Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inspiring if unrelated

You guys may have seen this already online, but I thought I'd share the story of the quadruple amputee who's dancing at Julliard!

Suggestions for Homework to Bring to the Table for Monday's FCAC Peer-to-Peer, from Joanna

I apologize for being so late to the meeting last Friday. If there was something that was discussed that might have relevance to this entry, feel free to fill me in. I'd also like to say that there is nothing wasteful about all of the dialogue surrounding Atlanta Dances* thus far...these are just some simple ideas to make efficient use of our time together.

Since the basic foundation has already been laid out in Aly & Claire's proposal HERE, I think that each of us should start by taking a look and assessing what have already been identified as goals. Here are a few suggestions, let's get some feedback. Please comment and if you guys decide this sounds like a good idea, let's commit to it!

1) We each personally rate the order of importance, relevance and attainability of each goal laid out in the proposal and then see where the common denominators are on Monday (or the next meeting if Monday's attendance is poor). This will not only narrow and intesify our focus, but ensure that everyone who wants to have input can and does.

2) We each come up with a single, clearly articulated goal for what we'd like Atlanta Dances* to become that is completely altruistic in nature (selling more tix to our individual organizations productions would NOT be an altruistic goal).

Again, these are just two little steps each of us can accomplish on our own so that we can have a little more focus in the dialogue when we are all together. I also think it would behoove all of us to take a moment to look at MAACC and other similar entities so that we are not duplicating services with what limited resources we have.

*As stated on Friday in regard to the name, I am of the opinion that the language we use in the name will become clear once we know what our core objectives are.

Looking forward to your thoughts!

Joanna Brooks
brooks & company dance

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts from Friday's meeting from Angela

Today's meeting was very interesting. I am always happy when a group of dancers get together to discuss how to improve the state of dance in Atlanta. Thank you, Claire, Ali, and Sue for getting the ball rolling...It needed to happen!

As I was driving home, I thought really hard about some of the things that were discussed at the meeting, and the thing that resounded with me the most was Blake's comments about the purpose of the organization.

I know that with so many of us at the table, we will have different visions and goals that we would like to see out of an organization such as this one. And...I think the focus of each of our organizations drive the emphasis for each of us.

The thing is, if this is a group for all of metro Atlanta, the three or four places that we suggested for our dance tables to be present, all represented a demographic that may potentially overlap. People that go to the Book festival, Alliance to see Twyla, Cobb Energy Center, and Castleberry Hill area aren't the same people that go see "For Colored Girls" at the Southwest Arts Center (where True Colors just sold out 5 weeks of shows). We are already unintentionally not targeting a really large demographic of Atlanta. A demographic who does support the arts, just not dance. Who has money...and doesn't spend it on dance. I think the Southwest Arts Center (which is Fulton County) would be a big advocate for our organization...Dawn Axam rehearses and uses that space for performances...Does she know about these meetings?

An idea that I thought of is maybe before the next meeting, we can each take an area of metro Atlanta and see what is needed out of a dance service organization. For instance, Decatur will need something different in terms of Dance visibility than the City of Atlanta. Cobb County (Marietta/Kennesaw) will need something different than Hapeville (South of the airport)...etc. Yet, all of the regions need to benefit from our organization, right?

Additionally, if you couldn't tell...LOL...I don't think we should name the organization Atlanta Dances. I just think we should try our hardest not to anger anyone in the dance community that we are trying to serve. I can tell you first hand that in the mind of the owners of these dance businesses it would feel like a slap in the face. It would be like naming this organization "Several Dancers Collective" or something like that. If we can avoid that I say, "let's"

Just some more food for thought, as we are in the planning stages...So glad that the ball is rolling! Can't wait to see where it goes...

