Department of Cultural Affairs L.A., American Dance Abroad & DANCE/USA Bring Greater Visibility to Dance in Los Angeles – Part I
June 18, 2018
Just over a week ago, two major dance organizations, DANCE/USA and American Dance Abroad (ADA), were in Los Angeles bringing much needed visibility to what is happening in Los Angeles Dance. LA dance artists, promoters and educators met to improve their organizations, while nine international delegates spent four days seeing dance performances, meeting the artists and exchanging ideas. It was an exhausting but thoroughly invigorating experience. Unfortunately, the schedules of the two events often collided with each other. Both organizations’ scheduled events throughout the day and were rarely located in the same venue. I was hoping to attend and report on both but as I perused the schedules I realized that I could not. I therefore chose to focus on ADA which worked in conjunction with the Department of Cultural Affairs Los Angeles (DCA LA) Dance Platform.
This article is not a review. I write as a reporter, an informed observer who wants to inform his colleagues who might not have been able to attend either event about the amazing four days that just transpired; four full days focused on dance in Los Angeles. I do, however, point to several issues I found that need addressing or taken under consideration.
Amy Fitterer is the Executive Director of DANCE/USA. On its website, the mission statement reads, “Propelled by our belief that dance can inspire a more just and humane world, DANCE/USA will amplify the power of dance to inform and inspire a nation where creativity and the field thrive.” It meets annually in different cities throughout the United States presenting dance related workshops, business boot camps, movement classes and seminars. Its primary focus is in the areas of engagement, advocacy, research, support of individuals and organizations, and the preservation of dance. It is a wonderful networking possibility for dance artists, meeting each other, sharing ideas and learning from one another.
American Dance Abroad
Formed in 2009 by Carolelinda Dickey and Andrea Snyder in response to American dance losing availability and visibility in the global marketplace, American Dance Abroad (ADA) is a national organization that “seeks equitable cultural engagement among American dance artists and companies and their international counterparts.” The organization brings international delegates and presenters to the U.S. to learn about, meet with and observe American dance and dance artists through its signature program, American Dance Recon (ADR). The companies perform their work in both informal and formal settings and ADR provides an open dialogue between the international delegates and the American dance artists; each learning what opportunities and/or obstacles the other encounters. “We help artists and companies enter and navigate the global marketplace where they can build their own, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.”
ADA is not a booking conference. It is, however, an opportunity for foreign delegates to view American dance companies and to perhaps discuss future touring and/or residency possibilities with a company or dance artist whose work appeals to them. In short, ADA is a networking opportunity for dance artists and dance organizations; giving the delegates an opportunity to understand what exactly is meant by American dance.
Meet the International Delegates
There were nine representatives from eight countries who were were part of the ADA delegates. Those nine individuals who I had the great honor to meet, speak to and socialize with were: Anna Cheng, is the producer, Performing Arts (Dance), of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA). Chéma Gargouri is from Tunisia located in North Africa. She is the CEO of the Center for Applied Training, a consulting services firm specializing in international programs and projects, meetings planning and management, and non-profit organizations capacity building. Jadwiga Majewska Grabowska is from Poland. She is a critic, theoretician, curator, dramaturge, and lecturer at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and works at the Krakow International Festival of Contemporary Dance. Eleno Guitierrez is from Mexico and is the executive director of Centro de Producción de Danza Contemporánea in Mexico City. Lassaad Jamoussi is also from Tunisia. He is an artist, academic, and activist. He is on faculty at Tunisian Higher Institute of Cinema & Audiovisual Art in Tunis. Atanas Maev, Derida Dance Center (Sofia, Bulgaria) Atanas has studied Economics in Karlsruhe Technical University and Plovdiv University and, since 2002,actively works in the field of cultural management. Kirsten Seeligmüller is from Germany. With Wibke Janssen, she founded Dock 11 at Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin in 1994. This a dance venue that links successful dance education, presentation of dance and professional production. In 2009, EDEN****, a second venue, opened its doors with studios, dance classes, a theatre place and residential rooms for artists in the district of Pankow in Berlin. Natalia Sobrera is the executive director of Montevideo Sitiada, a Dance Festival that takes place biannually, in unconventional spaces, in the City of Montevideo, Uruguay. Dr. Danny Tan, Odyssey Dance Theatre (Singapore). A renowned and prolific Singaporean dance ambassador, Danny has forged strong alliances with many international organizations and artists for two decades, championing unique Singaporean voices on the world dance map.
