Sunday, August 31, 2008

Career Counseling Workshops- on tour!

Career transition for dancers is taking their services on the road. First stop Pittsburgh, PA then Minneapolis, MN (September 21-22) & Dallas (October 5-6). Remember that there are constantly offerings at the LA and NYC Career Transition for Dancers Offices. Check the website here.

From the CTFD newsletter:
National Outreach Projects bring our services to you. Career Transition For Dancers is taking it's programs & services on the road.
Whether you are a pre-professional, professional or former professional dancer, you are invited to attend our national outreach projects free of charge. Be sure to tell your friends.
Upcoming National Outreach Project
Pittsburgh, PA at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Sunday, Sept. 14 - Monday, Sept. 15
For more information or to reserve a place, call us at 212 764 0172 or email

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dancers trying to save the day- and their livelihoods.

Texas Ballet Theater, under the direction of Ben Stevenson, is currently in major financial stress. An article from guide cites that TBT needs to raise over a half billion dollars within the next 60 days to survive. TBT needs to raise between $1 to 1.5 million in the long term.

Unfortunately this is not a new situation to the dance world. We have lost numerous companies over that last five years including Ballet Internationale, Ohio Ballet, Oakland Ballet and many others. Ballet Florida just overcame a half million dollar deficit last spring.

The most interesting thing in the case of TBT is that the dancers have been afforded the opportunity to get involved and help raise awareness and funds to keep their organization afloat. Here is an article focusing on the 39 dancers of TBT.

If you, or anyone you know can help, "now is the time!"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Off season. Part III

Here is a picture of my students from Mid- Atlantic Ballet in Newark, DE. I have guest taught and performed with these students for nearly five years.

So I am basking in the moment of another summer intensive program's completion. The past two weeks I have earned my living teaching young dancers in Delaware and Michigan. It has been very rewarding; full of sweat and profound improvements.

Teaching is a great way that many dancers sustain themselves and give back. I still don't really consider myself an expert in the field of dance, but I have made a great career of it and have ways of working with my body, sewing pointe shoes and presenting myself. I forget that these are all learned skills that in many ways are still very analog. (Although more and more students are realizing that YouTube! offers variations for them to learn).

This week in addition to ballet and pointe, variations and improv classes, we had a pointe shoe workshop and working lunches watching videos. The growth through the week was astounding and most importantly we all learned from each other. The students questions and struggles force me to reassess my theories on technique and artistry as well as how I communicate.

Although being a dancer in America usually means a fair amount of layoff time, I am finding that the outlets where I earn my living are varied and rewarding.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Managing a dancers life- an article.

Below is an article on a west coast choreographer managing life in the arts. The excerpt is from a downloadable pdf publication called CROSSOVER: How Artists Build Careers across
Commercial, Nonprofit and Community Work by Ann Markusen | Sam Gilmore | Amanda Johnson
Titus Levi | Andrea Martinez. This is out of a great series of research papers from the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs; the business school of the University of Minnesota.

They have compiled a number of economic arts impact articles over the past decade and although current conditions are vastly different than ten years ago, the information is relevant and packed with interesting stuff.

Sarah Swenson Pg. 64

Choreographer Sarah Swenson faces the unique challenges of running a commercial
dance company based out of Los Angeles. As co-founder of Sarah Swenson & Vox
Dance Theatre, she balances the demands of being a commercial artist with being a
nonprofit dance teacher. While the teaching supports both herself and her
company, it keeps her away from her own creative work.

In 1976, Swenson moved from Boston to attend New York University, but she
left after two years to focus on performing as a dancer. Early on in her
career, she worked with Jubilation Dance Company and Alvin Ailey’s third dance
company in a piece entitled Northside. In 1984, she began
studying at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and eventually started
teaching, working in repertory and performance coaching. Teaching provided stability
and allowed her to make a living exclusively in dance through teaching, dancing, and making
new pieces.

While still on the East Coast, she began to choreograph, earning a positive review in the New York Times for a piece she developed in 1990. By 1995 she had cofounded Seraphim Dance Theatre with the
late Raymond Harris, performing in New York venues such as the Aaron Davis Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and the United Nations. A few grants trickled in, including support from the Brooklyn Arts Council.

After burning out on New York, Swenson came to LA. She decided to attend graduate school at California State University-Long Beach, where her choreography blossomed. “It was there that I started doing important work, when I was sure I had something to say as an artist.” After finishing her MFA, she landed
a job as a choreographer with The Long Beach Opera for a performance of Euridice by Jacopo Peri. She gravitated toward the stability of academia, taking a job at Missouri Valley College, in Marshall, but
resigned after two years and returned to Los Angeles.

