Hundreds of NYC-based dance artists, choreographers, teachers, administrators and advocates gathered at Gibney Dance Center for the Dance/NYC 2017 Symposium. The event’s lectures and panel discussions covered topics ranging from racial equity to making dance space affordable to improving accessibility for disabled audiences. Here are 3 takeaways from the day.
Dance education for every child!
In a panel about the state of dance in NYC public schools, dance advocate Jody Gottfried Arnhold spoke of her vision of every child having access to dance education and the need to increase the number of certified dance educators, teaching artists and funding for dance programs. “Children in our NYC public schools are our youngest artists,” she said. “We need to take care of them. Every one of them.”
Strike these words from your vocabulary.
Christine Bruno of Inclusion in the Arts and John McEwen of New Jersey Theatre Alliance discussed what makes an organization truly accessible to disabled artists and patrons, from ramps and closed captioning to the top-10 do’s and don’ts of the language of disability. A few terms to strike from your vocabulary: “special”/”special needs,” “handicapped” and “differently abled.” When in doubt, use “person with a disability.”
Bruno, a disability advocate, summed up the workshop well: “It shouldn’t be incumbent upon us, the consumer, to be constantly educating the public. Let’s create a culture of intentional inclusion.”
Dance has to be where the people are.
Panelists, including representatives from Urban Bush Women and Camille A. Brown and Dancers, talked about ways to build dance audiences in your community, the importance of doing your research and finding the points of entry that suit a particular community. Examples include: choosing to perform in spaces where people already gather, having talk-back sessions accompany your performances and reaching out to communities via social media. “Dance has to be where people are,” said Donna Walker-Kuhne, president of Walker International Communications Group. “That’s how you’re going to build audiences.”