In Far-Flung L.A., Fostering a Dance Community
With Anatomy Riot, I started something that seemed like a really basic need to me, a place for people to get together regularly, to share works-in-progress in an informal way, to see a mix of work of other artists they might not know about, to meet each other!
itch Dance Journal, started with Taisha Paggett and Rae Shao-Lan Blum (with Sara Wolf now co-editing in Rae's place), was created partly in response to the dwindling coverage of dance in the newspapers/media, and to provide an outlet for more in-depth writing from dance artists.
I started the DANCEbank classes because the high cost of studio rentals was prohibitive to anyone trying to start a class and build a following -- people were losing money just paying for the space rental, before they could build any sort of momentum with a class. I negotiated with various spaces around town to lower their rental rates as a service to the community. Later, I was able to get space donated for the classes, first at Metabolic Studio/Farmlab, and now at The Colburn School. All income goes directly to the teachers.
So, Show Box LA to me seems about access to, and encouragement of, each other's potential, ideas, creating a forum for dialogue about making work, about working methods, about how we create in a really isolating environment. I feel like these programs have generated a sense of community cohesion that was lacking; and have opened up a space of possibility for other things to happen, for others to take initiative to make things happen.
What is the greatest need of dance artists in Los Angeles?
AFFORDABLE rehearsal space, and support for research and development of new work.
What kind of production support has Show Box provided to other artists?
Show Box has provided full production support, pairing local and visiting guest artists on shared programs -- promotion/press, technical support (lighting designer/tech/house staff).
This started as a practicality, because I had been making shorter works, under half an hour long, so I decided to do a shared program. In 2008, [for] the first program I invited Arianne Hoffmann (LA) and Faye Driscoll (NYC); the next was with casebolt and smith (LA) and Sam Kim (NYC); and in 2009, I shared a program with Karen Sherman (Minneapolis).
In the future, Show Box plans to present full works by other artists.
What's it been like for you working as an independent artist in Los Angeles? The experimental dance community gets so little coverage in the mainstream media. Does it feel as though you're working in a vacuum?
Well, I find the isolation can sometimes be a good thing, as it really puts you in your own head, creatively. But all of these programs I've organized were to combat that feeling of being in a vacuum, to create a sense that we are not alone, there is a community at work here. It may be a small community, and let's face it, experimental dance has always been a rather marginal activity, but we are here making work regardless of the lack of media attention.
It is disheartening that the "Theater and Dance" section of the L.A. Times, as really the only mainstream news outlet in town, runs about one article on dance for about 30 on theater. But what can we expect from mainstream news, especially in an entertainment-driven city? We rely on each other to spread the word. It is definitely community-driven, DIY, word-of-mouth, e-mailing, Facebooking, blogging sort of outreach to get people to come see what we're doing.
How do you find time to do your own choreography? Do you think your work is affected -- for good or for ill -- by working on these other projects? How so?I have been prioritizing making my own work more over the past year, and I am just starting work on what will be an evening-length collaborative work. So I need to shift focus.
There are a couple of ideas that have been brewing that I'd like to see happen. I want to find a physical space that could be used as a home base for the current Show Box programs; and more far-reaching would be to provide artist residencies to research and develop new work for local and visiting artists. There are not that many residency opportunities available for dance (as opposed to residencies for visual artists, writers), and something like this would have national impact. I like imagining someone from New York or Chicago or Minneapolis coming here to work for a few weeks in the middle of the winter, for instance!
I would also like to expand presenting activities, as there is still not really a dedicated venue for contemporary dance in Los Angeles. REDCAT is wonderful, but they can only present a handful of dance artists each year, the scope of their programming is much broader. So I'd like to see Show Box LA grow to sort of fill in the middle ground between Highways and REDCAT.