The Legros Cultural Arts Women in Dance performance in NYC last week, featuring work by up-and-coming female choreographers, delivered many and multi-faceted punches. If there was an agreement between the pieces presented, it was: life is complicated.
“We want that diversity,” says Chantal Legros, Founder and Executive Director of LCA, “And that creativity.” The Women in Dance program is part of a larger project, the Women in the Arts Series. “Women are not as visible in positions of power in the arts. Many women want to be artistic directors or hold executive positions. There are opportunities, but in my experience working with artists, a lot of women don’t know how to find or pursue them,” Legros explains.
The Women in Dance project supports female choreographers, many of whom are artistic directors of their own companies, by providing them with performance opportunities, rehearsal space grants, and invaluable mentorship and business training. The mentors are established women in dance, including Camille Brown, Sidra Bell and Danielle Gee (now the Curator for NYC’s Summerstage).
“It is an extremely supportive environment to be in, and it’s very rare,” says Mersiha Mesihovic (interviewed here), a Women in Dance participating choreographer and artistic director of the dance company
2013 Alvin Ailey Performance
CircuitDebris. “Camille Brown especially blew me away with her generosity. She was ready to answer any questions that we threw at her with specificity and care. She also shared a great deal of her personal journey to being a successful female choreographer. She is very real—and a great source of inspiration.”
In addition to artistic feedback, the mentors also help the choreographers find and access professional opportunities. For instance, several of the participating choreographers have been invited to participate in the upcoming Summerstage season.
Moving forward, the Women in Dance program will be offering additional workshops in managing a dance company. “As artists, we often just think about the creative work and don’t focus as much on the business side,” says Legros. “We’ve seen that funding struggles play a huge role for most of the choreographers and companies. It’s hard to pay dancers, afford rehearsal space, and keep working. We want to offer help navigating those challenges.”
What do working or would-be artistic directors need to know?
“For starters," says Legros, "artistic directors need to have a strong board. Secondly, you need to put together a business and fundraising plan that’s as long-term as you want your company to be. Your business plan is what will carry you into the future and you have to develop it. Also, don’t be afraid to host your own fundraising shows and events. There are companies that will let you use their spaces outside of business hours. Take advantage of that opportunity. Finally, you need to learn how to write a strong proposal that will make sense to funders. They want to know that you not only have an artistic vision, but that you know how to write and manage a budget and know how to run your organization.”
LCA is currently accepting applications for next year’s Women in Dance program. For more information, visit legrosculturalarts.org.