Blog

7.24.13

RDDI – Strengthening Dance Communities Across the U.S.

Steven Skerritt-Davis
Program Coordinator, NDP

NDP’s Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI) provides professional growth for dance artists in regions across the U.S. during 10-day dance labs held every three to five years in cities throughout the country. During the labs, up to 12 dance artists working in the region (artistic directors of dance companies, solo dance artists, or choreographers) participate in activities designed to refine work, hone public presentation skills, and strengthen partnerships with presenters. 

Though the theme of each lab differs and is tailored to the needs and concerns of the region, the structure of RDDI labs is consistent. During the first two-thirds of the lab, participants work intensively with a faculty of six to seven experienced and nationally-recognized artists, presenters, managers, funders, and/or writers to practice discussing their work with a range of different audiences, improve marketing and contextual materials, clarify professional priorities, and develop strategies for a sustainable performing career.  The last portion of the lab brings the participants together with regional and national presenters in both formal and informal settings to give them the opportunity to show and speak about their work while allowing presenters the opportunity to learn about the region’s dance community and to discuss their curatorial process. It’s important to note that the RDDI lab differs from a typical choreographic workshop or marketplace showcase in that it is designed to be an immersive, in-depth experience for both artists and presenters. During the lab, artists work to clarify their underlying artistic practice and articulate their ideals and goals while presenters explore the richness of a region’s dance resources and strategize effective ways to champion dance in their organizations and communities. 

NEFA’s ultimate goal with its RDDI labs is to create sustainable networks and ongoing conversations among regional artists, presenters, and their colleagues. These conversations form the foundation of more resilient, active, and sustainable regional dance communities. In support of this goal, NDP continually looks for opportunities to reconnect RDDI participants and extend the lab’s impact on the artists and the region. The two most recent NEFA-supported RDDI follow-up events are highlighted below.

2012 Minnesota Contemporary Dance Platform

In September 2012 with generous support from the McKnight Foundation, Ben Johnson, then Director of Northrup Concerts and Lectures at the University of Minnesota and an NDP Partner, built on the momentum of the 2011 Minnesota RDDI lab to create a program showcasing Minnesota’s rich dance community. The platform expanded the RDDI cohort, gathering over 50 Minnesota dance companies/artists (including all 12 RDDI Minnesota artists) and 35 arts presenters from the U.S. and abroad, for a series of studio visits, discussions, private performances, informal gatherings, and receptions where artists had the opportunity to show their work and discuss their ideas and process. Overall, presenters who attended the platform remarked at how impressed they were by the artists’ level of articulation and by the diversity, quality, and breadth of artistic aesthetics in the community. In addition to elevating the profile of the Minnesota dance community, immediate outcomes from the included connections between artists and presenters leading to future bookings, residency opportunities, and collaborations. 

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2013 Vermont RDDI New England Reunion

On May 18-19, 2013 NEFA staff convened a reunion in southern Vermont for participants from the 2007 New England RDDI lab. The latest in a series of follow up exchanges for the New England cohort, the reunion included a Saturday evening performance of RDDI artist Dahlia Nayar’s latest work followed by a dim sum dinner hosted by Vermont Performance Lab and a Sunday session on the patio at Guilford Sound. During the Sunday gathering, artists shared updates about recent and upcoming projects, brainstormed possibilities for collaboration, and discussed how the RDDI experience galvanized their work through friendships, artistic inspiration, planning, and relationships with lab faculty.  

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Reunion Participants:
Alissa Cardone, Sara Coffey, Selene Colburne, Mary Chapin Durling, Cathy Edwards, Talya Epstein, Deborah Goffe, Polly Motley, Adele Myers, Sara Nash, Anil Natyaveda, Dahlia Nayar, Cheri Opperman, Margaret Sunghe Paek, Katherine Partington, Adrienne Petrillo, Jane Preston, Candice Salyers, Aparna Sindhoor, Steven Skerritt-Davis. 

Photos: Dain Edward, Sara Nash, Jeff Woodward, Steven Skerritt-Davis