Moving Values: 2012 Dancers Choice Award Recipients: Ernesto Sopprani

By In Dance


Della Davidson and Ernesto Sopprani are the recipients of the 2012 Bay Area Dance Week Dancers Choice Award. This tradition, in its 5th year, celebrates individuals and organizations that are resourcefully finding effective and creative models that impact dance. When Della and Ernesto were selected as this year’s recipients, we wanted to hear their perspective of the value of dance and its importance in their lives. Though they represent different generations and come from disparate corners of this community, both recipients provide guidance and richness to Bay Area dance and performance culture. This page holds many perspectives on our form, its value, and these two pillars of our community. With a heavy heart we are sad to report that Della Davidson passed away on March 13, 2012, and in the words of her sister, “Her whole life was dance, and she was devoted to the magic, beauty, and mystery of body, gesture, image, and movement. How pleased she was to be getting the Dancers Choice Award.”

Everything here is a metaphor.

Stick or Automatic? –As with any variation it begins with the choice: to do, or to wait. And then the story begins… or not. If it does, then collect the following: support, doubts, alliances, trade economies. Here I have learned that keeping score is as tiresome as it is nihilistic. Then there is wishful thinking, a hell of a lot of hard work, a few panic attacks, the wink, the magician and the hand. Did I mention that mix of laughter and tears moment that does not ever really fully present itself. All true necessities for creative work. Ask anyone.

The realization: The self-produced artist is a myth. I don’t mean just any urban myth, I mean if there is one brain who can keep eyes in these many folds – all by its lonesome self – then be assured, there is more to that picture.

Let’s not forget, of course, the question of approach: At what speed? Into which roads? Landscape or portrait? Heavy cream or cream-free? And tread carefully. Applying large quantities of avocado in one’s face makes for very bad skin, no one ever teaches that. Weird. I mean, looking all pretty like that.

4th Dimension Ecology –Stand in relation to something or someone, or some how, and even some times in some ways. Notions of who and of why and of how you dare will come up. Elders will tell stories of elders telling stories of elders telling stories. It gets nepotistic; a system’s main objective is to persist. Pick up some good tactics at your local queer library and do. Always do.

Question: At what point does one claim place? Or is it status? Is showing you mine first a signifier of a chauvinistic-oppressive male centric system? Note: I have known a few many very well-endowed women.

Know your geography. What is the playground built on? When do super users arrive? Which corner stores are most frequented? What red # 5 is the red # 5 sold in this region? Have a pantone palette on you at all times. Know what is “trending”if only to understand what is the context of the message of the context.

Ah. One more thing. There is no community. Much like self-produced artists, community is myth. There is ecology, wild, capriciously interdependent, eternal.

The Next Now –Arts and cultural sector is facing changes not unlike the ones we experienced in the ’60s. Locally, the private sector is investing incredible resources on building structures required to host, among other things, a world cup for a regular circuit of regattas. If you were lucky to be in LA while The Olympics were under way in ’86 you can imagine this will be similar, but much smaller and with many more zeros to the right.

Local government has to, under law, reinvest 20% of gains made from these many zeroes into the local arts sector. (City Charter Section 5.103, the San Francisco Arts Commission)

How is this percolating down? What changes will this bring?

As always and with impeccable timing developers are promising 7+ large scale towers to raise out in the lower market corridor. With new space come new possibilities, right? Mid-Market is acting preemptively by exploring once and over again the impact culture has on market value.

Art institutions are also undergoing change, from re-imagining physical structures, approaches and focuses to prototyping crowed sourced ways to decode and enhance the way art is consumed.

The New Now is happening to us at this very moment. Like in the ’60s, art folk will continue to lead conversations, declare roads, and set standards. As individuals our strongest passions will be measured, catalogued and tested. Decisions will be made, and that is a fact.

My Interests: Engagement. How is art consumed. Art as Research. Makers’ rights. Collaborative modes of Networked Development. Queer Approaches/Tactics of Being. Cultural Eco-Awareness. Your turn:

Wearing it –Art is Catalyst – dance, performance, the moving body, the adaptable mind, the voice. These forms have the incredible power to implicate. Nothing like live-performance to bring everything to pause. A suspension of disbelief so acute it can catapult us completely towards other appreciations of self, of environment, of other.

I believe that to be our toolkit. As makers, (mover, dancer, choreographer, playwright, director, researcher) and as supporters of culture (administrators, activists, founding sources, private investors, government agencies).

It is our task to listen closely and implicate ourselves and others with what is to become of our society.

“Ernesto Sopprani is a true being of service. Tireless, patient, wonderfully creative, grounded, calm and easy, Ernesto continuously shows up, listens carefully and takes action among countless performances, community events and meetings, and all things social. He has taken the lead at THEOFFCENTER, which has played a huge role in supporting countless small companies and individual self-producing artists through publicity, branding, vital networking, and impressive overall coordination. He has brought so many people and projects together which would otherwise remain separate, and this bringing together has exponentially increased audiences, community resources, funding potential, and energy toward these projects. And all of these projects carry some element of community engagement, which is important for the life and vitality of the arts in SF. In this time, alliances, partnerships and community home-bases are CRITICAL for the survival of the arts. Ernesto has been absolutely KEY to bringing the newer generation of art and community builders together in the Bay Area.”
–Loren Robertson

“Ernesto functions as a hub for a critical sector of the dance and performance community in the Bay Area. He is as generous with his energy as he is with his resources, and works tirelessly to make sure that young, queer, cutting-edge works of performance are afforded the visibility and production value that they deserve. Rather than function as the gatekeeper for these artists, Ernesto is committed to an ethos of collaboration, and fosters relationships and connectivity between disparate elements of the arts community and the non-profit sector in a way that strengthens the all-around capacity of us all.”
–Laurel Butler

This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of In Dance.

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.