Reaching Out With Dance

by Benita Bike


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Early in my dance career, when I saw that people didn’t flock to modern dance performances in the numbers I had hoped, a good friend said to me: “You’ve got to explain what you’re doing; they just don’t know anything about it!” So, over the years I’ve spent a lot of time sharing my dances in a very explicit way with people who consider themselves not really interested in art at all. A recent arts audience study uncovered the fact that a high percentage of the people who attend dance performances are those who have studied dance. That tells me that dance needs to be introduced to people far beyond this special group. My “outreach” performances take place in art centers, school gyms, recreation centers, etc., and are free to the public. These programs help people get beyond the mystery of dance and position themselves to enjoy an appreciate dance’s vitality and beauty. The response is amazing!

This outreach work just received partial funding from the County of Los Angeles - specifically to support dance outreach programs in County libraries. These performances will feature a new dance work set to music utilizing very unusual instruments made from clay. Libraries are great places to share dance. People come to libraries to learn new things, so when they come to a dance show at a library, they’re already in the right frame of mind to open up to the dance experience.

What does an outreach performance look like? It begins with a brief talk about modern dance. This talk outlines the origins of modern dance in the USA, and why it is such a rich and flexible form of art expression. We’re often in small, intimate spaces where I’m quite close to the audience and can readily respond to their comments and questions. Dancers perform 2 (sometimes 3!) different concert quality dances. Between each dance performance, I take questions from the audience and ask some questions myself. Each dance builds on the dance that was just presented, so the audience grows in understanding as the dances are performed. The program ends with the dancers coming out and taking questions from the audience about dancing and the dances just performed.

Because the County grant only pays for about half of the expenses incurred in presenting these free outreach programs, I am asking for your help to bring this concert dance into community libraries in the winter/spring of 2013. Support from you will help pay for dancers’ performing fees, costumes, printing of colorful flyers, and special tape needed to lay down a dance floor at each show. Thank you for considering your support of this unique and effective art sharing program!

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