“To respond to this @Carla, I think we have an issue with how dance is defined in the US: is it like a symphony or an Opera company, (classical ballet companies and repertory companies attached to one town make sense under this) or is it like a Vaudville act (from the Graham, Denis-Shawn, on to our companies today) that tours? In actuality, our modern dance tradition is from the Vuadville tradition and NOT the old world Opera House model.
We are trained and assume everyone should be operating in the old world model with the attached patronage. Economic models are not taught to many of the independent choreographers that set out on their own and start seeking advice AFTER they start their creative process. Talk to any dancer/choreographer under the age of 30, and they are only trying to do things differently. And let's face it, the movie industry is built off of patronage: it's called investors. It's just stronger word choices.
Yes, economic forces are a large part of the issue with dance creation, but unlike business schools where they teach their student how to survive in the market, none of that is communicated in dance education. As for government driven support, it will only come in the form of public-private partnerships where artists need to be a partner and not just the beneficiary.”
“Hello @Carla, I want to address the union issue first off. The majority of the dance making organizations are so small that the union does not have any dream in organizing them since they would just swallow up their budgets. They can't help the dancers who are dancing for a company that has an annual budget of $50k. There are certainly many more dancers without union representation than with, which is why they are weak, but they are helpless to combat the issue on their own.
The theater/acting world made a transition which theaters and film makers of a certain caliber would only use production companies which had union representation as a code of ethics. If that was instated for the dance world, that would make dance companies clammer for that right and the union would be more powerful. That is such a pipe dream that I don't even consider it as a reality.
The reason we have not seen a great migration of dance to film is a) the industry has maintained that film doesn't do justice to the art form and never jumped full heartedly to training choreographers in the medium, and 2) all of those independent choreographers are still focusing on real life performances-- which have limited runs and very limited return on investment, and 3) those small independent choreographers haven't figured out how to raise funds upfront for the content which can possibly net them much more than any performance- if marketed right.”
“Now, you say, "I believe that society needs small choreographers in their neighborhoods creating dance." Can you pin-point what neighborhood or community you are serving and what social good you are contributing? Because you are operating in a model- the non-profit model- which is supposed to contribute a "social good." Social good in this economic uncertainty is not the same as even five years ago. Who's story are you telling- your own or your communities? The role of a dancer in traditional societies is much different than an entertainer, but we have not been trained to understand that in our western-centric institutions. Plus art in the US is largely devoid of a sense of place in a broader community, which is why there are few who want to donate $5.
I choose to focus on how to work as an artistic individual after now knowing how to look at the whole system better. We are seeing in every industry across the board that if you don't start looking at solutions then the problem will just compound on top of you. We all should feel empowered to try something different because the way things "should" operate isn't working for a majority of us. I hope you feel empowered to try something different, and I hope you look outside the dance community for your inspiration as to what some solutions might look like.”
“I have a feeling we are about the same age, and I think we see the same struggles. Let me drill down into why I write about solutions rather than only describe a situation which you can easily do as well as I can. Just as the debate surrounding health care reform is contentious at best, so this discussion within the dance community has many different highs and lows.
I believe there is great merit in understanding how we got to this current situation by studying our artistic history in a way which is not touched in our higher educational systems. The NEA selected this model to tote, designing grants in a certain manner in the 1970's-1990's, then radically changing the game in the late 90's for very political reasons. Also our historical figures favored vaudeville- including Graham, Denis-Shawn, and a bevy of others-- confusing what is more important: old world repertory structure (like a symphony!!) or new world celebration of the individual. I could break it down more, but I would rather do that somewhere else.”
“I did not address the choreographer's POV because I am not one, nor do I see myself doing that in the near future; but I do understand your dilema since I see it every day. Right now they do get stuck doing everything, but there may be a better way.
I feel for independent choreographers, and this outcome of a surplus of small organizations is most likely related to a preference of these independent non-profit organizations. This happened sometime in the early 1970's through a push for "sustainability" in dance creation. (I did research on this topic in Graduate school) We were trained with this end goal only to realize decades later that it is not completely sustainable-- it's only sustainable to those with enough gumption, connections, or preternatural talent to attract big donors. There are hundreds of small choreographers for every Mark Morris...
Personally, I think the field has to step back and look at the big picture to address this situation. Although there is room for well positioned single choreographer companies, I think re-asserting that repertory companies are a well designed answer is justified. That is why I referenced The Joyce Theater's quote in this article. If choreographers leaving school have the well positioned ego and can enter a collaborative environment rather than trying to do everything themselves, then we might see some major changes.”
Callie Chapman on Jul 6, 2012 at 21:23:48
“I agree that there may be a surplus of small non-profits, however, no one ever says that we need to scale back on painters (who work independently) or musicians. Everyone who has something to say deserves the right to express that through dance.
Some of us are good collaborators, some of us are not and some of us haven't found the people to collaborate with who share the same vision.
I've been at it for 10 years, so I don't consider myself "fresh" out of school. I don't regret that I have gone into debt because of my passion. It's something I need to do (the same way I need to dance). My work has been well received, it's just that people (audience) expect it for free. Sometimes when you make something look good on a budget, people just expect that you are going to continue to do that again...by yourself. When you ask for money, few step up (I'm talking $10) because the expectation is that art is free and it doesn't cost anything to "dance around".
In the end, I believe that society needs small choreographers in their neighborhoods creating dance. We have to be in the communities and be present, not go on strike.
And even if the public doesn't "care", you can change a person's day just by performing in the least expected place, where they will have to walk around to get to where they are going. And that makes a difference.”
“Yes, @pupcat, there should be a conversation about this, and I think it is healthy to discuss the process of making the work as well as the performance of another's vision. It is great that you worked collectively to make work when you were first starting out, (pooling of resources is the way to go!) and that passion for creation is an amazing feature which translates so well on stage. What I do say is that the cost of living (rent, food, student debt, etc) are increasing to a point where you must work a full time job just to make ends meet, whereas even a decade ago you could get away with working for a little less income and spend some more time on the dancing. Your final product's result is directly tied to the incentive you create through good will and fair treatment of your cast, and too often the stage hands get paid better for their skills than those on the stage. We dancers have all been trained in the environment where the work HAD to be done, and by far this creative group does not complain about work conditions otherwise much work would not be made. The whole field needs to enter this conversation, assess its issues, (of which this is only one of many) and then press on. When this happens, I caution that individual dancer's perspective tends to get lost, and that is what this article champions.”
goldengodess on Jul 27, 2012 at 13:03:14
“Does Maslow's hierarchy of needs not apply to dancer's? Perhaps we can draw some inspiration from "suffering for our art"
But its pretty difficult to sustain enthusiasm for the craft when youre starving.”