We are grateful for this introduction by Dean Speer
, whose experience as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, administrator and dance lover provide an excellent basis for addressing this topic: "How can we develop the Artistic Directors of the future and support
their development? Can we build structures for training and development
of the dance workforce to develop and support better equipped, empowered,
and confident individuals?"
I believe ballet as a medium and art form is really reaching a peak of
maturation and we are seeing the results of this in an ever-shrinking
world. I think this maturation is a good thing and can have the net
effect of gaining good results for the art.
Sharing, as the business world likes to say, "best practices," is one way
for current and future Artistic Directors to grapple with and grow with
today's changes. This is not to suggest that companies would lose their
respective indentities and become franchises -- a kind of balletic "Subway
Sandwich," but rather to take today's fabulous resources, such as the
Internet, and use them as tools to share what they have learned that works
We already see a pattern of the dance world becoming more mature as it
parallels the opera and music worlds with things like sharing productions
and other resources. Yes, this has been long-happening in some degree and
the past fews years have see this kind of expansion really take hold.
There is currently no real training school or course for Artistic
Directors such as "Becoming An AD 101" or "ADs for Novices!" But there
could be. I remember being asked several years ago in a live television
interview if there was some place that Artistic Directors could go to
learn how to do their jobs (I was the AD of a ballet company at that
time). On the set with me was the Music Director and Conductor of the
symphony (who also, BTW, conducted our Nutcracker). After we stopped
laughing, the answer was an emphatic, "No!" I recall explaining that
while there was really no course or specific schooling (although is must
be pointed out that conductors CAN study conducting in college or at a
music conservatory), we did bring all of our experiences to bear in these
There are workshops and seminars given of many types for those new to
their positions. Some of these include newly-elected officals such as
state representatives and senators, deans of college departments, and
teachers. Why not something like this for folk who head artistic
enterprises? For heads of dance schools, regional "pre-professional"
companies, managers, and so forth. Some of this could be natural
outgrowth of workshops and seminars that are already being held for
There could also be a network organization of ADs (NOAD) that could meet
internationally every-other-year and nationally in alternate years and
regionally every year. Dues could be structured on a sliding scale, based
on the organization's size and budget. All would be welcome.
A paper and on-line newsletter would ably keep everyone abreast of the
times and could include a readership beyond that of the membership.
Some topics for meetings and the newsletter might include: "The Board and
You;" "Vivacious Volunteers;" "Your First Annual Meeting;" "Budgets 101;"
"Meeting the Press;" "The Unwritten Rules;" "Long-Term Artistic Planning;"
"Building Teamwork;" "Supporting Diversity;" "Production Sharing 101;"
"School and Company Follies;" or "We Got 'There' -- So Now What?!"
Similarly, meetings could be organized for peers to chat. During one of
of PNB's early Teachers' Seminars many years ago, I arranged for our
school registrar to meet with their counterpart and it was one of the best
things we ever did. Our registrar came back with not only tons of new
ways to better run the school, she also came back more energized and
enthusiastic than ever.
"Knowledge is Power" and the more we work to educate ourselves and ably
assist our co-workers and colleagues, the stronger each of us becomes,
collectively and individually. Our cultural institutions then become
virtual perpetual motion machines, able to not only withstand change but
to embrace it.
Some possible discussion themes:
- Do Artistic Directors need to be trained?
- If so, what are the key elements that need to be included?
- Is there also a place for update courses, which most professionals attend on a regular basis.
- Should any preparation come after a dance career or is it better to start the process at an earlier stage
- Is it a good idea that ADs have regular contact as well as one-off seminars like Rural Retreats. If so, what are the merits of the different delivery methods?