Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013
My idea is for a program that simultaneously creates performance opportunities for emerging artists, additional jobs for dance professionals, and provides art and music education programs to schools in Los Angeles. For the past nine years, I have been developing this program. Now in its 15th production, the annual Dancescape show is a benefit dance performance that donates all of its profits to art and music programs in Los Angeles public schools. It regularly features between 150 and 200 performers at the student, pre-professional, and professional levels, representing various styles of dance ranging from ballet, contemporary and modern to Bollywood, hip-hop, and breakdancing, and everything in between. As Dancescape has grown over the years, we have been able to increase the number of participants in the yearly showcase, which has lead to an increase in the amount of funds raised, which in turn has lead to a greater amount of programs sponsored and students reached. Now that we are officially an incorporated and registered non-profit organization, we will be initiating our own education program in which our roster of professional choreographers and dance teachers will be hired to teach dance in schools around Los Angeles. Ultimately, the program will be timed so that the students participating in a Dancescape Ed program will be able to attend the Dancescape performance with their families, friends, and teachers – and possibly take the stage to perform. My program will greatly impact the arts and cultural indicator of Los Angeles by bringing numerous organizations together to solve city-wide challenges in a unique and sustainable way. The program is designed to cover much of its costs organically, so that as the program grows, so do the funds that are generated to keep the program growing. At the same time, Dancescape is supplementing diminishing arts education budgets in schools. These programs are often the first to be cut, further limiting children’s access to what is already perceived as an expensive pursuit. Dance, in particular, can be a very cost prohibitive activity considering lesson costs, dancewear, and required shoes. By providing dance lessons in LA classrooms or during after school programs located on campus, we not only remove the economic barriers, but also the need for parents to drive students to a different location. Dancescape also creates a nurturing creative environment for arts professionals across Southern California. Emerging artists are given the opportunity to exhibit their work in a professional environment, to gain credentials and footage, and interact with an active network of their peers. The structure of both the performance and the intended educational program helps to make classical, contemporary, modern and urban dance accessible to different demographics. It is not designed to compete with existing arts programs, but rather to bring them together for one cohesive celebration of the impact of dance on the human spirit.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
We have grown Dancescape into a well-known and respected event that our previous participants looked forward to every year. Our show now regularly features more than upwards of 175 performers representing a wide variety of dance companies, studios, individual choreographers, and even school programs.
The performance opportunities provided by Dancescape have helped emerging artists to gain representation, exposure, and experience as well as network with leading professionals in the industry. Numerous dancers have gotten jobs, joined companies, or been asked to dance in new works or projects as a direct result of Dancescape.
The students who participate - whether from private dance studios or those who participate in school programs - are given the chance to watch professional dancers in an intimate setting, to perform in a state of the art facility outside of their usual environment, and interact with other students their age from different programs who specialize in styles of dance that are different from their own. They gain perspective on the role arts can play in the world at large, beyond the walls of the classroom, while simultaneously developing the discipline, responsibility, and self-esteem that comes with participating in a performance related activity.
In 2007, we began working with DonorsChoose.org to identify the local arts and music education programs we wished to support. Since then, we have fully or partially funded 39 classroom proposals, mostly in high needs, high poverty schools. These programs have reached more than 6,000 students in Southern California.
In 2011, we officially incorporated, and were also awarded tax-exempt status.
This year, we are preparing for our 15th Dancescape production. The show will be moved to Club Nokia, downtown in the LA Live complex, and will be hosted by the most recent winner of “So You Think You Can Dance,” Chehon Wespi-Tschopp. We have the support of renowned choreographer Denise Leitner, the Bloc Dance Agency and numerous other dance studios and choreographers throughout Los Angeles. This will be our first Gala Event, and we could not be more excited for it!
In 2013, we are taking our first steps toward a full fledged “Dancescape Ed” program. We are working with La Leadership Academy (LALA) to provide a one week of dance instruction to two different age groups during summer school. Dancescape will identify the dance instructor, cover the costs of all necessary background checks and clearance procedures, and also pay the salaries of both the dance instructor and the LALA staff member who will assist with the program. The curriculum will be developed together with the LALA faculty to determine what will be best suited to the students in attendance. We will be conducting careful evaluation of the student’s performance and participation during the program, and also solicit feedback from the LALA administration so that we can implement any necessary changes or improvements bef
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
We have been very lucky in working with some incredible partners over the years. On the dance event side, we have had continuous support from the Bloc Agency, one of best agencies for dancers and choreographers in the industry. Dancers’ Alliance, one of the biggest dancer organizations in both New York and Los Angeles, is also a close friend of Dancescape, as is the Dance Resource Center and numerous individual dance companies and dance studios.
