What the NYC Cultural Plan Means for the Dance Community
Last month, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled Create NYC: A Cultural Plan for All New Yorkers. Stemming from two years of research into arts organizations throughout the five boroughs and feedback from over 200,000 New Yorkers, the plan seeks to diversify cultural institutions and increase funding within underserved communities.
So what does this entail for dance artists? While there is nothing specifically dance-related in the plan, many dance companies and artists within marginalized and lower-income communities stand to benefit from increased funding.
Here are the key takeaways:
Nothing too surprising comes out of the research findings, which highlight some of the major work we have to do as far as making arts institutions more equitable.
- Cultural participation is 20% higher among highest income residents vs. lowest income residents.
- While 67% of NYC residents identify as people of color, only 38% of employees at cultural institutions are people of color.
- 78% of board members are white.
- 75% of artists support their income with jobs unrelated to their art.
- 97% of survey respondents say arts and culture is important to the quality of life in NYC.
As far as overall city funding for the arts, there's good news: The city's budget for 2018 arts funding increased by $18.5 million, to a total of $188.1 million. (Although compared to Paris' $3.3 billion annual arts and culture budget, this number still seems low.)
Is Dance Being Represented?
During Dance/NYC's yearly symposium in March, the organization hosted a conversation about the future of dance in NYC, as well as a presentation on the NYC Cultural Plan. So it does seem like the city is trying to listen to the dance community. However, choreographer Joanna Haigood is the only dance artist appointed to the Citizen's Advisory Committee, a group that advises the DCLA during the "development and implementation of the cultural plan." Although Haigood has been involved with NYC's Dancing in the Streets for over 20 years, she relocated to San Francisco in 1979 and founded Zaccho Dance Theatre (according to their website, she is a SF-based artist.) In a city chock-full of incredible full-time dance artists, it's curious that Haigood is the sole dance advisor.
Arts Funding for Low-Income Neighborhoods
Part of the plan's immediate action includes $1.5 million dedicated to cultural programming in low-income areas, as well as direct grants for underrepresented groups. This allocation could directly affect dance organizations in need, particularly those located in the outer boroughs. An additional $4.5 million will go towards support for Cultural Institution Groups (the group of 33 public museums and arts groups who operate in city-owned buildings or city-owned land, such as Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater and Queens Theatre), with $1 million specifically for those in low-income communities.
Direct Support for Individual Artists
The DCLA plans to provide $750,000 in much-needed grants as immediate support for individual artists. The People's Cultural Plan—a 17-page document drawn up by artists and activists in direct response to NYC's plan—demands a much more aggressive solution for artist support, calling for rent freezes and legislation defining rights and wages for arts employees, independent contractors and freelance artists across DCLA-funded organizations. The People's Plan addresses the problems of unpaid labor, gentrification and the exploitation of artists, all of which is absent from Create NYC.
A Diversity Mandate for the Cultural Workforce
One of the biggest changes coming out of the plan is the proposal to link funding to diversity. Institutions who receive city funding will be held accountable for the diversity of their employees and board members, and what they're doing to become more equitable. As of yet, it's unclear how exactly this will translate to funding. The plan will also help boost diversity at arts organizations through shorter-term projects, like a $740,000 professional development program at select institutions to help junior level staff grow their leadership skills, and continuing support for the CUNY Cultural Corps, which places undergraduates into paid internships at arts organizations.
Institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be held accountable for increasing the diversity of their staff. Here, Gallim Dance at the Met's Temple of Dendur. Photo by Ani Coller.
Support for Disabled Audiences & Artists
The dance community has long discussed how we can better include disabled artists and audiences. Create NYC has set aside $2.2 million for grant programs to help create more accessible arts and culture venues.
Use #CreateNYC to join the discussion on social media and visit www.nyc.gov/culture for more information on how to stay engaged with the plan.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
'Tis the season to have some fun in the kitchen. If you want to get more creative than simply baking another pumpkin pie, try these Nutcracker-themed treats—created by and for dancers. These recipes from former Boston Ballet and Joffrey Ballet dancers were first published in Dance Magazine's December 1990 issue. Today, they're still guaranteed to turn any holiday party or dressing room into a true Land of the Sweets.
It's no secret that affording college is a challenge for many students. And for dancers, there are added complications, like the relative lack of merit scholarships that take artistic talent into consideration and the improbability of a stable salary to pay off loans post-graduation. But no matter your budget, a smart approach to the application process can help you focus less on money and more on your training.
According to Drexel University performing arts department head Miriam Giguere, figuring out the kind of financial assistance a school offers is just as important as navigating what kind of dance program you want. Here's how to incorporate finances into your decision-making process:
When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.
But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.
As we approach Thanksgiving, there's much to be grateful for. Perhaps one of the most important things on your list is dance. Whether you're a full-time company member, an aspiring professional, an audience member, or you simply delight in dancing in your daydreams, this art form is a creative escape.
That's not to say that being a dancer is easy: Pursuing such a competitive career can be heartbreaking, especially when you're faced with rejection.
La Folía, a short dance film by director Adam Grannick that was recently released online, echoes these sentiments in under 12 minutes.
It took two years of intense nutrition counseling and psychotherapy to pull me out of being anorexic. My problem now is that I've gained too much weight from eating normally. Is there no middle ground? I can't fit into my clothes, but I don't want to go back to being sick.
—Former Anorexic, Weston, CT