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Taking the first steps…

04.14.11 | Comment?


CATEGORIES advocacy, collaboration, conversation starter, dance, ideas, partnerships, theatrical ecosystem

I discovered 2amt via #newplay. As a dance enthusiast just starting to learn about theater, it was exciting to jump right into the deep end. Choreographers’ and dance companies’ livelihoods depend on the development of new work, but also face the same challenges as any other performance-based art. Resources are scarce for everybody, so it was comforting to know that frustrations crossed discipline lines.

Something else we all seem to have in common is overall enragement, to put it mildly, over Michael Kaiser’s The Millennials Project post – something that sounds like a top-secret cloning scheme, but I suppose having a base a short distance from the CIA and FBI will do that to an institution. I’m not going to do a detailed analysis of the piece because I couldn’t do a better job than what’s out there. Instead, I’d like to let both you and Michael Kaiser know about the Kennedy Center’s efforts in both developing new work and attracting new audiences.

The five ten-year old Local Dance Commissioning Project funded by the Kennedy Center provides choreographers $7,500, rehearsal space, access to technical equipment and performances at the Kennedy Center and Dance Place in the Brookland neighborhood of DC. Not only does the LDCP help with the “stuff” such as the space, technical equipment and cold hard cash taken care of, artists also have the backing of an internationally known institution that, for better or worse, no one can stop talking about.

Haven’t heard of it? I was hoping the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaufman would have a line or two about it in her preview of the Center’s 2011-12 season in which she asks, “But where, one wonders, are the dancemakers who are furthering the art?” As well as, “What about commissioning new choreography for her talented dancers? Or commissioning work for any number of dance companies, ballet or contemporary?” No dice. Sarah: Good News (see above)!

The LDCP is the “sending the elevator back down” that Kevin Spacey spoke about at the 2011 Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy. The Kennedy Center is in a position to directly contribute to the development of new work, and they’re doing it right in their own community. However, I wish I just heard about the project more outside of my own circle of dance friends, or that it could be the glimmer of hope Kaufman needs to get through another season of  Giselle willies.

As for attracting new audiences, the work developed with the help of LDCP is performed in several areas, such as the marbled halls of the Kennedy Center as well as the intimate Dance Place. From there, the work can go on tour such Cassie Meador/Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Drift , a work that premiered in September 2008 and has been performed at the Westobou Festival in Atlanta and Wesleyan University.

Performances by LDCP recipients, like all Millennium Stage performances, are streamed live and the video is archived. With presence in that many spaces, Kennedy Center is giving away art to multiple audiences who want to see new work. Just the fact that the work is new, to me, seems to be important in attracting new audiences. After all, theaters are quick put “World Premiere” on their promotional materials. The Kennedy Center has three under its own roof in one season.

I understand that one program does not revive an entire institution, or even begin to address the obstacles faced by artists as they strive to and meaningful work and contribute to the community. I know there’s a lot to complain about, but I wanted my introduction to 2amt to show that I am, like I suppose most of you, hopeful and excited about the future. The Kennedy Center is supporting new dance work. I just wish we heard more about it.

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