Observations on Dance Massive, by Andrea Snyder

28 Mar

DanceMassiveSiteDance Massive is the biennial Australian dance festival held in Melbourne over the course of two weeks in March. It is a massive celebration of contemporary dance, including well-established choreographers, indigenous contemporary voices, and emerging artists. Organized by three presenting venues (Dancehouse, Arts House, and Malthouse), it is easy enough to move among the three sites and walk the city.

One of its purposes is to showcase the works of selected choreographers/companies to Australian and international dance presenters. Dance Massive is geared towards interested presenters; being an official presenter delegate has its benefits. Each week contains a AngelaConquet_ClaudiaLaRocca_Andrea.JPGcombination of essential events (“must go to” or participation in) and a dense schedule of performances. International delegates came and went throughout the two weeks, some for several days, and a few for the entire stretch of time.

My purpose in attending was to scope out the gathering in order to advise U.S. dance artists about the possibilities for relationship-building, and to continue to build awareness of international programmers who might appreciate the opportunity to attend a future American Dance Recon (ADR). I JarmoPentilla_LindaYip_AnnaChanwas delighted to have reunions with ADR international “graduates” during the five days I attended (Cathy Levy, Jarmo Pentilla, Angela Conquet, Anna Chan, György Szabó, Jerry Remkes, Tay Tong, Josh Wright). I was also thrilled to spend some time with the few U.S. delegates attending during the time I was there (Paul King, Walter Jaffe, Ben Pryor) and to cross paths with Claudia LaRocca (teaching a workshop) and artist Emily Johnson (involved in a collaboration).

I arrived on Sunday, March 19, and departed Friday, March 24. Over those five days, I saw seven performances, presented a 3-minute Pecha Kucha Pecha-Kuchaabout American Dance Abroad, listened to a panel discussion about dance curation, participated in a series of Roundtable discussions with choreographers, visited a former Temperance Hall now being re-established and renovated as a performance space, and with Paul and Wally met with the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate to share what we are doing as well as learn about the Consulate’s interests and priorities. Nothing definitive to report here, since the State Department is in transition, staff is on the move, and budgets are in flux.

PaulKing_WalterJaffe_BillFurnish_largerAs opposed to the current state of unknown about the NEA, the day before I arrived the Australian Arts Council received news that over half of the $100m funding that was siphoned off by the Minister of Culture several years ago (for his own determination) was being restored. There was plenty of sympathy and understanding from the internationals for what the U.S. is facing with the new administration.

I was struck by the similarities between U.S. and Australian dance. Much of what I saw came from a very strong physical base, the dancers were highly skilled, and the content was, for the most part, abstract. There were several outstanding productions. I wondered if the European presenters thought the same about U.S. and Australian dance (“lights and tights”, too physical, and not context-driven enough)?

In conclusion, Dance Massive seemed primarily geared towards making connections between Australian artists and interested national and international presenters.  I did, however, have conversations with several Australian colleagues who were impressed and intrigued with what American Dance Abroad does for U.S. dance.


Dancin’Bo World Connection

5 Feb

Type of Opportunity: Open call for festival applications

Deadline: March 10, 2021

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Istanbul Fringe Festival 2021

1 Feb

Type of Opportunity: Open call for festival applications

Deadline: March 27, 2021

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Stories from Quarantine: Valerie Green, Dance Entropy

13 Jan

Guest Blog by Valerie Green, Executive/Artistic Director  

For Valerie Green/Dance Entropy 2020 started with wonderful performance opportunities alongside local NYC festivals, many exciting plans to expand our NYC educational programs, and a full scheduled tour of our growing project entitled Home. As the year continued forward, what we did not expect was a vivid realization of what home meant for us.

Home, a collaboration with choreographers from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Sweden, and Burkina Faso, began in 2019, examining issues of identity, human migration, dislocation, and the search for a sense of home shared by all cultures. This ambitious project came to a halt along with the rest of the world and would inevitably shape this project and its new-found meaning.  However, this past December we were able to forge ahead resuming an in-person Phase 4 of the project at Green Space with Souleymane Badalo, complete with a hybrid performance! We hope to continue to pull the project into a completion by the end of 2022.

