Friday, February 24, 2012

Musings on Muses

Our 20th Anniversary Season shows are April 5-6 at the Marvin Center Betts Theatre!

As I look back at the last 20 years I am struck by the wonderful dancers and designers who I have had the honor to work with.  It is an amazingly generous feat for a dancer to give their youth to a choreographer and to believe in an aesthetic.  A dancer's life is amazingly short and I have worked with so many beautiful dancers over the years who have given their talent and youth to allowing me to create work on them.  These dancers include Sarah Craft my amazing dance partner for many years and confident who found her way to the first wave of DTSB&Co at only 16. What a gift she had. Her mother Polly was the early muse of  John Neumeier's, now the powerhouse of Hamburg. When I was at a very pivotal moment in my career Polly sponsored me  to visit Hamburg introduced me to John.  I flew to Hamburg to work with his school and sit in on his process. To see him in his prime at work was quite a gift.  I learned so much about the process of creating dances that speak to storytelling and the human experience.  He is  the archetypal scholar and storyteller of dance.

I am not sure what makes  a muse but Miyako Nitadori, Connie Fink, Kelly Southall and Ricardo Alvarez embody this quality for me. They have inspired essential dances for me from Island, to Charlie Chan and the Mystery of Love. I am thinking tonight how a choreographer finds dancers to embody their subconscious, the realm from which dances stem.  I keep a dream journal and devoutly follow Jungian archetypes.  These wonderful people embody archetypes for me from their dancing to the way they embrace life. 

I also have been ruminating on how designers change a choreographer's perspective.  I remember distinctly a conversation I had with Jennifer Tipton while working on a project with sculptor John Dreyfuss. She said, "remember light is an entity on stage as vital as another dancer,  if you project a relationship to light the audience will feel it completely".  Words to live by!  I never take the advice and talents of a designer lightly.  Also of major importance were my experiences with musical composer Jon Jang and visual designers Sara Brown and Laura McDonald. What generous people; they give completely to the process of dance.

Ultimately it takes a large community to breath life into the ephemeral form of dance. This communal process is what makes dance art.

Thank you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

International Dialogues

As I was showing Felipe Oyarzun, our new dancer from Santiago, Chile around DC today I started thinking about the importance of international dialogues.  I feel very lucky to have traveled with the company so much in the last 10 years because it has expanded our network and opened our eyes as to how vital it is to engage in a global dialogue.  Dance is a universal language and to invest in relations with other countries is extremely important, especially for America right now.  It expands how I choreographically create work and informs how my work can speak to all cultures.  One of the major factors to learning how to choreograph effectively has been our travels and the many conversations we have had artists abroad. These travels and friendships help me create works that are universal vs. just American in aesthetic. I am in search of universal archetypes; I am very happy to support and sponsor our dance artists from Mongolia, Korea and Chile this year. I know that their experiences here will propel them and me  to new heights.  I especially look forward to our tour to Jordan in May.  Understanding the Middle East through the arts will help us all get along. It will continue a shared humanitarian conversation and allow our young dancers to further their careers in the near future. 

More soon! Dana

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friends of DTSB&Co Gather at Bistrot Lepic!

Cyrille Brenac, Congressman Mike Honda, Julie Koo and Dana

A wonderful event last night filled with friends of the company at Bistrot Lepic. The event announced our 20th Anniversary Season and was a fundraiser for our spring performances. It was wonderful of Congressman Mike Honda to attend.  He eloquently spoke about the dance company as the District's arts organization that allows young Asian Americans the chance to see and imagine a future in the arts.  After 20 years, it was truly wonderful to see so many familiar faces at the event and to remember that everyone in a community grows together. Our rehearsals are going very well and I can't wait for the big show on April 5 and 6!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How do we rebuild our DC dance community?

How do we rebuild our DC dance community?  Dance is an ephemeral art form, perhaps the most fragile of the arts and yet perhaps the oldest in terms of a global humanity.  Mankind danced before it wrote, before it painted or sculpted. So in many ways it is a precious link to a shared collective unconscious.  Dance has the capacity to bridge socio-economic and cultural differences.  But dance is fragile, it is here for the moment, slightly varies from presentation to presentation as well as time and financially intensive with very specific  rehearsal and theater space needs.
In Washington, DC over the past 5 years we have had a major wave of theater based capital campaigns which started pre-2008. As money from the District Government, Foundations and Corporations poured into buildings and the theater community, dance began to feel a drain of funds that were available for general operating funds and choreographic projects.  As the economy began to recess this strain increased.  So now we live with a new grouping of theater spaces without dance floors which are too expensive for the dance community to rent, with virtually no presenters for dance in the face of funders strained to upkeep  new  spaces.  Dance in DC is at risk and facing an all new Darwinian terrain. We must look for new models for management and funding quickly to ensure existing and new dance artists will survive and thrive.  I believe that we must explore shared management models which are not top heavy.  We must continue to explore innovative partnerships such as those with universities, museums, art galleries, schools and more.  Such partnerships can build audiences and create non traditional funding proposals and projects in non traditional spaces which can re-enliven our community.

Recently I began reaching out to directors of companies, art institutions and universities to explore new models for dance and have had some wonderful success including recent projects at the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The DC Metro Dance organization which has undergone a slow decline also has the potential to restructure at this time and be a clear lobbying voice for dance. If leaders in dance and other art forms can work together to create a clear concerted strategic plan for dance then we can structurally clarify milestones of stability and growth.  We also greatly need national support to become available to in DC.  Unlike NY we do not have the finance and large industry available to us. We are a government based city with a handful of foundations with art in their portfolios and an individual funding base which is often transient due to its relation to movement on the hill. Individuals often arrive and leave in a 4 year span. So we are in need of larger foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, MacAurthur and Mellon to assist us at this time. We need to get the word out in a concerted effort. Otherwise even innovative partnerships will quickly hit a glass ceiling of support. As leaders in dance continue to talk I will be sharing info with you! Keep making dances!