I am just now starting to crawl out of the energy spent on the Dance 2050 Symposium, which was a huge success. Fifty-three scholars in dance from around the country came to Rochester to discuss the future of dance in higher education to figure out how we can better prepare for it by the year 2050. It was also historic – It is an honor to be considered one of the leaders of this movement.
Simon Dove, an independent curator out of NYC and a past chair of the department of dance at Arizona State University opened the symposium with a review of statistics in terms of dance audience numbers and the number of dance companies closing their doors. In 2008 we had 18.3 million people watching dance. Sounds like a lot but it only reflected 10 percent of the population in this country; with the numbers dwindling every year and accelerating in how much they are decreasing. It was an eye opening presentation and spoke to why dance groups are not performing and touring the way we used to and not likely to for a long time.
The assembly was divided into four groups who were titled the Seekers, Dreamers, Futurists and Visionaries. We met for two days and on the first day addressed issues of leadership and how to generate it among emergent artists in the university. We changed the strategy for the second day and began developing action plans.
On the second day, we began by having Simon share along with his colleague Karen Schupp, the change in curriculum Arizona underwent when he served as chair. It was like witnessing the movements of the Titanic with two curriculums taking place at the same time. The total result was revolutionary and crazy. Very risky. We were all excited by the end of the second day and educators all took on specific tasks to attend to.
I have been invited to present the results of the symposium in October for the NDEO conference being held in Miami.
The main points were:
1.) The paradigm of a modern/ballet department is antiquated and needs to be revised;
2.) We need to open our doors to urban dance forms and dances of the African diaspora;
3.) much more community outreach is necessary for dance to survive period;
4.) we need to listen to the public who now is taking the lead in defining what they like and do not like in terms of dance styles and popular movements (flash mobs to name only one of many);
5.) we need to develop courses online and have a say in terms of establishing the quality of dance online; 6.) we need to develop interdisciplinary courses in our curriculum (teaching engineers how to dance to help them solve creative problems or creating courses like math dance).
Diversity was central to all of these discussions as well as classism and racism. We were all also aware of how difficult this will be for the traditionalists because there is a nostalgia for the past that is not serving the field; the numbers of how much dance has dwindled were revelatory. It will be a risk to make such major changes but riskier if we do not.
My ten graduates outdid themselves and served as transcribers for the two day event and I was delighted by the kudos I received for presenting an event that was highly organized and generated a high impact. Marielys Burgos Melendez helped me to coordinate the event; a graduate from Puerto Rico, she was amazing. The results of this symposium and the one held last year will impact and redefine the curricular nature of the dance department for the next forty years.
We are still in the brainstorm stage because ideas are still emerging as we try to make sense of it all. Why? We are experiencing a new dynamic that did not exist when this kind of thing took place in 1968 (technology and its speed to convert everything online, corporate influences, students not wanting to pay high tuition, employers not concerned with hiring students with degrees because it is cheaper to higher people with little credentials, governments having no money or serious delays in budget formations).
Lastly, I have been invited to teach a course in Mexico City for the National School of the Arts on practice-based dance research. I am excited about going in early August and will share the ideas of the symposium with the artists I will be working with at the university. This will also inform my teaching. I am very excited and wanted to share this with you.