Sustainable models of dance making developed and developing within the 20th and 21st centuries
The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze ways in which dance artists have sustained their dance practice. Data was collected by interviewing participants who have sustained a dance organization for a minimum of two decades and who have achieved national recognition for their work. Interview questions and theories framing the research are based on extant literature from organizational development, entrepreneurship, and leadership fields. Research findings are presented in the form of case studies that highlight three models of sustainable dance practices.
The first case study focuses on Dance Place in Washington, D.C., a dance presenting and educational center that has sustained itself for over three decades under the co-leadership of Carla Perlo and Deborah Riley. Dance Place gained strength from connecting to a specific location, owning real estate, and partnering with local, regional, national and international presenters. It has significantly contributed to creating a strong dance community within the nation's capital.
The second case study focuses on the leadership practices of Liz Lerman and the organizational structure of The Dance Exchange, the touring company Lerman founded and sustained for over thirty years. This chapter reveals the complex challenges and solutions developed when a strong leader incorporates collaborative processes into organizational practices. The chapter highlights themes of communication, trust, and the need to constantly adapt to changes within the environment in order to achieve sustainability.
Highlighting William (Bill) Evans, Tere O'Connor, and Maida Withers as examples, the third case study examines how artistic directors sustain their companies while teaching at universities. The chapter analyzes different types of partnerships between artistic directors and universities. The data shows how the partnership may benefit universities and their students, artistic directors and their company members, and the surrounding dance community.
Insights and lessons gleaned from each of the cases are relevant to fields beyond dance. This dissertation contributes knowledge on leadership practices, communication patterns, economic models, cultivating partnerships, and engaging stakeholders in an organization. The research provides information applicable to building personal and professional relationships, both of which are necessities for surviving and sustaining professional and emotional health in the 21 st century.