In finding new ways to adapt, a film project was initiated – “Time Capsule: A Physical Documentary.” Eight solos physically trace emotional experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, woven together with a score of vocal reflections and incidental sound from the diverse sampling of New York City landscapes in which each dancer was filmed. A dynamic interplay of beauty, strength, and resilience, “Time Capsule” is a testament to the faith we have in our city, its vast infrastructure, the delicate spirits that inhabit it, and the tender terrains we all hold within.

The video project also spun off an all-male trio man/Mother, the compelling work, featuring a thick branch, suspended down stage center, makes its way into each of the three physical trails. Both an obstacle and a comfort, it confronts us with hard truths that demand reflection and action. Why would mother nature create such an affliction? What have we done as humans to contribute to bringing it into being? How can we mend our fragmented relationship with that which made us?

This continued theme of being at home continued to spark inspiration for many of our now virtual programs that are offered. Our signature trauma workshop series, Skimming the Surface, provides free workshops and performances to halfway houses, women’s shelters, substance abuse rehabilitation facilities, and other organizations supporting trauma victims. During this crisis, we opened up a virtual workshop to our surrounding community and to those all over the world. This workshop has continued to be a space for safety and healing. This also spear headed the transition to working online with local senior citizens, school residency’s and our annual summer intensive. This allowed for a more direct reach and participation that provided an outlet for movement, community and engagement during the quarantine.

As we think back on all the wonderful gifts and obstacles we faced this year, we find ourselves very thankful as we continue to remain present in our community while at a distance. Dance Entropy will continue to develop our mission as we grow and learn together to build a better world.

Stories from Quarantine: Verb Ballets

13 Jan

Guest Blog by Dr. Margaret Carlson, Producing Artistic Director  

Re-Imagine, Re-Conceive, Re-Deliver
Due to the arrival of the coronavirus in Feb 2020, many goals, activities, performances, and income were disrupted. The company was on tour in Cuba at the time and very relieved that we returned home before things shut down. While we all quarantined beginning in March, Verb continued to pay its dancers and staff while we worked from home. We applied for a PPP loan that we received in April and that was used to continue to pay employees and rent. The dancers returned to Cleveland on May 1 and sheltered at home for 14 days, and then we began having them report to work for 2.5 hours a day. Sanitizing protocols were in place, and when we had safely completed two weeks of working, we then returned to work starting June 1 with a 25% reduction in hours for all dancers and staff. Verb applied to enter the Shared Work program through Unemployment services, and by doing this we were able to continue to work with reduced hours and receive unemployment benefits. For the month of June, dances were created that did not require the dancers to touch or partner each other. Then, our entire season was canceled and we lost our earned income putting us into a situation of “survive or close.”

We have definitely been on a steep learning curve. During the initial lockdown the dancers came to the studio individually and recorded classes that were offered to our students. We worked with a local musician, Angie Haze, and her band, and made our first of several Covid Creations. It is called, SHOES. https://verbballets.org/shoes/ and marked our first venture into the virtual performance world.

Returning to work and having all of our shows cancelled, we began the process of re-imagining what performance is, how to then re-conceive the move away from the traditional and finally how to deliver it to audiences. At first, I was adamant that we figure out how to broadcast live performance as a one-off scheduled time. I wanted to preserve the anticipation that comes from going to the theatre. We utilized a service called Boxcast and figured out how to re-digitize and run the performances through our website. After the first attempt, we learned that we would do better to utilize a switcher that would allow us to move back and forth from live and pre-recorded content. By October, we were ready to move away from the live concept into finding ways to use the camera as a creative bridge to various realities. We produced a Halloween weekend film that was shot in a cemetery, the studio, and an outdoor Renaissance Colonnade. It was a “for fun” piece and we quickly learned that if moving into the world of film there needed to be a very clear storyline or way of connecting material https://verbballets.org/carnival-macabre/. In our latest production, we partnered with the Blue Water Symphony in a program where they filmed the orchestra in a different location from the one we were in and used the camera and effects to make it look like we were in the same location https://verbballets.org/building-bridges-together/. For our next production, we are moving into a theatre in a collaboration with rock musician Neil Zaza to produce a 20-minute film of a sneak peek of our December 2021 new production called The Revenge of the Rat of King, a play on the holiday favorite, The Nutcracker. We will have a film crew as well as a rock lighting designer and a dance designer. And finally, with Cares Act funds in hand we are about to convert our largest studio into a black box theatre so that we can permanently produce both live audience and virtual shows. The future, we believe, will continue to demand a virtual component.