Angela Harris
Executive Artistic Director
Dance Canvas

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dance table

There was a meeting today for some of the folks interested in the Atlanta Dances concept. We batted around ideas, but the main thing I want to post is that we are going to put together a dance table, with all the info we can collect from dancing folk around town. It's going to be set up (and broken down) at the Alliance Theatre before their Twyla Tharp production "Come Fly with Me." If you'd like to get the word out about your upcoming dance events, we need your help! Leave a comment on the blog here if you will be able to drop off your info, and if you can help with one of the times to set up/break down the table in the lobby at the Alliance Theatre.
The times are 6:30 p.m. till either 8 p.m. when the show starts, or through intermission:
  • September 16
  • September 17
  • September 23
  • September 29
  • September 30
  • October 6
  • October 7
To drop off your materials, the deadline is Friday, September 11. Please put them in an envelope or other nice wrapping with your name on them and drop them off at either the Atlanta Ballet (Midtown), c/o Alyson Brock, or Several Dancers Core (Decatur), c/o Claire Horn. And please, if you're going to take advantage of this opportunity, please sign up for a time to help with set up too!

Other places we had thought of including a Dance Atlanta/Atlanta Dances (yeah, the name of this thing is still vague, you can comment on that too!) table was at the Decatur Book Festival (SDC is hosting the Teen Stage, Sept. 5-6), at the Overture for the Arts at the Cobb Energy Center (Sept. 13), youth summit Sept. 5 (Angela, what was it called again?) and the Dance Truck in Castleberry Hill Oct.2. So let's get the word out there about dance, guys!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some thoughts for the dancing blogsphere, from Blake

I am encouraged by the process of sharing our inquiries, notions, and aspirations. Here are some of mine, for what its worth:

Sustainability requires a lattice of support that extends beyond our audience. Certainly, many of us wish to develop a larger and more consistent base of patrons. But in focusing our efforts only there, perhaps we miss the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue around the patronage of process. Who supports the development of work, to ensure its integrity? Who commits to the business of the work, including the necessary infrastructure and financing? Who invests in the methodology of the work, so that artists remain free to risk and sometimes fail? Without a purposeful approach to the sustainability of process, I'm afraid we can look forward to 1. sameness and 2. the anesthetizing of dance.

So how do we preserve and promote our art in Atlanta? The answer for me lies not in selling more tickets, or producing more advertisements. We have to unearth creative operational models that value artistry and protect process.

Blake Beckham
Performing Artist & Choreographer

Development Director, Moving in the Spirit
Using dance to help young people realize the potential for their lives

Dance Instructor, Agnes Scott College

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bus stop dance

I wish I had been close enough to video with my cell phone what I witnessed the other day. A man sitting at a bus stop started out reaching side to side and overhead and twisting in what were obviously stretches. Then he kept going, gesturing to one side and then the other with both arms, repeating the stretches etc. It's really fun to see spontaneous "site-specific" dances like that, even if the guy did look a little crazy probably to the rest of the folks driving by!

Interview with Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones remembers Merce Cunningham in this NPR interview. I think it's interesting that Mr. Jones calls today's audiences "conservative." He said, "they want to know what they're supposed to be seeing, they want to know what the meaning of it is, and they like a beginning, a middle and an end. All things that Cunningham threw out the window." I usually call that type of dance "accessible." I mean, it makes sense to me that if you are creating for a non-dancer audience (who the audience is for contemporary dance is a really interesting question in and of itself) they prefer to see more traditional dance structure with narrative etc. I remember talking to my mom about a performance I'd seen at ADF by thingsezisee'm dance/theatre back in 1998 (yep, I was there waaay back when) where in one section the dancers were very still for
long periods while there was projection and music going on around them and my mom said "but I don't MOVE, so that's what I want to see people do!"

