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Moving to a Different Modus Operandi

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In reflection upon my final semester in this urban collegiate dance program, I find it relevant to discuss the intersection between dance training and professional performance and what it means to the Chicago audience.

As a dancer: Wow! I have so many peers doing wonderful things around the city. My experiences at the (soon to be closed) Westbeth Studios in New York City where the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) has been housed for approximately 50 years has certainly thrown into relief the world of dance now for myself and my peers versus 30, 20 and even 10 years ago.

The older model of contemporary modern dance for a dancer is to work your butt off and be successful in auditioning for a prestigious company -- most of which are located in New York City. Yet, we are moving to a different modus operandi, one in which independent artists are gaining steam and making their mark in our artistic consciousness.

We live in a space of uncertainty. With the economy as it is, the arts are losing funding at a rapid speed. Start-up companies (such as my friends at Creative Nests) are overcoming great financial barriers to continue to make art in the city of Chicago. And the promising thing is that they are doing it! But it is not without sacrifice, sweat and tears to pull a show together in this town.

While there are still some Chicago mainstay companies -- I won't name them for my purposes here -- there are a dozen other companies that are staying afloat via grants pursued through dedication, unwavering patron support, and sheer talent. Some of my professors at Columbia College Chicago -- Margi Cole, Carrie Hanson and Joanna Rosenthal, to name a few -- are doing wonderful things throughout the city, with not nearly as much acclaim as they may deserve.

The new model of professional contemporary modern dance is now being established via my peers -- those who have graduated and those to come. I doubt that many of us will find a place within a mainstream company (not to discount their talents and goals) -- I just mean to describe how the landscape is changing. In many ways, we are indebted to former chair Bonnie Brooks for being such a staunch advocate for dance in Chicago, as the dance community has grown throughout the past decade.

As big name companies such as MCDC shut down, we must turn the page in dance history and describe the transformation that is already underway. We cannot long for past values, and must appreciate the artistic freedom a new system demands. This ain't your mother's version of urban presentations of modern dance, but locally it is an exciting new frontier -- paved by many mentors of mine and my peers -- in which there is much to explore, cultivate, and enjoy.

With all this said, I hope you will continue to support all artists in Chicago and continuously question your own values of art!