I Am Curious—Yellow: Navigating Composers through the National Performing Arts Convention

There’s no question that the dance world is open to new music—”a very lively connection” Brewbaker called it—but as one choreographer so judiciously put it during a casual conversation at the convention: “We do not have benefit of access to proper capital.”

At a Dance/USA session entitled “Working with musicians: Creating dance and music collaborations,” the focus was primarily on the benefits of live music. Composer Mary Ellen Childs attended and made this observation: “They said it doesn’t necessarily bring in new people but (it was) all positive stories.”

Dance/USA spokesperson, Angela Ramacci explained that its programs and conventions are meant to address “immediate needs” of the field, which seems like another polite way of saying “things like surviving.” So don’t look to the dance field as a funding source for your next composition, but don’t stop talking to dancers either.

There won’t be a national gathering of Dance/USA next year, since it’s the off year for the organization when it holds smaller confabs around the country.

“The regional gatherings are about immediate pressing needs,” said Ramacci, “Then every two years (is a national convention) to address the field and all its concerns. That’s the best opportunity to talk about cross-disciplinary work.”

Another interesting choice of words. Does dance-plus-music equal something cross-disciplinary? I suppose that’s what you can call it when the choreographer uses something besides pre-existing recorded music.

Anyway, Ramacci said that Dance/USA is in discussion with Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum about coming up with some new programs to encourage choreographer and composer collaborations.

“I think that choreographers absolutely love meeting composers and musicians,” said Ramacci. As for how composers can get their music to choreographers and dancers, she says “There’s a variety of different ways—getting in touch with local and regional artists, just making connections and make them involved with the work you’re already doing. If you’re creating a wonderful concert invite other artists, whether it’s from music or beyond.”

And in a sense, that’s what all the organizations at the Performing Arts Convention did.

“It was very intriguing during our conference…” says Ramacci. “We had a composer come in and he mentioned that he was very happy to be in a room with dance artists. Being at this session and opening up a dialogue was very valuable. Some good discussion started there… I think just as far as getting many people to the table with varying viewpoints and experiences, it adds to the discussion and brings out new ideas and links people together.”

[Ed. Note: Live Music for Dance, a Grant Program of The American Music Center, helps New York City dance companies meet the costs of using live music, performed by New York City-based ensembles or musicians, for their New York City performances. Companies may also request fees for composers who are creating new music for dance projects.]

From I Am Curious—Yellow
Navigating Composers through the National Performing Arts Convention

by Joseph Dalton
© 2004 NewMusicBox

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