create / 2014

Dance Leadership Program for Women

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Critical Mass Dance Company (CMDC)

CMDC's Dance Leadership Program helps women develop themselves as dancers, leaders, and agents of social change.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

CMDC’s Dance Leadership Program helps women develop themselves as dancers, leaders, and agents of social change.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Through our Dance Leadership Program, CMDC works with two diverse cohorts of women annually to: • Improve their creative expression as dancers • Support their personal growth as leaders • Increase their social impact as community activists

Dancers rehearse twice a week and perform regularly with CMDC. Since the program’s inception in 2010, the program has served @ 50 women in Los Angeles. We have created 3 new full-length works, self-produced 6 shows, and performed at many venues in and around Central Los Angeles.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Executive Director, Elena Sophia Kozak, runs the Dance Leadership Program. She is in charge of implementing the following activities:

-recruit 5-10 new dancers twice a year -conduct two rehearsals a week -facilitate weekly personal sharing in circle -teach regular technique classes -invite dancers to teach each other on rotating basis for 15-30 min/wk -guide collaborative choreographic process of new works -book regular performance opportunities through the year -self-produce 1-2 shows per year -pay the dancers -offer individual dancers personal mentorship, professional development and growth opportunities within the company -administer pre- and post-program evaluations -set individual goals with each dancer and meet one-on-one to coach, assess, and help them reach their goals!

Short-term Outcomes: -increase knowledge and skills of various dance techniques -gain confidence and self-awareness -increase sense of belonging and support -gain new economic growth opportunities -develop leadership skills -improve community participation -increase social awareness

Medium Term Outcomes: -improve dance ability -increase health and emotional well-being -increase income -take on more leadership roles -get more involved in local community -increase social, environmental action

Long-Term Outcomes: -see themselves as professional dancers -feel part/participate in community -improve socio-economic situation -become community leaders -improve social and environmental conditions in Central Los Angeles and beyond

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

The life of a dancer in Los Angeles is economically challenging and many non-commercial dancers must work 2 or more jobs to support themselves while pursuing their dream.

Additionally, the women we work with our self-taught dancers because of the economic challenges they’ve experienced. Our dancers have encountered financial obstacles growing up and/or in young adulthood that have prevented them from receiving extensive dance training. Having low-income has created an economic barrier to becoming a working dancer in Los Angeles.

CMDC seeks to provide economic growth opportunities to our participants that increase their income. By training our participants to become professional dancers with CMDC and by paying our dancers for their ongoing rehearsal and performance time, we hope to provide one model of what it looks like to help dancers thrive.

Additionally, CMDC’s Dance Leadership Program offers young dancers the opportunity to receive holistic professional development training that supports them as leaders in whatever job or field they choose:

As one dancer states: “CMDC gives me a comfortable space to explore that outlet and grow… It is constantly challenging me to be the best version of myself and pushes me to move outside of my own comfort zone. Dancing with CMDC has been transformative, healing, and radiantly inspiring. CMDC is a safe space where I have stepped into my power and gained confidence in my abilities. “ ~Ginger Alleyne

To meet the dancers and learn more about the program, please watch our video: http://www.criticalmassdancecompany.org/dance-leadership-program.html

Whom will your project benefit?

We work with a diverse group of women from Los Angeles, ages 20-40. Our participants are a diverse group of LGBT, low-income, and/or women of color. Many are self-taught dancers who have had limited dance experience or training. Due to financial barriers growing up and/or in young adulthood, most of our dancers come to us with little to no formal dance training. Yet all possess a love for dance, a natural gift for movement and a passion for dance as a tool for healing and transformation.