So obviously what dancers and non-dancers want to get out of a performance is very different and I think part of the audience problem is not being able to accommodate that fact. As a dancer, what Cunningham did was awesome because of the process he used (or didn't use), but I'm not sure that comes across to non-dancers. So the answer is to educate non-dancers, dance appreciation courses somehow, but people have to be interested enough in dance to begin with to want to sign up for something like that. Maybe TV shows about dance create that interest? Any thoughts on other ways, not even to get people to shows necessarily, but to just get them interested enough to want to learn about dance?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"What happened to Spring into Dance?" from Kathleen

Atlanta is a hotbed of musical innovation and a foodie's paradise. The '96 Olympics drew international crowds, the High Museum has housed art from the Louvre and the Dalai Lama is on faculty at Emory. Culturally, Atlanta is almost a contender on the national stage but not for a missing piece: support and an enthusiastic audience for contemporary dance. The Rialto Center for the Arts sought to change that with their 2008 debut of “Spring Into Dance,” a promotion offering three dance events at various local venues for $45. The Rialto’s director and long time arts advocate Leslie Gordon modeled the promotion after New York City's annual "Fall for Dance," a wildly popular event aimed at exposing audiences to a wide range of dance forms for just $10 per ticket. Gordon's reasons for following suit were simple: Atlantans deserve the opportunity to see what they have been missing. Said Gordon: “[Contemporary dance] is a niche that needs to be filled if we’re trying to be a world-class city.”

But something didn't quite click. The 2008 "Spring Into Dance" line-up included 8 performances by high quality contemporary dance companies. New York giants such as Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and David Dorfman Dance mingled with classics like Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room (performed by the Atlanta Ballet). Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza added a glimpse into international trends and Several Dancers Core represented local talent. But for the 2008-2009 season, the Rialto website made no mention of "Spring Into Dance" and advertised just 2 dance performances (Trey McIntyre Dance Project and Rennie Harris Puremovement). The united front among arts presenters to promote contemporary dance in Atlanta was no longer, and the season's offerings - Momix, Alvin Ailey, Rennie Harris, even the Atlanta Ballet's Dracula - were comfort food to the fresh tastes of innovation served up by "Spring Into Dance."

To be fair, the Ferst Center briefly ventured into the unknown with its presentation of the avant-garde Shen Wei Dance Arts. But one has to wonder if this company, which has been critically acclaimed since 2000, would have been featured if it weren't for the recent addition of "Beijing Olympics Choreographer" to Shen Wei's resume.

Sameness and an unwillingness to expose Atlanta to the best and brightest of dance - both American and international - continues in the upcoming 2009-10 season. Again, the Rialto is offering just 2 dance performances - the Atlanta staple Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Trey McIntyre returning for a second year. And again, there is no mention of "Spring Into Dance." Is this just another disappointing manifestation of the economic crisis or a deeper indication of Atlanta's lack of interest in contemporary dance?

Contemporary dance is a difficult market. Arts presenters know they can make more money booking one famous singer than twenty just-as-talented but virtually unknown professional dancers. And would-be patrons often dismiss contemporary dance as something they “just don’t get.” This needs to change. Atlanta is a diverse and culturally curious city. We don’t question Mozart’s intentions or refuse to look at a Picasso without knowing the story surrounding its creation. Dance is the same: symbolic sometimes, often emotionally and intellectually challenging, but also, when done well, a treat for the senses like no other.

Our dancers, like our city, deserve recognition. Without the jungle of opportunities and auditions available to New York City dancers, Atlanta professionals are quiet, most of them with other careers in teaching or the arts. But there is undeniable and exciting talent here, choreographic and technical abilities that match and very often exceed those of cities with a larger footprint on the dance map.

A unique collaboration between arts presenters and dancers from across the country, 2008's “Spring Into Dance” signaled an attempt to put Atlanta on par, culturally, with cities like New York and San Francisco. At the time, the Rialto's aggressive promotion seemed like a great way to build patronage for dance, patronage that would also fill the seats of smaller, local performances featuring Atlanta professionals. But somehow the effort fell short. Case in point: as part of the "Spring Into Dance" promotion, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company presented an intriguing new piece that was met with packed houses and critical acclaim in New York. In Atlanta, the Ferst Center was about half full for a one-night only performance. With such limited support, how can we expect presenters to bring fresh, innovative and experimental dance to Atlanta?