With Sarah Swenson & Vox Dance Theatre, she has choreographed several pieces, some of which have been
produced in festivals, such as the Festival Under the Stars in Palm Desert, the South LA Contemporary Dance Festival in Torrance, and most prominently, the FIDA International Dance Festival in Toronto, which invited the company to return for a performance in the summer of 2006. Some of these appearances provide artist fees, and some awards. In each case, payments tend to be small.

Even so, Swenson makes it a point to pay the dancers most of the money to help cover their expenses.
Funding the project is a pressing issue. Swenson harbors reservations about becoming a nonprofit organization. “For me to be competitive I ought to have a nonprofit organization, but doing that will
probably make my life even more impossible than it is, and I’m not sure what I’m going to get out of it
because there is so much competition for so few grants.” In addition, she doesn’t see a clear path to
attracting corporate sponsorships, although Adobe has contributed support. “And I would have to
change my style, my choreography, who I work with, my contacts… everything. These worlds aren’t compatible.”

She covers her living expenses teaching courses at Cal State-Long Beach, Loyola Marymount University, and
Saint Joseph Ballet. But this hardly keeps her head above water, especially as she continues to do the basics of promotion and incurs expenses for website design, renting rehearsal space, buying sets and costumes. “I
spend a huge amount of time and money on how I am presented.”

This leaves her between a rock and a hard place: “I could teach more, but I’d be in a panic because I couldn’t keep the company moving.” She’s considering working with a dance agent in order to help focus her
marketing, publicity and organization efforts. And somehow, amidst all this, she continues to work as a dancer, most recently in a performance of the works of Rudy Perez at REDCAT.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dance USA memberships.

Read this document on Scribd: Professional Dancer Flier

Here are the new fliers for Dance USA memberships for dancers. It is really a great organization that opens many doors to new ways of thinking in respect to a dancer as a business as well as an artist. (We all need to eat right?).

In brief, if you are an employee of a company that is already a Dance USA member, you can apply for a membership for free. If you are a freelance dancer, or your company is not a member, there is a significantly discounted dancer rate of $30/ year (likely tax deductible). The benefits well outweigh the costs, so get involved!

Read this document on Scribd: Company Dancer Flier

Monday, August 11, 2008

Look what I did.

Well, this is the second and final incarnation, but I created a website for my GYROTONIC® business. I have recently been certified and am trying to promote my business.

The first incarnation of my personal website is the true resource. Weebly is a free online website creator and host. The drawback is that the free web address involves having .weebly in the domain. But you can upgrade at a very reasonable rate. There are many templates to choose from and quickly design your site. And for those wishing to market themselves either for guest work or auditions, the online accessibility is convenient and shows very well.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

A little too personal perhaps...

This blog is not intended to be a journal or diary, but rather a resource of links and thoughts for dancers pursuing a life in dance. However this blog is a creative outlet for my current thoughts and issues on my path as a dancer.

That said, how as dance artists do we serve the art beyond our selves? How throughout the sometimes painful and arduous process do we remain open and giving?

Dance is a very strange process. There is no check list, no finite time of completion (other than each curtain of each show) or ladder to climb. The process of dance is all encompassing and very personal. Growth in the process occurs through a series of critiques from an outside source as well as reflections from within. But with those external seemingly negative forces, how do we stay true to the inside motivation to dance?

On the other side of the scenario, how do we as artists humbly accept the praise of the audience post performance? Of course the praise feels great, but in order to fully serve the art, it is not about commendation. Approval is an ugly beast that deludes us. Success of one piece or show does not mean that the next venture will provide such results. And is it really art if in the end it is only created for the approval of an outside force?

Life needs art, my life needs to dance; without dance as art I can hardly speak.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A real way to get involved.

The Southern Theatre in Minneapolis has had some leadership problems of late. Basically the board fired the director of nearly 35 years. Here is an Minnesota Public Radio story.

You can get active now by emailing the following petition letter to the mentioned email.

Members of the Southern's community met on Monday night. Much was
discussed but the primary outcome was that everyone present voted to
send a letter to the Southern Board requesting an outside, independent
evaluator to comprehensively examine the situation at the Southern.
More specifics on what this will entail is detailed in the letter
below. The Jerome Foundation has agreed to help pay for it,
Springboard for the Arts has agreed to help coordinate the logistics.
We have spoken with many current and former staff and they support it.

This is a major step towards transparency and accountability but we
need your voice to make it happen.

The letter below needs to go out ASAP with ALL OF OUR NAMES ON IT.
Time is of the essence!

Here's what to do:

Read it, then do the following:

- Send an email to Karen Sherman with your name
and your title/affiliation/company/no company/etc., if you so choose.
Do this so that I can easily cut and paste and add your name to the
list of supporters of this action.

- Next, forward to your colleagues, your own board if you have one,
friends, supporters -- even if they don't live in the Twin Cities.
The Board is hearing from people across the country and it does
matter! They did not anticipate that there are national interests at

This really is urgent -- in part because the 2008-2009 season artists
need this process underway before the season is too far along and that
is right around the corner. So please, do this right now.

