Dance USA “Crossing Borders” Conference was held in Washington,DC at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Arlington,Virginia (suburb of Washington, DC) June 16-19, 2010. The following comments are written by Maida Withers and submitted to Dance Tech-net blog, June 18, 2010

Day One (Wednesday): The opening night.

Maida Withers Dance Construction Company performed a site specific work, Collision Course, for the opening gala for the Dance USAConference, Crossing Borders, at the House of Sweden on the PotomacRiver, Washington, DC. The dancers, Anthony Gongora, Giselle Ruzany,and Nate Bond wore pillows secured on various parts of their body withpackaging tape. Many free pillows werescattered on the lawn. Dancers proceededup the grassy knoll to press themselves along the full-wall glass windows ofthe beautiful House of Sweden. Conference participants were inside the building watching as the dancerspressed their bodies like graffiti along the glass wall. Dancers proceeded to dance freely once theymoved off the glass wall and tumbled down the grassy knoll. The dance concluded with dancers diving ontopillows as they were thrown into the air and crashing to the ground. Collision Course is a site dance that takeson different aspects based on intention and location. Jane Franklin and Daniel Burkholders groupsalso performed.

The food was excellent and the company for the gala very nice and diverse with people from all parts of the USAand abroad. Severalartists/managers were there from Ireland.

Day Two (Thursday):

Attendees broke up into discussion groups/forums in the morning. I attended the session withArtistic Directors with budgets under $300K. It was a very diverse group from directors who had no staff positions toorganizations with budgets over one million dollars. Each member stated what concern they had atthis time. The group leader directed us,then, in our discussion to issues suggested: staffing, boards, touring, and many other management issues related tosurvival. It was a productive meetingwith a somewhat limited agenda that seemed to center on management valuesprimarily. The larger budgets seemed tobe related to schools connected to the Companies or education programs. Compared to the 1960s there seems to be agreat deal of money available to the dance companies (beyond tickets at thegate) such as $30,000 or more from cities or county arts agencies, etc. Several commented on the challenge tomaintain artistic focus on the dance works in this survival process ofdiversification. Dancers always have a good time when they get together....certainly that was true in this case.

It was my pleasure to attend two session on International aspects of dance today.

During the first session, Frank Hodsoll, chaired a committee with cultural representatives from Japan,UK, Mexico,and the USA. Each panelist presented the governmental/nongovernmental approach to international exchange. As a USAcitizen/artist who is mostly interested in international culture exchange, I am hopeful that there will be some development in culturaldiplomacy supported by the US Government/Embassies soon. With the demise of the USIA the USAcontinues to struggle with a systematic way of engaging American artistsabroad. More direct discussion ofparticular programs (Cultural Envoy, etc). will take place on Friday at theconference.

The second international session raised the question of the view of American (United States, actually) dance from abroad. There was a panel led the Chair of the National Endowment for the ArtsInternational Programs with panelists from Mexico,Germany, and Spain. The topic is a worthy one but also achallenge. Mexicospoke about the extensive influence of Limon, Sokolow and others in Mexico. Mexicohas a formalized international program with four regions where a company isable to apply to tour there. Spainand Germanyindicated the recent lack of interest in dance in the USAand the inability to bring companies/dancers from the USA(costs/aesthetics). The United States isa long way away when European countries are so close. However, in Europe it seemed there is also about a lack of interestin what American (United States) dance is doing, it appeared to me. In addition, if the U.S. Embassies do notsupport American artists, there is not much chance of selection in Europe. One audience member indicated “the elephantin the room” was the rude treatment that many American artists receive whenthey are in Europe. Some agreed that this was present for them as well. I thought the conversation in total was toooriented toward Europe/U.S. exchange and not global enough. Also, I feel the idea of an individualcreating new/original work in a democratic process that is free of governmentalcontrol has been embraced globally. Perhaps this means there is not a “dominant” nation in modern orpost-modern dance at this time. Whyshould there be? I recognize this is asomewhat “democratic” perspective, but if there is a U.S. value,individual freedom of expression in dance with no government intervention wouldbe expected. There were many differentvoices heard in the brief one and one-half hour discussion. What was lacking was a two-way perspective ofhow dancers and governments are viewing each other. There was an edge of volatility in the topic I felt.

I am unable to attend the next two day sessions, but there are more discussions/presentations planned with international focus.

The Dance USA Conference was successful in my opinion for day one and day two. There was a great deal of opportunity for people to express opinion and to learn and broaden perspectives. Congratulations to Dance USAstaff and local artists who donated time and energy to receive guest to ourcity. I look forward to reading others blogs covering the final two days.

Maida Withers

Maida Withers Dance Construction Company

Professor, The George Washington University

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