Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Keep It Simple

Indeed, simple I'd like to keep it. It's the motto in my mug. It should be the motto ON my mug too. Another one; 'Focus on the task at hand.' These wiseties are thrown up by people around me who I respect and admire, so taking to these suggestions really does seem like a good idea. So why then, is it so hard?

God-damnit, I am interested in a lot of things. Too many things. Many people say this is good – healthy curiousity, many options. I think this is BAD because I am not interested in any of them enough. Not ANY of them but dance. Jazz and rhythm, and trying to get better at everything that falls into that. And helping everyone else interested in everything that falls into that get better too. Both locating and creating opportunities, taking advantage of them while passing them on. Not being hampered by finance so much that I cannot pursue the kind of training I want to pursue. Wishing that someone would pay for it (ie find me valuable enough to put on a company that will allow me to experience these things). DAMNIT. DJD is the dancing place for me. It could have been the lif-ing place for me. But could haves in the face of reality barriers are pointless. This idea also falls into the ever-larger growing category of 'easier said than done.'

So what can I do with where I am at, what I am good at, what I have access to (apparently I can end sentences in prepositions, so there is a start)? I have realized that I first have to kick back to what I WANT to do, no matter how crazy it might be. So I started a list. A kind different from the usual ones; one that has honesty. I think a lot of the time, my lists are more about what I SHOULD think than what I really do, out of an effort to organize things and keep them simple. The great reality of this is that I'd keep it much more simple if I were just honest with myself about what I want, AFTER that infusing proper amounts of realism to help see myself to some success.

I want to create connections between people who are doing things. I want to do things, but not at the scale on a specific thing that many people want to - 'I want to be a choreographer,' 'I want to run a school,' etc. I want to do all of these things. Just none of them ONLY. How can I help people be where they need to be to get what the want and at the same time get a little piece of it for myself? How does it work to want to do a little bit of a lot of things? I do suppose some 'things' have come to the forefront of my mind as things I want to do more often; serve people, plan and execute events. The two ways to do these things that have had the come to the front of my mind are Rhythmically Speaking and a production company.

The production company would serve the needs of dance performers and choreographers to use their craft as often as possible for acceptable pay while bringing artistic entertainment to audiences that as for it. It would serve audiences that ask for it by providing them artistic entertainment that would elevate their events to new levels of excitement and completeness. I think I could really make something happen here, because I am not trying to serve an audience that is hard to identify. This audience is easily identifiable; corporate events, restaurants. The hard part is getting in touch with them and proving that we are what they are looking for. Additionally, I could make something happen because the first part is ALL to easy; getting together dancers and choreographers looking to share their talents for money. No sweat, no problem. Hell, I could even get groups on this list, groups like Collective (Hip-hop), Duniya and Voice of Culture (African), etc. They are all pursuing and finding corporate gigs, though I guess I am not sure how much they'd want to give a cut to someone when they can find them themselves. But the convenience of someone else doing it sure would be nice! There are people doing this; Universal Dance Destiny does this, but it seems like a lock-down that would not be smart to approach with a 'can I informational interview you (so I can copy what you do)?' I'll straighten that up. I plan to copy no one, but I guess I will be entering into a market that others will not want to share. How would I do it successfully?

Wow, that paragraph above makes it pretty clear that a production company might be a viable way to streamline my interests. I did mention that there are two ways; the other way is Rhythmically Speaking. I KNOW we are on to something here too, but I have a whole chunk of worries that come along with this, the first being; by providing opportunities for a hand-full of choreographers at a time, are we perpetuating the culture of a city that for so many is project by project, with no stability? I have been thinking a whole lot lately about the structure of the dance community in the Twin Cities, and how I'd best fit into it. I have thought for awhile now that it is pretty awesome that you have to be many things to get by; a teacher, a performer, a choreographer, an administrator, etc. For many people who have just one of those things as a focus (other than teacher, of course), this has been a frustration. It has excited me because I love to wear many different hats. While this is great for me, it also provides a problem. Relating back to an earlier statement; 'God-damnit, I am interested in too many things.' The problem that lies here is the fact that the many interests really seem to be keeping me from defined goals. While it is great to do a lot of things, if these lot of things do not add up to some larger impact, what is the point?