Our final challenge was in finding a way to monetize our work. In our first attempt, we made it donation only, then tried a small charge with a donation option, then went to a set ticket price and finally ticketing options for children/seniors/families. The really fascinating discovery was that no matter which option we tried, the average ticket price came out the same, which was $25/person. So, the market determined what it would bear. On a good note, our virtual shows draw a viewership from an average of 26 states and 3-5 countries. It has allowed us to spread our name in much the same way as touring minus the cost.

Stories from Quarantine: BodyVox

13 Jan

Guest Blog by Jamey Hampton, Co-Artistic Director 

BodyVox in the time of Quarantine 

Like all dance companies in our city, state, country…indeed, across the globe…BodyVox has faced its most challenging period in our 23-year history with Covid 19. We have endured and prevailed in times of economic stress, personnel injury, natural disasters, dislocation, and any number of obstacles that arise in the operation of a somewhat fragile midsized arts organization. Never could we have imagined the sustained offensive Covid-19 would mount on our company, our audience, and our community. 10 months and counting…no end in sight.

We were fortunate to hold our annual gala on March 7, 2020. We were one of the few arts organizations in Portland to hold a gala in 2020. The following Monday, March 9, Covid moved from a potential hazard to be treated with caution to a mounting emergency. We were deep in rehearsals for a major new show that was to open in 2-1/2 weeks, a collaboration with the Akropolis Reed Quintet. We busied ourselves with rehearsals while keeping an eye on the news and our Governor’s guidelines. Each day brought more bad news, more detail about the extent of the disaster inexorably approaching.

Friday the 13th we realized the time had come: we announced to our dancers and our community that we were cancelling all activities in the BodyVox Dance Center until further notice…a major blow, as 400 people come through BodyVox on any given week to take classes, hold rehearsals, and attend events.

With all our personnel at home in quarantine, we began holding daily Zoom meetings between key staff members to assess our vulnerabilities and basic actions in the face of the emergency. For a week or so, each meeting was wrought with a balance of disbelief and confidence that we could control our destiny. How will we take care of our dancers? How will we serve our audiences and community? How will we keep class revenue from collapsing? In short, how will we keep BodyVox alive?

We kept dancers on contract until their normal period ended in early summer. Several filed for unemployment. Many teachers and support staff were furloughed. Key personnel took cuts in their salaries. Throughout the summer, we laid the groundwork for a system that would be malleable and responsive to Covid guidelines when the fall season picked back up. Two major initiatives emerged that have enabled us to remain deeply connected to our community.

BodyVox has a rich history of working in film. Nearly every show of ours has involved film sequences throughout. All of our shows have been professionally recorded with multiple cameras. In August, we launched “StreamingVox,” an online streaming page featuring films of past shows. Every two-three weeks we put up a new show. All were offered for free. We phoned patrons, sent email to our lists, posted on social media…We can’t dance for you now, but here are shows you can enjoy in your home. We began to host public chats, conversations, cocktail hours with the artistic directors, interviews with collaborators. We created BodyVox Kids, a program based upon our school residency work. People in our community were starved for connection. We always knew that BodyVox was a community, but we hadn’t quantified how much people would miss it if it were closed. These digital offerings kept the relationships alive.

We soon realized we were not going to be able to perform live in the fall. We hired a brilliant filmmaker, Robert Uehlin, to work with us in creating a cinematic version of one of our audience-favorite shows: BloodyVox. Before we gathered, we formed a “Quaran-team.” After extensive discussions with dancers and technical and artistic staff, we agreed on the rules we would abide by. Minimal exposure outside the studio; no attending large gatherings; wearing masks while rehearsing; daily use of a contract tracing app. For four weeks we rehearsed and filmed in our studio and in locations around Portland. The result was the most immersive and sweeping film we have made of our work. It was a revelation to reimagine work for the camera, focusing the audience eye on what we wanted them to see from moment-to-moment.

We constructed a large outdoor screen in a shipyard owned by a supporter of BodyVox. We projected from the back of a Subaru Outback, and broadcast over a low-watt FM channel. For three weeks we hosted a drive-in movie theater for up to 60 cars a night, $50 a car. We gave them gift bags with masks, candy, and popcorn. We streamed the film for those who had a ticket but didn’t want to do the drive-in. It was a watershed event. People loved the novelty of it, loved the film, loved the safe gathering around a dance event.