Department of Cultural Affairs Los Angeles Dance Platform
The facilitator of this rare opportunity was the DCA LA Dance Platform organized in partnership with Grand Performances, Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA, The Ford Theatres, Los Angeles Performance Practice, Center Dance Arts, L.A. Dance Project Studio, Diavolo Dance Studio, BPStudios-Brockus Projects, and Downtown Dance & Movement Center. The dance artists provided the dance works and the venues provided the space for the choreographers to speak about their company and their work before and after it was showcased.
Ben Johnson is the Director of Performing Arts at the DCA LA and he led the DCA LA Dance Platform by acting as emcee for the showcases and liaison between the ADA, the international delegates and the LA dance community. He stressed that he was only a partial curator for the platform, that he was not alone in selecting the 34 established and emerging dance artists presented over the three days. In Johnson’s own words, ” the public performances were all curated by those organizations – i.e. the Ford curated the performance of Lula Washington, etc. All L.A. presenters were offered the opportunity to present something, but because many people aren’t summer presenters, then many could not, in an effort to have fully-produced performances be presented during the Conference time frame. Also, all of the other artists were selected and reviewed by a team of L.A.-based advisors and dance professionals, and artists were selected by invitation to represent the cultural and aesthetic diversity of LA.” The person who greatly assisted Johnson in making the Dance Platform come to be was Danielle Brazell, the DCA General Manager. She wrote, “Talented dance professionals, curators, educators, funders, and presenters have been invited to learn and engage with the city’s compelling dance scene, showcasing its breadth, excellence, and diversity.” The last list that was made public of those who said that they would attend numbered over 70. The list included the majority of LA’s prominent dance artists, promoters and leaders.
The two women who had the foresight to bring the international delegates to Los Angeles were Carolelinda Dickey and Andrea Snyder. They introduced the international delegates, spoke to the Los Angeles dance community, facilitated a presentation that dance writer Sasha Anawalt and I participated in, and they led a two-hour International Dance Scene – Panel Discussion. They attended all the Dance Platform showcases and performances and worked very hard to help make those four days a success. They were very generous with their extensive knowledge and experience of the present national and international dance scenes, and always available to answer questions.
Before co-creating ADA, Andrea Snyder created the National Initiative to Preserve America’s Dance (NIPAD) grants program for The Pew Charitable Trusts, which she directed from 1993 to 2000, and served as assistant director of the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Program through the “arts wars” of 1987 to 1993. She was booking agent for Sheldon Soffer Management; executive director of Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians; administrator of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts Dance Department; associate administrator for the Cunningham Dance Foundation; and assistant to Director Muriel Topaz of the Dance Notation Bureau. Snyder was also the president and executive director of DANCE/USA from 2000 to 2011.
Carolelinda Dickey is Artistic Advisor at Internationale Tanzmesse nrw, Co-founder of ADA and the author of many articles that appear on the ADA website. The Internationale Tanzmesse nrw hosts one of the largest, if not the largest professional gatherings that is solely focused on contemporary dance. It takes place every two years in Düsseldorf, Germany, primarily during the month of August.
Wednesday, June 6 – Day One
DANCE/USA 2018 met in Los Angeles Wednesday, June 6 through Saturday, June 9. The conference began with an opening night celebration that included a cocktail hour and a sit-down dinner. There was a performance by Toveema (Tongva/Chumash), a company that features the Carmelo Clan, documented descendants of the Tongva and Kumeyaay, Mission Indians of Southern California as well as other “performing artists, cultural activists and educators who share song, dance and storytelling from the origins of the area.” Also, on the program was an awards ceremony honoring Debbie Allen, Carla Perlo, Lula Washington, Erwin Washington, and Mary Verdi Fletcher. These honorees join a long list of dance artists which includes such dance luminaries Antony Tudor, Martha Graham, Robert Joffrey, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, Carmen de Lavallade, Trisha Brown, Bella Lewitzky, Judith Jamison, Anna Halprin and others.
As I previously wrote, I was unable to attend the first day of these events but heard from several colleagues that the DJ at the Opening Ceremony “really rocked”! According to them, he had most everyone at the event up and grooving.
Day two is where I came in and when the international delegates got their first glimpse at dance in Los Angeles. Go to Part II to read about what they saw.
Part II will appear on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.