by Catherine L. Tully
June 8-11 marked the 8th Annual Dance USA Conference, and this year it was held in Austin, TX. As in prior years, people came from all over to converse, network, enrich their knowledge base, and discuss the current state of our field. Nearly 500 dance professionals joined together, taking some time to both create new bonds and strengthen existing ones. This conference provides a much-needed “time-out” where space is set aside to concentrate on the big picture instead of the day-to-day tasks that consume so much of our time.
Representatives from the dance community gathered for a wide range of sessions. First timers and long-standing attendees mingled and shared perspectives on the topics presented. Conferences have a way of transcending barriers, and this one was no exception. As a matter-of-fact, Executive Director Amy Fitterer made an announcement that came as a (pleasant) surprise to many about the National Company Roster (NCR) – summarized nicely on the Dance USA website:
“In January 2016, Dance/USA launched a major expansion of the NCR to render this listing of dance companies more reflective of the scale and diversity of U.S. professional nonprofit dance (the “Expansion Project”). Currently in development, the NCR now tracks all professional federally or tribally registered tax-exempt U.S. dance companies, regardless of budget size, and fiscally sponsored dance activity.”
This step was a big one in terms of being more inclusive, and it will certainly be interesting to see what the NCR looks like by the time the next conference comes around in June of 2017.
The conference was held campus-style once again, to allow people the chance to experience some of Austin’s unique venues. Locations included The Long Center for the Performing Arts, Palmer Events Center, Ballet Austin, RetailMeNot, Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, and IBC Bank Community Suite. A thriving arts town, Austin had a lot to offer attendees on their off time as well, including a great selection of restaurants and music venues, among other attractions.
As always, there were too many breakout sessions to mention them all, but the range of offerings left something for everyone. From movement classes such as yoga and contra dancing, to sessions such as “Dance and Disability: Designing Our Future” and “Cross-Sector Collaborations Between Forklift Danceworks & The City of Austin” this year’s conference addressed a wide variety of topics. There was also a “Dance Business Bootcamp” that was designed specifically for those who wanted to learn more about building, leading, and managing a small dance business.
Conference attendees could sign up for the SmART Bar for some guidance from other participants and industry experts. These 30-minute sessions allowed for some individual attention, and provided a space for those who were seeking specific answers or trying to harness someone’s particular expertise.
It can be so difficult to see outside our own little bubble in the dance world sometimes. With so many responsibilities and a seemingly never-ending workload, it is a wonderful thing to be able to set it all down for a few days and re-connect with our dance family.
If you haven’t yet considered going to a Dance USA conference, think about joining us in Kansas City, MO next year. Take the time to reach out and see what everyone else is doing and thinking. It’s well worth the trip. Hope to see you there!
Disclosure: 4dancers attended the Dance USA Conference on a press pass granted by the organization, but no monetary compensation was received for coverage of the event. All transportation, lodging, and meals were paid for by 4dancers.