CMDC’s Dance Leadership Program helps women develop themselves as dancers, leaders, and agents of social change. Through our Dance Leadership Program, CMDC works with two diverse cohorts of women annually to: • Improve their creative expression as dancers • Support their personal growth as leaders • Increase their social impact as community activists

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

From 2010-2013, we partnered with Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Koreatown. Through our residency there, we practiced at their studio in exchange for offering free classes and performing for their congregants. CMDC was able to pilot our Dance Leadership Program due to the incredible in-kind donation of space provided to us by IPC. In 2013, due to financial challenges, the church could no longer continue our partnership. In looking for new space, we reached out to Studio A Dance in Silverlake. We began holding our self-produced shows at Studio A in 2011. Finding an appropriate theater venue that was affordable was our biggest challenge. Unless a dance company is booking or touring, it must self-produce its own work and self-producing can be a very expensive undertaking in Los Angeles. Studio A was affordable and the studio owner worked with us on a low-cost rate. We decided to partner up again with Studio A this year to and now hold all our classes and rehearsals there. Although we must now rent space, Studio A has made it possible to continue our program and develop our work for our upcoming debut performance of Amaterra this Fall.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Minority- and women-owned firms

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

We are creating new avenues for aspiring dancers - of affordable professional development and income opportunities. We are providing a venue for socially conscious dancers to raise awareness and inspire social change through their performances. We are increasing economic opportunities for women in Central L.A. in the arts and developing their leadership. We are strengthening our infrastructure as a women-run organization and we are providing greater opportunities for arts and culture to all in Central L.A. through our performances, public classes and workshops that celebrate and encourage the creative expression of all.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Creative Expression and Dance Ability Goal #1: Our first goal is increasing our participants’ dance knowledge and skills, as measured by:

• Objective #1: Demonstrate mastery of 10 core dance concepts that help with strength, extension, balance and flexibility • Objective #2: Demonstrate mastery in 3 or more CMDC props

Evaluation tool: Pre and post assessment of skill and knowledge acquisition

Personal Growth and Self-Esteem Goal #2: Our second goal is to increase our dancers’ sense of self- confidence and self-awareness, as measured by: • Objective #1: Improve self-confidence as a dancer • Objective #2: Reduce performance-related anxiety

Evaluation tool: Pre- and post-survey to be filled out by dancers

Social Awareness and Leadership Goal #7: Our final goal is to expand dancers’ social awareness and expression of community leadership, as measured by:

• Objective #1: Taking up leadership within CMDC • Objective #2: Educating the public about social issues using movement as a tool

Evaluation tools: Existing data and data collected over time regarding dancers’ volunteerism and performance time. Dancers are invited to volunteer at CMDC’s Dance from the Heart events, attend Advisory or Board meetings, teach classes or take on other tasks. Dancers educate the public through their performances, which raise awareness and inspire social action.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

We have learned several lessons about the healing power of dance that is community-based and focused on empowerment and growth. These lessons have informed our project to such a degree that we’ve identified them as core values that we share in our organization Catalyzing social change: Dance helps people to understand the world and inspire social action

Transforming from within: Dance helps people shift their thoughts and feelings, which can change the world

Dancing is healing: Dance supports health, wellness and personal growth on the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental levels.

Full creative expression of all people: Through dance, we can encourage all human beings to unleash their creative potential and share their healing gifts

Respecting the inherent value in all: Through dance, we can affirm that everyone has something important to contribute.

Creating community: through dance, we can build strong, lasting relationships with each other that promote the personal, cultural social and economic well-being of all.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We’ve been able to accomplish a lot in the last four years. We piloted the program on a volunteer-basis and with an in-kind space donation. Since the program’s inception in 2010, the program has served @ 50 women in Los Angeles. We have created 3 new full-length works, self-produced 6 shows, and performed at many venues in and around Central Los Angeles.

We have laid a strong foundation and have a proven track record of success. We now request the funds to rent a formal dance studio space where we can practice, to stipend our dancers for their rehearsal and performance time, to increase the production value of our shows, and to compensate the Dance Leadership Program Director for her time coordinating the program. With your support, CMDC is confident that we can reach our goals in the next 12 months.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

A major barrier or challenge for CMDC has been finding affordable space in the midst of lean funding. As stated earlier, CMDC overcame that challenge by reaching out and creating mutually beneficial partnerships with other community organizations that shared our mission and values. Moving forward, CMDC will continue to face each challenge by remembering that we are not alone. By connecting with and collaborating with other like-minded organizations, we can get our needs met, help others do the same and most importantly, extend beyond the reaches of our own organizations’ capacities to make a difference in society. We are greater than the sum of our parts when we work together.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach