I am young by many comparisons in the arts field (I’ve only done this for a bit over 15 years). Yet, it surprises me that access still remains an issue for artists of color and therefore access to support services is also a challenge. I have heard many institutions talk about the hiring practices of producers, directors, choreographers. But the truth is, the field is full of dancers (or other artists) of color.
If I were to judge the dance world demographics by our roster of dancer-clients, I would think the dance world is filled with 90% women, 72. 88% Caucasian, 11.14% Black/African-American, 8.27% Latino/Hispanic, 4.6% Asian and 2.53% unidentified; thank goodness we know this is not the case! With companies like Dance Theater of Harlem, Forces of Nature, Annapurna Indian Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico, Giwayen Mata, Sachiyo Ito and Company spanning or Complexions Contemporary Ballet performing great works; it is apparent the dance world is rich with dancers of every favor and stripe.
Being a former dancer of color and now a development professional, I realize it is not really an issue of casting (although that is true in some cases) it is an issue of cultural competency, authentic outreach and marketing. The challenge now becomes knowledge and involvement. This is not just a test or question for our organization but one for our union friends, artists’ service providers and other organizations in multicultural settings. The advantage some institutions have is the resources to focus – be it time or human resources – on cultivating programs that truly address every member of their community.
To address this concern here at Career Transition For Dancers we consider ethnicity, technical training, trends and accessibility during our decision-making when creating programs. We are also reaching out to you, our members, to get involved. Write a blog post that speaks of your experience and to the dance community you are most intimate with. Volunteer as an ambassador in your city or town. Challenge us to create programs that address your needs (you can complete our annual program survey here) . Volunteer to host a Career Conversation, host a party in support of CTFD, or visit one of our offices. If you are interested in participating in any of the ideas above contact me here. Your involvement will not only address issues of diversity and accessibility but will help us create the programs dancers really need today.
Will all these things get us over the proverbial goal line? I am not sure. But I know we will be very close.
Just my thoughts. Let me know your thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions here or tweet with me with #Diversity @CTFD_AJNicole.
-AJahi Nicole Adams