Statistics show that six out of ten children participate in extracurricular activities. One of the most popular activities, especially for young girls, is dance—though there has been a recent uptick in enrollment for boys. The dance community in the SBC area is quite large, with a quick scan of the internet easily picking up 10+ dance studios. Odds are you have a child taking dance, or you know someone whose child participates in dance classes. But is it truly a community?
Community is defined as a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. An in-depth look finds that the term “community” applies more to each studio than the collective dance groups. Most dancers don’t go beyond the doors of their own studio. What changes could be made to improve the dance “scene”, if you will, in our area, for both the dancers, as well as the audience? Discussions with multiple studio owners, dancers, parents, and former dancers strongly point to 3 main suggestions. A dance super committee aka City Company including adults in dance, bigger roles for arts organizations, and dance awareness.
Shreveport Magazine believes that pushing beyond the status quo would have a positive effect on dancers, companies and the artistic and economic impact of dance in the region.
We are tantalized by the possibilities that might be engendered by a dance super committee. Composed of cooperation-minded representatives of an array of dance studios, this leadership committee would listen to and publish the concerns of studio owners, dancers and parents.
Big Idea #1
Might there be a City Company for the SBC at-large, not connected in any way to any of the local dance schools? It could be run by a board of local professionals who are involved in business and the arts, with no conflict of interest (i.e. involved children). Such a company currently exists in Alexandria, LA. Mainly funded by grants, students from various dance schools attend regular training classes at their local school, and rehearse for two company performances per year at a neutral location on Saturdays. One concern is whether local dance schools would support this extra training, as it could potentially take away income they receive from their larger, non-recital shows?
Grants to perform and teach classes in local schools could be written into this City Company. The grant money could also be used to provide professional dance instruction to students who may not have the opportunity to join a studio, along with scholarships for the underprivileged, and master classes. Though many studios have summer intensives and master classes with nationally acclaimed teachers brought in, these tend to stay mainly segregated, with each studio/company requiring its dancers to take their own workshop. Teachers should be able to encourage their students to attend community master classes without fear of losing their students to another studio, as it is always a good idea to step outside the box and gain exposure to other styles and teacher techniques. This artistic staff, perhaps rotating, could also bring in nationally known instructors to teach master classes at a completely neutral location so that all students from all around the Ark-La-Tex would feel comfortable attending.
With the hiatus of Louisiana Dance Collective, which provided dance opportunities for young adults, the region needs a site and leader for adult dancers. Adult dancers looking for opportunities to dance, and more flexible rehearsal times could also find a place in such a company. A local studio owner once stated that some of the best dancing she did was in her 30’s. So often people think dancing is for children, and as a result many are forced to give it up when they reach adulthood.
Big Idea #2
Is there a bigger role for SRAC and BAC in developing dance in the region? Perhaps, there could be one large dance performance sponsored by these two art councils, inviting all companies in the area to perform, with local food trucks in attendance. While there have been collaborations of multiple studios in certain shows, such as Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet’s “Fall for Dance” in recent years, most tend to stick with their own. It is not uncommon for some to attend competitions in other cities, put on smaller performances, and of course, participate in the annual end-of-year recitals. Perhaps a performance at an outdoor venue in late spring or early summer when people are really beginning to get outside could really bring dance to the masses.
While the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra has steadily included dance in its concerts, might there be even more that it could do to foster dance performance? Might the Shreveport Opera and even Robinson Film Center increase dance-related programming? These collaborations with the Symphony, Opera, and other art venues may just stimulate the interest of culturally minded people that have not been attending dance performances. One only needs to attend the Shreveport Symphony or Opera to understand that both have long been considered a place to see and be seen.
Big Idea #3
One of the limitations observed by those who love dance is the regional audience. So, how does a region develop dance awareness? Might attendance at performances be stronger if dance awareness was widespread? With some collaboration, the dance “community” could truly become a highlight of our community. Perhaps a community company, specifically designed to address the needs of the Opera, Symphony, and local theater groups would benefit all involved. Collaboration with venues such as Artspace and Robinson Film Center with multiple day events/shows would also be entertaining.
Perhaps patrons would be willing to sponsor dancers, or endorse scholarships that would help send dancers to competitions such as Youth America Grand Prix—the biggest youth ballet competition in the world—and summer intensives around the U.S. where they have the chance to join professional dance schools and companies. With the right support, these dancers could benefit from exceptional training, achieve local performance goals, and be given a chance to pursue their dreams on the national stage. Nurturing our community of dancers can bring about many benefits including the return of dancers to our great city to train future generations.
Imagine media blasts inviting people from a 4-state region to visit the Strand for dance performances featuring performers from across the country as well as outstanding young dancers from our great city and the region. One can imagine an image comprised of legs, leotards and dancers who are flying and pirouetting.
Is this an outrageous idea or does dance offer a platform for building tourism? Dance conventions undoubtedly equal tourism. The biggest name in the dance industry is World of Dance, with events in 28 countries. It is a growing industry. Conventions present a seductive series of events for dance-loving students and they fill hotels. Event centers can be filled with workshops, vendors and performances.
Will a community or dance leader arise to bind the greater part of this dance energy into a unified force? Can Shreveport-Bossier hope to become a region where pride in dance is part of the consciousness? The opportunity lies in wait.
Imagine the medical community featuring dance in neurological studies and public health mavens promoting prevention of diabetes and heart disease by a widespread program of dance. Tourism and economic development leaders could focus on dance conventions and an international meeting of dance artists similar in intent to the Wideman International Piano Competition, now in its 66th year.
For those who can appreciate the long-term view, the question might be, “What would Marion Mills do?”