Reporting from the U.S. Dance Field

10 Dec

Guest Blog by Walter Jaffe

At a time when presenters feel more apart than ever, a network called MOVE FORWARD has arisen to bring together them together on a regular basis. According to White Bird (Portland, OR) Co-Founders Paul King and Walter Jaffe, MOVE FORWARD is an expansions of West Moves, composed of presenters in the western states dedicated to bringing more dance to their communities. West Moves started more than 10 years ago, when Paul and Walter, along with a small group of presenters from California and neighboring states, decided to meet at the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) to discuss how to get more presenters interested in bringing more dance to their venues, which in turn would help lower touring costs. Out of these early gatherings, West Moves developed into a vibrant association of presenters throughout the west who met annually at WAA to focus on building and expanding dance tours, lowering touring costs, and sharing knowledge about the field of dance presenting. A Steering Committee of 8-10 individuals from the western states helped organize these annual meetings.

Due to the pandemic, WAA partnered with Arts Midwest to create a virtual conference this past October 2020. Since Paul, Walter, and other West Moves committee members had always hoped that their network could expand to cover the entire country plus Canada, this became the perfect opportunity to make that happen. West Moves Co-Founder Marty Wollesen, now based in Washington, DC, discussed with Paul and Walter the logistics of doing that and changing the name to reflect what we are all working toward during this challenging time when live performances have stopped. He suggested the new name MOVE FORWARD, which perfectly encapsulates the dual themes of a dance-related network (dance is all about movement), and the goal of being positive and constructive at a time when it is too easy to feel alone, pessimistic, and negative.

We have had three very lively and productive MOVE FORWARD Zoom sessions to date, focused on topics that include – snapshots of presenting organizations during COVID-19, what organizations are currently doing and how are they planning for the future, and contractural agreements with agents/managers/artists. The launch of MOVE FORWARD at WAA/Arts Midwest attracted 96 attendees, all registered at the conference. Subsequent Zoom sessions are open primarily to presenters, but each member of the MOVE FORWARD Facilitator Group* will host a session and determine whether to open the session to others (agents/managers/artists) or not. A special MOVE FORWARD session is being planned on January 13, 2021 for the virtual APAP conference, when it will be open again to all registrants.

Everyone who has attended the MOVE FORWARD  Zoom sessions so far has expressed great enthusiasm about the conversation and educational value of these gatherings. Most of all, everyone is cherishing the opportunity to come together and interact with colleagues, all of whom are passionately dedicated to making dance happen in their respective communities. During the pandemic, most of us have felt alone as we maneuver through many difficult decisions of virtual vs. live presenting, and MOVE FORWARD is helping to bring us closer at a time when most of our venues are shut and we have no idea when we can resume live performances.

*MOVE FORWARD Facilitator Group: Cory Baker (Long Center, Austin, TX), Celesta Billeci (UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures, CA), Walter Jaffe & Paul King (White Bird, Portland, OR), Amy Lam (Celebrity Series, Boston, MA), Margaret Lawrence (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA), Jack McLarnan (STG Presents, Seattle, WA), Beth Macmillan (Artown, Reno, NV), Randal Miller (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA), Cathy Weiss (Del Web Center, Wickenburg, AZ), Marty Wollesen (Washington, DC), Pam Young (Dance Cleveland, Cleveland, OH)

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