I’m at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance in downtown Chicago as a representative for NewMusicBox to write about the 2011 Dance USA conference from a new music perspective. I’ll also be on a panel on Saturday talking about a subject very dear to my heart: commissioning original music by composers. I went to the TCG, or Theater Communications Group, conference last year in a similar role but music has a much deeper connection with dance and I expect that over the next several days I’ll have a lot to say.
There’s a lot going on at the Harris. This is another event in the outdoor area at the same time.
The Dance USA opening is inside the theater and the atmosphere here is festive but there are no performances; they’re saving those for Friday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For now there’s just a lot of food and booze and happy people mingling. I spoke with several people and all of them were interested in the fact that I am a composer and many of them had worked directly with composers in their productions. This is a huge change from my experiences with the theater group last year in which it was much less common to work with live musicians or to require the services of a composer.
Everyone I spoke with agreed that working with a composer added immeasurably to the process of creating dance and in fact there were several people who said they only work this way, (as opposed to dancing to “found music.”) I suggested that perhaps at the next conference they could even have a networking sessions especially intended to connect composers in the area to dance troupes and everyone thought it was a good idea.
The theme of the conference this year is “Design it. Dance it. Be the Architect of Your Future.” Nearly all of the panel presentations and break-away sessions are about addressing changes in the arts due to the economy and changing audience demographics. I overheard someone saying that “dinner is now the show” as in you used to go to dinner and a show but now that restaurants are becoming more exclusive and eating dinner is a leisurely activity, they are competition for arts event producers.
I’m looking forward to hearing more over the next several days. Future updates will cover the live performances, my panel presentation on commissioning and at least one other networking event. Stay tuned!