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University's Dance and Choreography department. The company is a nexus of connection among artists in the Richmond area, fostering collaborations with those such as costume designer Damion Bond, lighting designer Weston Corey, musician Ryan Davis, lighting designer Michael Jarett, visual artist Katy Pumphrey, scenic designer of Crux Scenica, and videographer Torian Ugworji. In addition to their own projects, KARAR has created Homegrown Choreographers, an initiative that promotes dance makers living and presenting work across the country. More about KARAR Dance Company from the director, Kara Robertson, below. Kara and her company are presenting Affected at RDF this year, performing the first weekend, June 11th and 12th.

Photo by Michael Keeling

Is this your first time at RDF/dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? if not, what about RDF brought you back?

I have been fortunate to have presented work for RDF for many years.  The festival is a true testament to the growth of Richmond's dance community.  I love that RDF has offered a platform for dance artists in the region; we don't need to travel far to show our work nor travel to see current work.  I like connecting with other artists in the region that I might not normally be able to meet - the festival makes it so that Richmond artists and DC artists cross paths, etc.

If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here?

Karar Dance Company's time at Dogtown presenting "Circadian" as part of the Dogtown Presenter's Series was certainly a highlight.  Dogtown offered us incredible support throughout the entire process.  We received marketing assistance, funding, and an incredible support team for our six-show run!  The creation of "Circadian" has opened doors for other opportunities for us such as high school residencies in Virginia Beach as well as here in Richmond.

What is integral to your work as an artist?  

A solid team. A choreographer can't do everything. It takes multiple individuals to create and make work and present it.  It's very important to me that my dancers and I work together to create and make work.  My dancers have a voice in the process.  I like to collaborate with other artists to make work; adding another voice opens up another dimension that allows growth.  Showing and performing work means teaming up with a theater or other venue.  Having a solid relationship with your technical director, stage manager, etc. is so important.  Communicate and listen!

How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece?

I premiered "Affected" in 2018.  It's message (which I won't reveal to you now) can certainly be applied to what we've experienced over the past year.  It touches me in a new way from what I originally intended.  And of course I hope the audience will embrace how it makes them feel personally even though it may be completely different from how it affects me.

Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work?

It's been too long since I or the company has premiered a new work!  We are excited to be diving in to the creation of "Symphonic Variations" which is a dance film we are collaborating on with Philadephia-based filmmaker Torian Ugworji.  Filming takes place this July and we will premiere the film this coming Fall.  Karar Dance Company continues to develop new work and I am always growing in my creative voice and artistic vision and we are thrilled to be trying something new together!

Learn more about KARAR @karardancecompany on IG and on their website.

Julianna Raimando is a graduate of the James Madison University's Dance Department. After graduating in 2020, Julianna then relocated to Washington D.C. Julianna will be presenting Fiscal Relations at RDF this year, a piece which was selected for the final gala in 2019 at American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic Conference in Raleigh, NC. Julianna's work will also be premiered the first weekend of RDF, June 11th and 12th. More about Julianna below:

Is this your first time at RDF/dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? If not, what about RDF brought you back?

This is not my first time at Dogtown! While attending James Madison University, I was a member of the dance program’s Virginia Repertory Dance Company. During the two years I was on the company, we came to Dogtown to perform our Dancescapes show and to teach a masterclass. While this is my first time attending RDF, I am just as excited to be in the incredible environment and culture that surrounds Dogtown, and to interact once more with such hard-working, passionate people face-to-face. 

If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here?

I couldn’t possibly pick just just one! From packed performances, to incredible classes with amazing dancers, to exploring RVA with my fellow dancers and friends, Dogtown has always been a place with such fond dance memories for me. Jess and the whole team create such an open and passionate environment that just makes you excited to be together and share in the love of dance.

What is integral to your work as an artist? 

My values as an artist include the importance of risk, of being 100% raw and honest, and that dance and dance making is multifaceted in both an internal sense experience and an external one. I believe in creating an entirely new world to make statements about the current world; to create a new reality to comment on actuality. As I go forth in the world, I want to seek out spaces that are pushing the boundaries and limitations of what has been done before. I want to work with people who see the power of dance and long to show it to the world in invigorating new ways. I want to dance with those who are people first, dancers second, and who are simply open to exploring what that means. All in all, ​I strive to make work that is bold, honest, brushed with femininity, and responsive to the world around me.

How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece? 

My work Fiscal Relations, was actually created in 2018 and performed at JMU’s Fall Student Dance Concert and their mainstage concert for the Contemporary Dance Ensemble. It was also performed at the Mid-Atlantic South American College Dance Association Conference in the Spring of 2018. When the application for RDF was open, I knew I wanted to submit something, but knew I didn't have the bandwidth during COVID times to create something from scratch. I knew if it was selected, I could find local friends/dancers to reset the piece on-- and here we are. 

Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work?

I am honored to be sharing work as a choreographer at Dogtown. As much as I myself am a performer, being on the creating side brings me a fulfillment I truly cannot describe. This work has grown so much since its inception and I am looking forward to seeing a new cast of dancers make it their own. I deeply appreciate the Dogtown/RDF team for allowing me this opportunity, and truly thankful for such a dedicated network of dancers I could count on to make this work happen once again. Merde to all the performers/choreographers! I am definitely going to cry watching a live performance again and I simply cannot wait. 

Julianna can be found on IG @julianna.raimondo.

Tickets are still on sale for RDF; grab yours today!

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