On the education side, we have excellent relationships with program leaders at the Gabriela Charter School, Everybody Dance!, and STAR Education who are all helping to inform our classroom program efforts.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Success will be measured in two ways. The first is based on the Dancescape performance initiative. Our goal is to create a quality, professional level dance production that represents the Southern California dance community. It should include top-level talent and a wide variety of dance styles, and should be a positive, rewarding experience for performers and audience alike. We want to ensure that tickets are fairly priced so that the show is accessible to anyone who wishes to attend, and by providing a range of seating options, will generate enough revenue through ticket sales to cover event costs and raise funds for additional programming costs in 2013.
The second area of measure will be the successful implementation of our education initiative. The amount of kids that participate in the program, what they learned and retained as far as dance curriculum, the impact on other school subjects (i.e. improved performance), the impact on social skills and self-esteem, positive feedback from students, teachers and administrators of the school, and staying within the allotted budget are all important baseline data. Then, we will use that information to build proposals to replicate the program during the school year, and / or in other schools, and then fundraise as necessary to meet those replication goals.
The success of each individual program is important for this year, but the longevity and growth of the program up to and beyond 2050 is equally important!
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
My project will benefit Los Angeles through:
- INCREASED ACCESS TO ARTS EDUCATION. As increased emphasis is placed on standardized testing, in many schools there is little room left for an arts curriculum. Furthermore, arts and music education budgets are often the first to be cut, despite the proven impact these programs have. Educatoors working in this space have defined dance as contributing to the development of a positive self concept, and a high self concept has a positive relationship with high academic standards. Studies have shown that students who engage with dance education are more likely to be well versed in critical and creative thinking, as dance asks students to problem solve, to think, to question, and to present material in an original way. The physicality of dance classes give students the chance to experience something other than pencil and paper, and is a progressive environment which allows students to make mistakes, but get better.
The performance aspect of the program helps to instill discipline, commitment, improve team building skills, and build self-confidence. It also helps to produce more involved parents and teachers, which helps support a more successful overall school environment.
- INCREASED ACCESS AND EXPOSURE TO THE PERFORMING ARTS. The Dancescape showcase is an all ages event, and often features student performers. We ensure that ticket prices are affordable for parents, friends, and other family members who want to come and enjoy the show. People have the opportunity to watch more than 150 different performers take the stage in tap, ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, Bollywood, and numerous other types of dance pieces; many audience members experiences some dance styles for the first time at our events. Many of our performers are industry leaders in their fields, whether it be touring with popstars like Justin Timberlake, or principal ballerinas from the Cuban National Ballet. We select venues with an intimate feel, so that the nuances of the performances can be experienced by all in attendance. We also ensure a fun but comfortable night club setting, so that no patron feels out of place. The educational component of our program plays a huge role in increasing exposure to the performing arts by giving students the opportunity to participate in dance that they may not have had otherwise.
- COMMUNITY BUILDING. Because we draw from the entire dance community for our performances, people from all over Southern California come together at our events. Also, because we include students from a wide variety of both scholastic programs and private dance studios, the younger performers get the opportunity to meet and perform alongside groups from completely different geographic, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds than their own
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
If my program were successful, in 2050 every child would have access to quality arts education programs in his or her school. Dance lessons would no longer be limited to only those students with the financial means or access to the few charter schools that offered such programs. School administrators would no longer have to choose between cutting music and math, because my organization - or one of our partners - will have provided them with the funds and personnel to carry out a proven music education program. By 2050, we will have had 37 years to learn, to revise, to expand, and will have had over three decades of both students and teachers who have been involved in our program, and are ready to see it succeed. We will have a nurturing, cohesive network of dance and arts professionals throughout Los Angeles county working together with multiple school districts, building not only community, but a lifelong love and appreciation for the arts in many of their students. With more children participating in arts affordable arts related events and programs, Los Angeles will boast not only a greatly increased access to arts, but will also foster greater public support for them.