What a difference a year can make: this time last year, Dancers’ Group’s Board and staff started a strategic planning process to help us further understand the desires and needs of our community, and how our efforts resonate within the dance ecosystem in the San Francisco Bay Area.
From casual conversations to formal interviews, and the convening of a variety of artists, leaders and community members, we discussed what the future could look like, the imaginings of which will guide us on a course of action that allows us to continue to support the aspirations and machinations of making dance.
The exceptional and thoughtful Alan Brown and Kyle Marinshaw at WolfBrown guided this strategic planning work; as a research team, they engage in local and national initiatives that impact the arts ecology. Their work with Dancers’ Group helped us better understand our place within the dance ecosystem, along with how our future undertakings can have a more significant impact, which is imbedded in our planning ideas.
This plan will ensure that we remain “flexible, adaptable, opportunistic and responsive to changing conditions within a strategic frame.” In other words, we will continue to perform colossally but if the resources—normally, money—are not there, we scale back accordingly. While it’s not aerospace science, it is how so many in our community respond to an ever fluctuating amount of support from donors, funders and even audiences.
One of the products of our planning process is a publication that examines our labors in relation to the Bay Area dance ecosystem. Aptly titled, “Towards a Healthy and Sustainable Dance Ecosystem,” it provides the foundation for making a case for adding additional resources to support dance entities of all forms and sizes. Based on the findings over the past year, we chose nine guiding principles— stopping short of a top ten list—to communicate our values and aspirations. They are:
1. We help artists make work.
2. Diversity of expression is both a core value and a strategy behind all of our programs.
3. We achieve our mission through collective impact.
4. The dance community’s strength lies in the strength of our bonds with each other.
5. Dancers’ Group can leverage its resources by carefully choosing what “exchanges” to support.
6. Public dance programming is essential to a healthy ecosystem.
7. We support audience development by supporting artists.
8. A strong diagnostic capacity is foundational to our relevance and sustainability.
9. We recognize the necessity of risk-taking.
It is no mistake that this list of guiding principles starts with artists and ends with risk-taking; they are inseparable, and the human elements, coupled with the maverick aspect of creating art, are constant reminders of the importance and value of what I do for a living.
Ultimately, we are all in strategic planning mode. It’s a never- ending practice that is as informative as it is illusive. And yet, the rewards await as each of us decides on our next action that once planned, written down, and shared, will invariable morph or change.
And then there are the rewards of reading about and participating in performances and other movement-based activities that take place this month and beyond. Prepare to be dazzled by anniversaries, new productions, along with dance screen vistas unseen and viewpoints revealed.
Happy fall, happy dancing, happy viewing and I’m looking forward to the discovering and sharing of what another twelve months has in store.