ROAD TRIP

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Last January, a handful of local choreographers went to NYC with their dancers to get their work in front of presenters and producers from all around the country, and now, six months later, some of those administrators came to Seattle for another look.

A meet and greet with presenters at 10 Degrees. Photo by Alyza DelPan-Monley

Despite the immediacy of the internet, it’s still a challenge to become a touring artist.  It takes one-on-one contacts, and personal networking to make the connections that jump start that part of a dance career. As much as we like to think of dance as something other than a commodity, it gets marketed to arts presenters in much the same way that the latest gadget gets promoted by the electronics industry.  Which is why every January (not long after the Consumer Electronics Show) the two components of the touring circuit, presenters and performers, converge on New York City for a marathon of showcases and meetings. The annual convention of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is the top of a tall ladder of what are often called booking conferences – a chance for the people who run the theaters to “confer, converse and otherwise hobnob” with their fellow presenters, and a chance for artists who would like to perform on those stages to get their work seen by the directors who book them.

There are official showcases and unofficial showcases, nationally-known dance artists and people just starting out – over the last few years, the dance community in NYC has rallied their considerable numbers to catch the eye of producers who are, in essence, shopping for upcoming seasons. Local presenters like Meany Theater and Seattle Theater Group, and their colleagues from around the country are on the other side of the seesaw – watching performances, meeting artist reps and making plans for their audiences at home.

There are multiple organizations that do some of the same functions at all levels of the field, from touring rosters compiled by local agencies, through regional groups and booking consortia. But APAP is the big deal in the US, and so it was something of a coup when Stefanie Karlin’s Squid Management took a cohort of Northwest-based artists to showcase in 2016. Renting a space at Gina Gibney’s studio (Gibney herself spent a chunk of time in Seattle), Squid artists performed a sliver of work to a mixed audience of invited presenters, press, and colleagues. While some Seattle choreographers have been made their presence known at APAP in the past, this was the first time a local management group had taken a cohort of artists to the conference. Some of them, like Zoe Scofield and Amy O’Neal, already had significant touring experience and were looking to expand their reach, while others were working towards that first crucial gig. Whatever the situation, the one-on-one contact that they can make at something like APAP goes a long way towards getting out on the road with their art. For the last couple of years, with Velocity as a major instigator, a group of local dance artists has presented a “Northwest Platform” as part of the larger dance action happening during the conference.

This last January the roster in NYC included Ezra Dickinson, Alice Gosti, Mark Haim, Dayna Hanson, Jody Kuehner (Cherdonna Shinatra), Kim Lusk, Peggy Piacenza, Zoe Scofield, Dani Tirrell, and Kate Wallich.  All of these artists have produced significant work in Seattle, some of them have already had success on the road, but all of them still need to make more connections with the presenters and administrators that can help that part of their career flourish.

Kissing Like Babies by Cherdonna showed last night at the Moore for presenters and the public. Photo by Jenny May Peterson.

In a kind of reciprocal engagement, early this week Velocity Dance Center hosted a smaller version of that Northwest Platform here in Seattle, for a group visiting from American Dance Abroad – producers who are involved in putting U.S. dance artists and international presenters together. After watching an afternoon of brief showings from Alice Gosti, Pat Graney, Mark Haim, Kim Lusk, Zoe Scofield, Dani Tirrell, and Kate Wallich, and a meet-and-greet happy hour, the delegation saw the return Cherdonna Shinatra’s “Kissing Like Babies” and Spectrum Dance Theater’s “H.R.3244.”  Alongside the obvious matchmaking potential of their visit here, the goal of these events is to “bring transparency to a mysterious system,” and to get dancers out on the road.