Blogging Dance USA Day 2: Making Connections

McCormick

McCormick Place

Today’s panels and breakaway sessions were held entirely at the McCormick Place, which was a bit of a surprise to me. When it was built, the McCormick Place was a state of the art, humongous facility for holding conferences and trade fairs. Now it’s outdated and famous for the worst of what we Chicagoans like to think is old Chicago. At least, what we fervently hope is old Chicago, meaning that it is a haven for corruption, graft, and “business as usual.” When I spoke with Rachel Bell, the PR Manager for Dance USA, about this, she told me that it was not their choice. They had moved the conference from Washington D.C. to Chicago and there was some stipulation that they had to hold it at McCormick Place. She said she could easily attest to the fact that it lives up to its reputation. Unfortunately.

At any rate there were some very interesting events. The morning session I attended was about audience engagement and was more interesting than similar panels I’ve gone to at other conferences. One of the things they talked about was having putting the audience as close to the dancers as possible, so close in fact that you could hear them breathing. This idea that dance should be visceral and that the audience should absolutely know how hard they’re working was intriguing.

Panel1My afternoon was less successful. I watched part of a session on social media but there was no new advice there. Everyone should be on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, etc. to grow their audiences… There was an interesting thing about the Google aggregator Google reader however. Google reader can be set up to comb the Internet for articles, RSS feeds, etc with search terms that the user dictates. Apparently you can do a trending search and find out who is searching for terms related to your art form, dance in this case, and then skew your marketing toward that group. An interesting thought for those of us who run organizations.

I interviewed several people milling about after the afternoon sessions and there was a general consensus that live music is better than pre-recorded music, but that it is hard to have live music because of licensing issues, venues without enough space for musicians, the difficulty in finding the right composer for a project and of course ever present funding woes. I was amazed in particular at how many people were dismayed at licensing fees for existing music. When I suggested that they could commission new music for the same price without the legal hassles they all had clearly never thought of this before.

The Artistic Director for Ballet Tulsa had commissioned music for a new ballet once and it was a “wonderful experience” for the company and for the audience. They will definitely be repeating it. Trudy Christ of the Brooklyn-based DeMa Dance Company said that she doesn’t even know where to begin looking for a composer but would love to work with someone to create original music for one of their projects.

My panel tomorrow is about commissioning music and about obtaining the rights to existing music. I’m very curious to hear the questions from the audience as licensing was the number one concern I heard over and over again. Perhaps this could result in a wealth of new commissions? More tomorrow!

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