It’s the constant struggle in so many relationships – two people deeply love each other but sometimes forget to articulate it as often as they should. Finances get in the way, other obligations take priority, and the stress of managing our lives can make us feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, and so submerged in challenges that we forget to tell our partners every now and then that we love them – and why.
At the Dance/USA conference this year, it felt too often that we scrutinized and elevated the barriers and obstacles (necessary to address, though they are) but didn’t’ make as much time to kiss Dance goodnight and tell her we love her before going to bed.
Conferences bring folks together to share ideas, explore trends, and address issues communally. We all show up to learn from people doing interesting and innovative things, try out new strategies, and seek solutions to the problems that plague us. Plenty of the sessions at the Dance/USA conference looked to the future and highlighted exciting projects and opportunities to further the field of dance. And of course, as they should, plenty of sessions focused on the challenges we’re all facing in an effort to counter them in effective ways.
I wasn’t necessarily bothered by the dominance of a negative tone during sessions – it’s to be expected given the state of the economy, the scary statistics of audience trends, the frustrating barriers to international touring, etc. And it’s important to face these things head on, which inevitably brings down the mood a bit. Which is why we have performances and late night Salsa sessions to balance it all out.
But what did strike me was the lack of space made at the conference to celebrate the accomplishments of the field and to highlight the local, national, and international achievement of artists, companies, and the field of dance as a whole.
We all come with intimate knowledge of our personal dance communities and are each capable – indeed responsible – for educating each other about the triumphs in our regional spheres. But where and when does that sharing take place in a visible way?
At the impromptu, spirited, and heartfelt “non-council Council” on the last day of the conference, a group of attendees – the large majority first-timers – decided to take the time to do just that. How thrilling to hear of the dance-focused mural going up in Philadelphia, the launch of a West-Coast dance festival in San Diego, and the success of a new program in New York City that gives audiences who missed a live performance a chance to view it on film in the presence of the choreographer?
These are important accomplishments in our world and we don’t take enough time to celebrate them – if we know about them at all. It was frustrating and disheartening to watch the conversation slip back to the woes that dance faces everywhere – mostly from the older voices in the room. When asked about their community highlights, the answers focused on struggle. When encouraged to name the most inspiring recent concert attended, or put forth a few names of artists to watch, faces went blank.
Let us never forget to remain curious and enthusiastic about the dance that happens around us. And let us prioritize the time and space to inspire others with our achievements. We must educate ourselves – and our colleagues – about the rich ecology of dance in America so that we may spread the gospel abroad as well (how else to address the challenge of building buzz for American dance internationally?).
Of course, the problems remain and require attention. But let us simultaneously shine the light on the wealth of what we do and accomplish together. Psychologically and spiritually, I think we could use it.