I’d thought Dance Metro DC had simply disappeared. With increasingly fewer email updates arriving in my inbox, a dysfunctional website, and the annual MetroDC Dance Awards apparently postponed indefinitely, I figured the city’s dance service organization was just another arts-related casualty of the recession.
But it’s not the case—and that’s good news. “Nothing has dissolved,” Doug Yeuell says. Yeuell is the executive/artistic director of the Joy of Motion dance studios and, more important, the chairman of the new board of directors for a phoenix-like Dance Metro DC that will be holding its first official board meeting tomorrow, where it will make some key decisions about its future.
In fact, the org has been spending the past eight months reinventing itself. Back in March, Dance Metro DC split off from its national parent organization, Dance USA, in an effort to gain more autonomy and build a stronger local voice. That meant essentially starting from scratch: incorporating as a 501(c)3, writing by-laws, converting the former advisory council to a genuine board, and developing a budget.
But they’re not quite starting from zero.
After all, the group has a seven-year track record of bringing attention to the city’s dance scene and unifying local dancers, most notably through the dance awards and, more recently, VelocityDC, an annual performance sampler at Sidney Harman Hall. And although the Meyer Foundation monies that established and helped run the group are no longer available, the Cafritz Foundation has provided a yearlong grant to help with this transition.
Yeuell and the rest of the board are realistic about the task ahead. Unlike Philly’s amazing Dance/UP, which provides a wide range of professional development and performance opportunities (and which is largely funded through generous grants from the William Penn Foundation and several other funders), Dance Metro DC’s ambitions are fairly limited. Board members are hoping the reborn organization can serve as a communications hub for local dancers, including regular emails, possible networking opportunities, and an upgraded website. The dance awards are indeed continuing, but they’ll occur on a smaller scale in March as part of the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Intersections festival.
But all of that takes money, and the Cafritz grant won’t last long. While the group does plan on tapping local funders, Yeuell said he’s very sensitive to the issue of competing for grants with dance companies that it ostensibly seeks to support. “So one thing we want to do is make Dance Metro DC self-supporting and self-sustaining through the community itself,” he said. “I’m hoping that as services and programs expand, it’ll be of enough value that we’re able to find financial support from the community itself through some type of membership or service fees.”
Interestingly, the former Helen Hayes Awards organization—which, as of mid-September, is now TheatreWashington, a theater service organization—is in a very similar position. As reported here and in the Washington Post, the group is considering funding its new goals of expanding advocacy and PR activities by charging membership dues to theater companies.
But that’s where the similarity ends. According to the Post article, TheatreWashington’s CEO is envisioning an initial operating budget of $1.5 million—to cover producing the awards, as well as salaries for a staff of 11—and has several deep-pocketed donors in mind.
Dance Metro DC will undoubtedly be much more modest, but the shape it takes—including whether Peter DiMuro, who served as executive director through March and has continued on a limited basis without pay, will stay on—is up for grabs. Tomorrow’s meeting should begin to flesh out some of those details.
Due to a reporting error, the article originally misidentified Dance/UP’s main funding source.