The only answer, perhaps, is to create this kind of dance ourselves and hope to generate enough local support to sustain it. Dancers are great patrons of dance, but we need to expand our fan base. The recent additions of www.artscriticATL.com and this blog to our community serve to reignite what often feels like a dying flame. Organization and visibility are key. Generating excitement for local Atlanta dance is not only possible given the pool of talent, it is essential to the health and vitality of the art form. Dancers, choreographers and the general public can only benefit from more exposure to current dance trends. Old stand-bys should be presented in addition to fresh talent, not instead of it. And older companies should not be afraid to bring something new to Atlanta audiences. Culture-hungry Atlantans will soon abide by Leslie Gordon's advice: "Try it. You'll like it."

-Kathleen Wessel

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


So I realized I haven't posted a single photo...and for a dance blog, that's kind of silly! So I'm just going to stick in a couple CORE and Gathering Wild photos because that's what I have, but please send me your photos! (Unfortunately, I don't think you can post them in comments, or I'd say you should include them with the info about upcoming events.) I'll stick a few photos up now and then to break up the text! And if you want to see more photos of CORE, you can go to the website or Facebook page.
CORE Performance Company photos: This one to the left is Blake Dalton and Claire Molla in last spring's THREE, photo by Lori Teague.
And below is Molly Perez, Kim Kleiber and Juana Farfan rehearsing in Amsterdam for Beppie Blankert's piece "Cumulus."

And this one is a (pre-baby) one of me from an old Gathering Wild performance, taken by Neil Dent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Upcoming events?

So it's about to be the beginning of a new season for a lot of dancin' folks in town. Like I said before, I can't really keep up with everyone's info right now, but consider this a call for info that YOU can post. I was thinking we can all add our events that are coming up through Thanksgiving for a start, and then we'll go from there. You guys can post your events as comments, that way it's all here in one place and I won't have to create posts with your info etc.
So, post away! I look forward to getting a preview of everything that's coming up!

And as far as Several Dancers Core goes, we have:
Lunchtime in the Studio: Sept. 10, Oct. 15 and Nov. 12
Fall Fieldwork Workshops begin Sept. 28
and Salons around various topics begin Sept.16 with a discussion on the Field Network

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Eventually--a film project highlighting Atlanta Dance?

Thanks to Celeste for her previous comments about putting together a performance piece about Atlanta's dance history. That's a fabulous idea we should definitely keep in mind for Dance Atlanta (hoping the organization exists someday soon!)

Another thought was to have someone create short films of the current dance "scene" that could be posted on the website. Blake brought to my attention these two sites from Ohio State Univ. where they did make short films about works in creation that they then showed as a part of art walks around town so that they reached an audience interested in art, but not necessarily familiar with dance in particular.

Dance Downtown
:03 Minute Portions

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Meet the press, from Amanda

Here's a post from Amanda Thompson from Zoetic.

Meet the Press

As voting for “Best Of” closes and we are furiously rounding up friends and family to support dance (Go Zoetic!) I thought it would be a good time to share my new press connection at the AJC, Jill Vejnoska. Jill wrote an article on my life as a planner/dancer for the Arts Section of the AJC and she highlighted a lot of issues that local dance companies struggle with. You can read the full article here http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/from-72510.html

Jill was great to work with and although she was well versed in the Atlanta arts scene she had NO exposure to dance. Now is the time to remedy that! There has been a lot of change in staff and switching around of jobs so we aren’t dealing with the same reporters anymore and everyone is being required to step out of their specialty. I think there is an opportunity to promote the new collaborations that are taking place (like this blog) or dance in Atlanta in general.

I am willing to arrange a meeting (aka drinks) with Jill and other media types to introduce them to dance in Atlanta. Who else wants to be involved? How should we structure it? etc. etc.

Amanda Thompson
Zoetic Dance Ensemble

I'm all for getting together to host anyone from the press who's interested in dance and introducing them to all that's going on in metro Atlanta. Can this be added to our agenda for Dance Atlanta as an organization in some way as well? Would that be regular contact from Dance Atlanta in some form? To look to one of the existing organizations, I think Dance Source Houston sends press releases for its members, but I'm not sure if it's just to its entire mailing list that may include press, or if it's specific to a press list as well.