I am incredible at juggling a lot of things at once. I am terrible at seeing how they all fit into the bigger picture. Being able to see both small and large perspectives must be what is necessary to be a really effective person. And I want to be that. So I am faced with the need to make all the little chunks fit together into a nice picture.

Back to Rhythmically Speaking; I am concerned because our mission feels too large to be effective. Maybe I just need to spend some time brainstorming. I really want our efforts to be focused in a way that impacts a lot of people in a good way. I am worried that right now, we are doing what WE want to do and not focusing in on offering what OTHERS need. I do not think this is out of selfishness, it really is out of genuine desire. The problem develops when you assume that what you want is what others want to. Maybe this is a larger issue with art in general. Art is a wonderful way for self-therapy, but then why try to get it funded? If it is created really as a way to serve yourself, you have served the mission of that project and it should be done. It seems like the brick wall that the marching band keeps trying to walk through forms itself when a visionary continually insists on trying to fund and execute programming that people do not need or want. But how do you find out what they want? Really? How?

I want to find out what people want and use that to plan programs, because I have no doubt that others and myself have a lot of things in common. But how do I find out what they want? I should probably talk to Zoe, a move that I have already initiated. She probably has some great ideas on finding out what people want. There is always the 'audience survey,' but that is just show specific, and those people are already in the seats. I think what I am trying to say is that we need market research on 'people interested in jazz and rhythm-based dance.' How would we do this? How would we afford this? AHH! Maybe one way is to create survey that go out to our 'stakeholders;' one for participants (choreographers, dancers and educators) and another for audiences (viewers and students?). We can ask them what sort of opportunities they are looking for in order to help bolster their careers/ see and support the kind of dance they enjoy. This survey could go out through our newsletter. Do we need an incentive? I sure do not want to offer a reduced ticket price!

In short, I want to find out what people want, see if it matches with what we want to do, then offer it. This could be any number of things; the yearly showcase, quarterly showcases, touring program (allows these people's work to be seen by more people, they can then pick up on having that artist out for their own show), residency programs (to spread this kind of training to people who would not have had it otherwise), community forums. A larger purpose beyond where the mission is now; fostering an appreciation of jazz and rhythm-based dance forms. If we can do that, people will demand support for and opportunities for seeing this kind of work, and it becomes a perpetuating cycle. Here is another thing; partnering with Jazz88 to offer jazz dance residencies at North that go with their radio programming. Maybe I can even pitch a weekly or bi-weekly half-hour radio program that focuses on the intersection of this kind of music and dance? History, happenings, theory, etc. What a way this would be to continue growing shared interest among musicians and dancers. Programs that collaborate with folk-dance centers? Tapestry classes or at least announcements?

The juices is flowing. Another thought that occurred to me; I cannot make into full-time choreographers people who do not want to be full-time choreographers. I probably wouldn't want that myself (ok, if faced with an opportunity to choreograph full time in the proper setting for more money than I take in now, there is no way I'd say no, but that certainly would not happen without a lot of work, and that is not the direction in which I want to put my work). All we can do is try to figure out what people want, and then support that. Maybe helping people who want to choreograph in the form here and there IS what is needed; to keep a consistent flow of these kind of performance and viewing opportunities, a consistent presence. That certainly would help dispell the 'jazz is dead' bullshit. Alive and kickin, every season! Making the creation of choreography easier for people who are also passionate about educating (or whatever else it is they do? Hell, it could be accounting during the day, with a firey need to also create here and there. That is their perogitive). I just really want to be sure that we are doing what people want.

Another thought; I don't know that our time is best spent looking up information in one place and typing it into another place, like monkeys (ie keeping the events and show section on the site up to date). Our time in that arena would be best spent keeping an updated 'resource' links section, and instructing people to check out the sites of those that look interesting to find out more about what they are offering. All of these people are constantly updating their sites. If we are a support organization, why not send traffic to their sites and save ourselves some precious time to do other things? Keeping 'Resources' and 'Classes' up to date would be great, then using the newsletter as a way to highlight a couple of community happenings, referencing the 'Resources' tab as a way to find out more. Yes. Done.

Feeling the need to go forth and make things happen, and accepting it out of realization that these things cannot be sorted out completely in one bout of typing; it will take many bouts of typing. Good thing I like to write.

No comments: