Last month I attended the 10th Anniversary NDEO Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, for several inspiring days of lectures, presentations and performances in the company of all those who strive to provide excellence in dance education. Although at first I felt like “the new kid,” by the end of the conference, I was at ease and even ran into one of my former dance teachers, Michelle Perosi, who was being awarded for her work in the K–12 setting at Ocean County Vocational Technical School in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The event’s theme, “Contact Politics: The Dance of Personal and Public Change,” was a very timely one indeed. As dancers, we’re always changing and continually trying to better ourselves by perfecting our technique. Meanwhile, our country is preparing for a period of transformation, as we get ready to elect a new president this year. Hopefully, the elected administration will be one that supports arts education.
While all of the sessions I attended were interesting, one that particularly resonated with me was a panel of staff members from Washington, DC’s THEARC (The Town Hall Education Arts & Recreation Campus) (www.thearcdc.org), which included Katrina Toews, director of The Washington Ballet at THEARC. THEARC is home to 10 cultural and social service agencies that work together with the common goal of helping underserved children and adults reach their full potential. Amongst its amenities is a 365-seat theater that was built to the exact specs of The Kennedy Center to allow WB to perform in an area once defined by guns and violence. THEARC’s model for supporting the arts is one that many underserved areas of our country could learn from and their work within a severely disadvantaged section of our nation’s capital is a fine example of change and transformation.
If you weren’t able to attend this year’s conference, start planning now for next year, when the NDEO will storm Manhattan June 23–29, 2009. Hope to see you there!