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"NEW DIRECTIONS on Moving Ground" might have been a slightly tongue-in-cheek motto for this year's Dance/USA Conference. But the 375 artists and arts administrators who gathered in San Francisco June 1-13 to learn the latest on what's what and who's who left Quake City determined not only to keep the ship of dance afloat, but to propel it into as-yet-uncharted territory.

Despite the unusually glorious weather, they devotedly attended four days of professional seminars, which ranged from peer council roundtables divided according to disciplines--development, managers, marketing/public relations, artists, presenters--to professional development seminars on documentation, education, endowment building and service organizations. One-to-one consultation sessions also were held on such crucial topics as fund-raising, civic advocacy, preservation, the use of the Internet and legal issues.

Separate sessions were devoted to the latest technology for documentation (not as expensive as feared); how to preserve a creative vision (an environment that keeps you on track); the training of dancers and arts administrators (the latter an endangered species, given the attraction of high salaries in dot-coms); the fostering of corporate partnerships (make them mutually beneficial) and lobbying (first, find out how the government works).

Participants clearly relished the opportunity to learn from fellow professionals and share information. Most inspiring was to see how generous and open these exchanges were, designed so that professionals from smaller or less established organizations could profit from the more experienced ones. Many of the exchanges involved strengthening the foundations of dance; most agendas were generated by participants.

Managers discussed the issues involved in strategic planning, performing rights and copyrights, and board development; public relations and marketing professionals, as intermediaries between companies and the world at large, talked about a relatively new phenomenon: having crisis management systems in place before they're needed. The artists' panels (modern and ballet dancers met both separately and together) were among the best attended, covering such topics as how to create relationships with presenters; the absence of women artistic directors in leading companies; the best ways to recruit dancers; and resource sharing and co-commissioning. Presenters wanted to know how artists felt about outreach and residence activities, and service organizations raised the possibility of providing their expertise over the Internet.

One small panel, simply called "Dancers," brought ballet and modern dancers from the tiny, medium and established companies together. Its participants realized that they had much common ground, from dealing with management, visiting choreographers, pro bono work and overtime, to planning for the future and setting up individual retirement accounts.

A panel on fund-raising, with representatives from several foundations, gave a fascinating insight into the differences among these organizations and their sometimes arcane workings. What became very clear is that the foundation officers are advocates for dance; if they could, they would fund dance more generously than they do.

The conference, which was co-hosted by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and San Francisco Ballet, also featured two keynote addresses, one by Anna Halprin, who danced her autobiography--she intends to go until 110, when she will dance "things as they are" and then spoke movingly about her life as a dancer. "Before cancer, I lived my life in service of dance; later, I danced in service of life," she said, summarizing her philosophy.

The other keynote speaker, Bob Bejan, director of MSN Global and Strategic Account Development, enthusiastically endorsed the Internet as an underused resource for dance. His suggestions ranged from such practical uses as software as a service and fund-raising through email, to rehearsal management via the Internet and the creation of new types of dance-loving communities. Above all, he sees the Internet as a way to plug into a huge, untapped market and give coherence to a fragmented field. Maybe what dance needs, he suggested, is its own Dance Portal.

Joyce Theater Executive Director Linda Shelton was named chair of Dance USA. Other new officers include Fort Worth Dallas Ballet Executive Director David Mallette, Dance USA's former treasurer, who was elected vice chair at the conference; Valerie Wilder, of the National Ballet of Canada, named second vice chair; Richard J. Caples, of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, named treasurer, and Ivan Sygoda, of Pentacle, named secretary.
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Article Details
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Author:Felciano, Rita
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000

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