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!

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