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Dance notation bureau in crisis.

In a startling revelation that it had no money, the board of the Dance Notation Bureau laid off its five-member staff on Oct. 26. After 20-plus years of service, labanotators Sandra Aberkalns and Leslie Rotman, whose work is the heart of DNB, received their final paychecks on Oct. 28, without any reassurance that the layoff was temporary.

Ten days earlier, the DNB's professional advisory committee had met to discuss sharing resources with the larger dance community. Neither executive director Ilene Fox nor Lynne Weber, chair of the board, indicated that there were problems. However, interviews with staff and board members suggest that finances were in disarray for a number of reasons.

Where does the DNB go from here? Dissolution is unthinkable to anyone with a commitment to dance preservation or even a passing knowledge of the wealth of historical documentation in the DNB's library. The organization's services are immeasurable--to choreographers who want their dances notated, to dance companies that produce restagings, to colleges and universities that study and perform past choreography, and to scholars engaged in research. According to current DNB members, this crisis is a "wake-up call," requiring a drastic reorganization.

In early December, the board was still in fact-finding mode, although the situation had stabilized enough to rehire a notation associate working on a special project with partial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Weber said that bills were being paid on schedule. Since then, priorities have emerged. The DNB's primary charge must be to serve the professional dance community by notating dances of living choreographers, notating dances of deceased choreographers when they are set by associates, and reconstructing dances from the past and present. On the other hand, some observers feel that educational activities, which include notator training and adapting Laban principles to computers, should be assigned to educational institutions, such as the DNB Extension for Education and Research at the Ohio State University.

Better communication throughout the entire organization, with its many members and potential affiliate sites in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, France, and Hungary, is seen as critical to the survival of the organization. "We need to start with the website!" emphasized a longtime board member.

Some members of the dance community have expressed a wish for a change of board personnel. They hope that the board will make an effort to recruit people who understand the value of the DNB, have experience in fund-raising, and maintain connections within the philanthropic community. It has been suggested that the DNB may need endowments to underwrite notator and reconstructor positions. (An anonymous donor pays for the staff librarian.)

Response to the DNB's crisis from within and without the dance community has been sympathetic and far-reaching. How this support will enable the organization to move forward is unclear. Both Lynne Weber and another board member, former choreographer Senta Driver, are working tirelessly to discover what went wrong and to chart a course for the future. "We are determined," said Driver, "to get the notators back on staff." See
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Title Annotation:Dance Notation Bureau
Author:Thom, Rose Anne
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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