Mary Verdi-Fletcher, 2018 Dance/USA Trustees Awardee: Pioneer in the Field of Integrated Dance and Activist for Disability Rights
“I never set out to change the world,” says dancer, educator and activist Mary Verdi-Fletcher. “I just wanted to dance.” Along the way, she made dance accessible for those in wheelchairs, and accessibility became a common practice.
Anecdotal and other reports note the obvious: classical dance audiences
are aging and declining, and new work seems to have a hard time gaining
consistent audiences. Many of us agreed on the need to develop
audiences, and out of those conversations author Robert Bettmann, who founded a small arts magazine, Bourgeon to help artists develop audiences. But the question arises: are publications like these part of hte problem or solution in engaging new and existing audiences.
October 1, 2014, was a big day for the dance field. Around the world,
five of the world’s best ballet companies joined together for a full day
of behind-the-scenes live streaming on YouTube featuring rehearsals,
interviews and company class. On the same day, the Wallace Foundation
announced a six-year, $40 million initiative to support building
audiences for sustainability. While I wondered if the planners of the
two events were each aware of the other, I also found myself staring at
the negative space between the two and wondering if anyone else noticed
the solution to be found within. Combine these two events with
Dance/USA’s recently announced “Call for Questions” for next year’s
conference and I figured it would be as good a time as any to posit a
few questions that I know are seldom asked (or answered properly) across
the arts community.
For the first time in a few years, this fall update is not as dire as it has been. Funding proposals for the National Endowment for the Arts are relatively stable and there is no looming fiscal cliff. However, that doesn’t mean that we should take a break on our advocacy. This is a key time to educate our lawmakers about the issues that impact dance and the performing arts as an integral part of moving the needle on policy and legislation. Read on for more on how to do this.
Liz Lerman is a performer, choreographer, writer, educator, and
speaker. She has been described as “the source of an epochal revolution
in the scope and purposes of dance art” by The Washington Post.
Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to
political. This month Lerman receives the 2014 Dance/USA Honor Award
during the organization’s annual conference in Minneapolis.
I’d never experienced face-to-face
advocacy firsthand to gain true insight into its meaning — and outcomes.
In imagining what my first governmental advocacy meetings might be
like, I wondered: How could I be the most effective voice in
representing a diverse field of artists? Do I need to be an expert on
the issues? Ultimately, what sort of impact can I make? Read on for more from Michelle Lynch Reynolds.
My hope for all of us in 2014 is that we can practice and celebrate
self-determination. By self-determination I mean using our voices,
making our own frames of reference, and creating for ourselves. I want
us to be loud, and large, and powerful, both as individuals and as a
field. I want us to be a force to reckoned with. I am dance, hear me
On the 12th anniversary of 9/11, Dance/USA speaks
with Linda Shelton, executive director of The Joyce Theater Foundation,
about the plans for the World Trade Center performing arts center.
Originally, a two-organization complex with a purpose-built dance
theater, during over nearly a decade of planning, including budget cuts
to the project, the complex has been downsized and reshaped from the
original vision. Should the dance field be concerned about what happened
to this model project? What, if anything, can and should the dance
community be doing now as the project proceeds?
Sharon Gersten Luckman, former long-time executive director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will receive the Dance/USA Trustees Award June 13 at its annual conference in Philadelphia. Catch up with Luckman in an interview with arts journalist Karyn Collins on what makes Ailey such a successful dance organization, what other companies can learn from the Ailey company success, and where she sees the field in the future.