If you have any questions about this, please email Karen Sherman at, or Carl Flink at, or John
Munger at

Thank you for your continued attention and concern,
The Southern Community Working Group

P.S. -- Apologies if you are getting this twice...

August 6, 2008

To the Southern Theater Board:

We write to you as concerned members of the Southern Theater's

We share a deep concern for the future of the Southern Theater; for
the fair and respectful treatment of its staff, including 30 years plus
Artistic Director Jeff Bartlett; for the artistic integrity of its
programming; for a system of structure and leadership that upholds the
theater's organizational mission; and for the preservation of the
Southern Theater as an artist-centered and driven institution.

Large segments of the Twin Cities performing arts community are
clearly up in arms over the Southern Board and interim management's
handling of this situation, and the ongoing lack of clear communication
about what Jeff's "indefinite leave" and other changes mean to the
direction of the Southern and its commitment to fostering artistic
exploration and risk-taking.

We propose that an outside, independent evaluator be brought in to
examine the situation and report its findings to the Southern and the
community. This evaluator, agreed upon by the Board and representatives
from the constituency of the Southern Theater, would interview all
parties (including the staff, artist community, and Board), to offer an
evaluation of recent events and the current status of and future plans
for the organization - e.g., the relationship of the organization to
the artist constituency, the sudden dismissal of the founding artistic
director, the lack of an articulated plan for continuity of artistic
leadership and transition, staff concerns and structure - and suggest
strategies for moving forward based on an assessment of the needs of

We believe that funding can be identified to support a focused,
time-limited assessment and we will be responsible for securing that
funding. The Jerome Foundation has made a commitment and other funders
will be asked for contributions. Springboard for the Arts, a
nationally-respected arts organization based in St Paul that provides
consulting services to arts organizations and independent artists, has
agreed to serve as a neutral conduit for the funding process and to
facilitate identification of an evaluator acceptable to both the
Southern Board and the artistic community.

The community stands behind it. We have spoken with several current
and former staff and they support it. We hope that you will make a
gesture of reconciliation with your artistic constituency and inroads
towards organizational health by agreeing to participate in this
mediated, neutral evaluation.

We believe this is urgent because:

It has been almost four weeks since Jeff Bartlett was put on
"indefinite leave."

It has been over two weeks since the public meeting called by the
community, at which the Southern Board provided no clear answers as to
the status of artistic leadership or organizational structure at this
beloved theater.

The Southern Theater's website continues to list no artistic leader
and a host of Interim positions:
Interim Executive Director; Interim Development Director; Interim
Technical Director; Interim Production Manager.

To date, only a handful of artists and community members have received
proactive phone calls or emails from the Board or Executive staff.

Finally, The Southern risks a potential exodus by its current and
future season artists, and a general boycott by the community. To
quell this potential disaster and out of deference to artists with
unsigned contracts, this evaluation needs to be conducted before the
2008-2009 season is well underway and we propose it be completed by
September 15, 2008.

In order to secure funding and identify potential evaluators, we need
the Board to confirm its willingness to act on this proposal by August
. Please email Laura Zabel at Springboard for the Arts
( and Karen Sherman
( with your response. Laura will then coordinate
recommendations for evaluators and serve as a liaison between the
Southern Board and the arts community around this issue.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Political Advocacy Tool

The Performing Arts Alliance hosts an easy to navigate website where you can utilize form letters to contact your local government officials.

Here is an example of a current pending arts issue:

Prior to 1969, artists, writers, and composers were allowed to take a fair-market value deduction for their works donated to a museum, library, or archive. In 1969, however, Congress changed the law, and as a result the number of works donated by artists dramatically declined. The effect of the 1969 legislation was immediate and drastic:

* The Museum of Modern Art in New York received 321 gifts from artists in the three years prior to 1969; in the three years after 1969 the museum received 28 works of art from artists—a decrease of more than 90 percent.
* The biggest loser was the Library of Congress, which annually received 15 to 20 large gifts of manuscripts from authors. In the four years after 1969, it received one gift.
* Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress, says, “The restoration of this tax deduction would vastly benefit our manuscript and music holdings, and remove the single major impediment to developing the Library’s graphic art holdings. [The] bill would also benefit local public and research libraries. When this tax deduction was allowed in the past, many urban and rural libraries profited from the donation of manuscripts and other memorabilia from authors and composers who wanted their creative output to be available for research in their local communities.”

H.R. 1524 and S. 548 are identical to legislation that the Senate has passed five times in the past few years, but that has not been reviewed by the House.

The American Arts Alliance is a member of the Legislative Planning Committee for Arts Advocacy Day 2008. Positions in this brief were developed in partnership with the Committee.

Read this document on Scribd: AdvocacyBasics