NEA Arts Magazine

Widening the Circle

Dance/USA's Leadership in the Dance Field

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Portrait of Andrea Snyder

Dance/USA Executive Director Andrea Snyder. Photo courtesy of Dance/USA

Founded in 1982, Dance/USA helps the nation's dance artists, administrators, and audiences thrive through ongoing leadership projects in a host of arenas, including advocacy, research, and professional development. Here's an excerpt from a recent interview with Executive Director Andrea Snyder.

NEA: What's the mission of Dance/USA?

ANDREA SNYDER: We believe that dance is essential to a healthy society, and it can demonstrate the infinite possibilities for human expression and potential, as well as facilitate communication within and across cultures.... By providing services and national leadership, we're able to enhance the infrastructure for dance's creation, presentation, education, and dissemination.

NEA: How important is NEA support to Dance/USA programming?

SNYDER: Well our funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which we greatly appreciate and use strategically, is designed to help mostly our professional development and research activities. It helps secure speakers, workshops, and activities around our annual conference and our winter forums, both of which bring in a fair number of [dance professionals] together under the same roof to deal with issues of importance.

NEA: In an interview, former Dance/USA Director Bonnie Brooks said, "Each era has meant a widening of the circle, and a maturing of the organization." What does "widening the circle" mean to you?

SNYDER: We have made a concerted effort to broaden the universe to include all of the various components of the professional dance field, including agents, artists, managers, individual artists, smaller institutional companies, and institutions, and presenters as well as a more diverse population of styles. [We are] forever growing the appreciation for what a service organization can do for the dance field.... Our board is now quite diverse, with representation from every part of the membership pool. We make a concerted effort to look at geography, function, gender, cultural diversity, style, and those [individuals] that are associated with companies but may not necessarily be administrative.

"Widening the circle" has also meant a much stronger bond and collaborative relationship with our counterparts in the other performing arts disciplines of opera, orchestras, chorus, theater, presenters, chamber music … the list goes on. Over the last eight years, we've gotten much closer to our colleagues in the other disciplines, and there's a wonderful collaborative spirit there.

NEA: Why is it important to include the agents, managers, and presenters in the national conversation?

SNYDER: The art form is rooted in the artist and those who have the creative genius and drive and spirit and passion to make the work, but they can't do that alone. The work can't be seen without the assistance of presenting community managers, agents, and artists managers, even educational institutions, and local and other service organizations who all work on behalf of moving forward the art form, and addressing the needs of the artists.