Once BloddyVox was up and running, dancers and directors reconvened in the studio to film 10 more pieces for the camera. We are currently editing them for a program called Figments. We will install Figments in a pop-up art gallery, project it as a drive-in, stream it online, offer it to presenters for their audiences. We are currently filming another series, called The Pearl Dive Project. We collaborate with creatives who are not choreographers in the making of new work. We’ve worked with painters, writers, architects, musicians, designers, bloggers…a whole host of wildly creative people. Our first collaborator will be Matt Groening of The Simpsons, musician Ludovico Einaudi, local drag personality Poison Waters. More to follow.

We have launched a robust schedule of online dance classes. Many of our teachers, who were furloughed for some time initially are now back at work teaching from their home or from the empty BodyVox studio. We still hold company class within the constraints of our Quaran-team every morning, and we stream that class live as well. I think people enjoy taking class with our fine teachers and dancers while in their own homes. I wonder if they clear the furniture for the big Grand Allegro at the end!

Our ability to remain calm, work together in the reimagining of our work, find myriad ways to remain connected to our audience, deliver compelling content, and to stay in close touch with our community, have been the keys to our success in managing the crisis of Covid. We don’t know what the future will bring, if touring will resume next year, etc. We are busy, we are creative, we are learning. We are humbled by the support we receive to continue operations. We are fiercely resolved to stay true to our purpose and pivot when we must to remain vital and solvent.

To all artists, dancers, companies, organizations, I say this: Hang in there. Dance is an arts form that touches souls and forms deep connections. Your audience needs you now more than ever before. In these dark times, the light of your work is essential. There are many ways to keep the light blazing.

T*danse Festival 2021

27 Dec

Type of Opportunity: Open call for festival applications

Deadline: January 15, 2021

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27 Dec

Type of Opportunity: Choreography Competition 

Deadline: March 12, 2021

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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)

Stories from Quarantine: Martha Graham

10 Dec

Guest Blog by LaRue Allen, Executive Director 

With much fanfare, the Martha Graham Dance Company closed its sold-out Kennedy Center run on March 7, 2020 and left Washington D.C., looking forward to our New York City Center season, scheduled for the following month. By March 13 our studios were shuttered and dancers locked down at home. One by one performances on tour in the U.S., Asia, and finally Europe were postponed and ultimately canceled.The Board directive was simple – “Go digital,” and the Company shifted gears to create online programming and find ways to monetize it in the new virtual universe. The spring and summer saw a rapid pivot to free digital offerings with the launch of Martha Matinees, featuring classic Graham ballets on film accompanied by a live chat with Artistic Director Janet Eilber. Picked up by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and Smithsonian Magazine, Martha Matinees was named a top-5 Pick by NYC-Arts.

From my Executive Director’s perspective, the Graham season and the Covid crisis seemed to roll out in tandem. It became pretty clear that a return to the theater would elude us for most of 2020-2021, so it was time to conceive of an entire season that was fully virtual. We leaned into our experience using technology to reach audiences and planned an array of events, from opera house performances to the intimate Studio series, to video snippets that keep our friends connect to our dancers. “Experimentation with technology has always been a significant part of how we make our work accessible to all audiences” said Artistic Director Janet Eilber. “Our 95th season will be a new virtual journey coordinating our many online events, offering context to the depth and breadth of the Graham legacy and all we do to move into the future.”

To crack the monetization code, we turned to Patreon, the platform that now hosts all of our digital offerings. For as little at $3 a month audience members have access to an array of events, some predictable, some decided not – think a glorious performance of Night Journey one day and Xie Ying’s demonstration of her favorite Guacamole recipe on another.
We’re looking forward to our newly conceived spring season that will include a world premiere by Andrea Miller, Janet Eilber’s new production of Graham’s Immediate Tragedy, a suite of Graham duets including Moon and Errand into the Maze, and duets by Troy Schumacher from The Auditions and Andonis Foniadakis from Echo. We’ll also feature some complete Graham masterworks including Night Journey and Every Soul is a Circus.
We’d love to be in person, in front of our audience, but until that’s possible, we revel in all that we can bring to our virtual stage. We are deeply thankful that we are all healthy and able to continue connecting with our audience. The lock-down definitely has some sour notes, but the Graham lemonade is pretty tasty.

Resid-ENS21 Residency

9 Dec


Type of Opportunity: Residency

Deadline: January 15, 2021

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