A group of about 35 creative minds in the Massachusetts choreography and dance community came together this past Sunday, January 23, 2011, at the home of MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, in Cohasset, MA. The order of the day? Talking about art. Not the marketing aspects, not funding, not the field’s contributions to the economy (worthy topics, all, just not the focus on this cold, clear January day). What are the creative issues, challenges, changes, and inspirations dance and choreography artists were, are, and will be facing in this vital and evolving discipline?
The group spoke from a wide array of aesthetic perspectives and experiences, from traditional dance to contemporary choreography, voices ranging from dance company leaders to dance community innovators.
The conversation, it may not surprise you, was a work of graceful human movement in and of itself, flowing from fascinating topics with generosity and imagination.
Here is a (woefully incomplete) summary of some of the questions addressed. (And if you’d like to add or respond to any of these points, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below!)
What inspires you in the field of dance? Collaboration was the most frequent answer, as artists highlighted the need, potential, and inspiration to be found in working hand-in-hand with other creative minds. Dance is, by nature, collaboration, as one artist reminded the room. This could mean collaborating with fellow choreographers and dancers, artists from other disciplines, or even non-artists: the thriving community of scientists and thinkers in Massachusetts. One artist brought up bartering, and how she taught ballet to someone who advanced her knowledge of online social networking. Other inspirations: the wealth of dance genres in this state, and the sense of community fostered by groups like Dance Action Network and Boston Dance Alliance.
How do you present new work in the face of limited presentation venues/opportunities? Finding ways to present is a constant struggle for dance artists, but some saw great potential for experimentation here. Starting homegrown festivals and projects such as the Gloucester New Arts Fest and the Dance in the Fells project, or finding unique, perhaps even non-traditional, non-arts spaces to perform work. The key, as one artist put it, was finding the spaces that need dance in them.
How is technology impacting your work? There was wide consensus technology is an important force in dance, whether that be an intentional creative choice not to use technology in performance to emphasize human movement and connection, or the integration of cutting-edge media in the content of the work itself. Some artists discussed technology as a useful tool in developing work; video accelerating and sharpening the choreographic development of a new work.
What is the role of Massachusetts educational institutions in advancing the field of dance? Some artists advocated a shift in perspective, approaching dancers in training not just as technicians of dance but as choreographers themselves, with vital, contributing energy to the creation of new work.
How can the field as a whole advance in artistic quality? Several artists brought up the tremendous potential for mentorship and peer feedback, experienced artists offering critical feedback to emerging artists, or even to other experienced artists with emerging projects. Is there potential for an ongoing effort at providing critical feedback in the Massachusetts dance community?
What are your thoughts on any of these issues? What other creative issues are you grappling with in the realms of dance and choreography?
Another opportunity to discuss dance takes place at Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, on February 6, 2011, at TALK ABOUT DANCE, a panel discussion on how to create effective Dance for World Community networks. More information here.