The Latest: New Strategies to Build New Works

March 31, 2014

American Dance Institute’s creative initiatives flip the traditional residency on its head.

Incubator artist Brian Brooks workshopped
Run Don’t Run at ADI. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Brian Brooks.

The postmodern dance scene has found a home in suburban Washington, DC. Dance education and performance hub American Dance Institute has created a new residency and overhauled an existing one. “Midcareer artists usually receive commissions, while early career artists tend to get rehearsal space,” says artistic adviser Dan Hurlin. “We wanted to turn the tables.” Its ADI Commissioning Program now supports an early career artist’s premiere, while its National Incubator, once a space grant, gives contemporary dancemakers an opportunity to test nearly completed works before opening elsewhere.

The National Incubator’s makeover, a response to previous artist feedback, took three years of residency research. “We looked at all the programs in the country and talked to funders and artists to find where the holes were for choreographers,” says executive director Adrienne Willis.

Established artists originally received three days at ADI’s studios, but are now given one to two weeks of theater time. This allows them to test any technology or sets they might integrate into their work, culminating in a work-in-progress performance and discussion. “Many residencies give you space and maybe a place to live,” says 2013–14 Incubator artist Jane Comfort. “ADI provided a tech crew for a whole week without the pressure of press reviews.”

For the first ADI Commissioning Series, geared to new choreographic talent, Minneapolis choreographer Chris Schlichting will be given the large-scale resources Hurlin says are usually set aside for international artists: a $10,000 stipend that allows choreographers to pay dancers, commission a score, build sets and make costumes, plus development and marketing support and a performance slot in ADI’s 2015–16 season.

In the future, ADI will continue to revise its National Incubator model. Its four 2013–14 artists are Comfort, Brian Brooks, Doug Elkins and John Jasperse, and Willis already has plans to expand next season’s lineup to seven.