Printer Friendly

Pew true-blue to dance.

PHILADELPHIA--In the year 2050, dancers and choreographers may wonder whom to thank for their ability to re-create, perform, and build upon the choreographic works of the twentieth century. And they may be surprised to learn that a Philadelphia-based philanthropy called the Pew Charitable trusts deserves a lot of the credit. Last September, with no publicity, Pew created two grants totaling over $3.9 million for the promotion of dance preservation efforts. These grants make pew the largest private funder of dance preservation in the nation--at a time when private funding is more often than not the bottom line for grant-seekers. Any doubters of this trust's importance to the dance community can just place Pew's $3.9 million for dance preservation next to the federal government's arts budget for the fiscal year 1996. The National Endowment for the Arts allotted $2.825 million for all of the dance world to haggle over.

"Dance preservation is not very sexy, but is vital in making sure we don't lose our past," said Andrea Snyder, director of the National Institute to preserve American dance, or NIPAD. NIPAD was established as a regranting Arts by a grant from Pew in 1993. SInce then it has funded 22 projects, including oral histories of black ballet dancers, a history of tap dance and a project to scan and preserve on computers the personal choreographic notes of Merce Cunningham. Through one of the September Pew grants, NIPAD will receive $2,450,000 over the next 54 months to continue and expands its activities. The remaining $1,485,000 grant will go to the department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA to teach dance videography and preservation technology.

Pew's commitments to dance on a national level and its current fun ding priorities were developed after nearly six years of research and consultation with artistics directors, managing directors, and choreographers across the country. The process culminated in 1993 with a plan targeting three areas judged to be in dire need of attention: choreographic residencies, dance preservation, and management training. According to Marion Godfrey, who heads the culture department at Pew, the dance preservation program was partly inspired by a study by the NEA and the Mellon Foundation which revealed preservation to be severely underfunded. The other two areas which were red-flagged have received attention from pew since 1993 through the establishment of the National Dance Residency program, which supports relationships between choreographers and companies, and with management training and professional development projects administered by Dance/USA, a national dance service organization based in Washington.

"They've worked very hard to intervene strategically," says Bonnie Brooks, Dance/USA's executive director. "A lot of thinking in philanthropy doesn't go beyond `what do I need?' Pew looks at the larger at the larger picture."

Pew's commitment to choosing which fit into its larger goals is evident locally as well. Of the $13,478,000 given to dance by Pew between 1993 and 1996, $3,668,000 went to supporting dance in Philadelphia.

Pew's goal of nurturing new choreography is evident in the Philadelphia Repertory Development Iniative, which made grants totalling $150,000 in 1996 to support the creation and acquisition of new dance works. Funded projects included the acquisition of Agnes de Mille's Rodeo by Pennsylvania Ballet, direct grants to ten choreographers, and grants to group Motion, Philadanco, Melanie Stewart Dance,a nd Karen Bamonte Dance Works for the development and production of new works. Pew also targets individual Philadelphia artists through the Pew Fellowships for the Arts, which gives out three $50,000 grants to choreographers every three years. These are the largest dance awards in the country for which individuals can apply. "Our panels were looking for individuals who seem to be at turning points or junctures," says Melissa Franklin, Pew fellowships director.

Rennie Harris, choreographer and founder of Rennie Harris Pure Movement dance company,s hies away from the label "up-and-coming" and claims that his whole life has been a "critical juncture." However, he is clearly one Philadelphia artist whom Pew has not been shy about encouraging. As the recipient of a Pew Fellowship this year and a past Philadelphia Repertory Development Iniative grant, he can attest firsthand to the impact of the Pew funding. "I couldn't believe it!" he says. "It was the first time I'd gotten a grant of that size. Beforehand, I thought, `Who's going to give me $50,000?'" Harris understands the unrealibility of grant funding and treats his wards like lottery wind-falls rather an expected source of income. "Since I'm a new kid in the block I'm not feeling the church yet, because this is more than I've ever had," he says. "I won't become dependent on grants but I'm thrilled." He speculates that the $50,000 will enable him to spend less time teaching and more time choreographing as well as help with administrative costs and purchasing a computer.

Harris says he is impressed with grantees' diversity, in an age when "diversity" talk often seems to be a marketing tool. "Everyone they picked was really different." He echoes the sentiments of almost all affiliated with or touched by Pew, observing that it "does its homework. They've seen the company, and it's not about how good the grantwriting is." considering the scale of Pew's programs,a nd the increasing importance of its money as government funds constrict, this is encouraging--not only to Rennie Harris, dance videographers, and Pew employees, but to audiences and artist who must rely on responsible, strategic funding to preserve their passion or their livelihoods.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Dance Magazine, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Pew Charitable Trusts gives large grant to dance preservation projects
Author:Zahra, Tara
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Previous Article:'Nutcracker Festival' a financial success, SFB heads into season.
Next Article:To your health: from injury to peak performance.

Related Articles
Pew Trusts keep Philadelphia in the green.
Philip Morris: the arts are good for business.
Rennie Harris Puremovement.
Dance in 2-D.
NEA grants '97: and the winners are....
Twin peaks.
Presenting the Presenters: Killacky and White.
A question of survival. (Kickoff).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |