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Scott L. Scarborough, PhD, President of The University of Akron, and Pamela Young, executive director of DANCECleveland  |  May 18, 2015

New national choreography center to offer residencies for next generation of American dance makers

You enter a theater and take your seat. The house lights dim, the curtain goes up and a dance performance by a national touring company begins to unfold. The talented dancers, stunning lighting, exquisite costumes, inspiring music and standing ovation during the final bows create an evening to remember.

Though the beautiful memory will linger, you will likely not think of the struggles that the choreographer overcame to bring the performance to the stage.

The fact is choreographers in the United States are sorely underserved and lack the resources to create and rehearse their craft. If dance is to thrive and endure nationally, dance makers need rehearsal time and space, the bodies to move through that space, and community resources to bring their works into the public domain.

Over the past decade of collaboration to offer one of the strongest dance residency and performance programs in the country, DANCECleveland and The University of Akron have discussed the possibility of creating a new national center for choreography to help meet these needs. Knight Foundation asked if we had an idea that could be transformative, and this concept piqued their interest.

Now, with Knight Foundation's $5 million pledge in support, both time and space will be provided to the most creative dance makers around the nation. The National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron will engage the rich cultural resources of northeast Ohio. This will be only the second such center in the U.S. the other is the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University. The nation needs this new center. In France, there are 19.

The new center, which will operate as a stand-alone, non-profit organization, will select national choreographers and dance companies for residencies. Choreographers chosen for residencies will receive stipends and access to the rich academic and creative resources of a comprehensive university including the world-class facilities of the university's Center for Dance and Theatre, and the 3000-seat E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.

Choreographers can also take advantage of the rich cultural climate of northeast Ohio, perhaps using spaces at other colleges and universities in the area and at Cleveland's Playhouse Square, the largest U.S. theater complex outside of New York City. They can tap into the creative energy of the region, engage students in their craft and take the work they accomplish back to cities around the country for performances.

The opportunities for students at The University of Akron are exciting. They will reap the benefits of having prominent choreographers on campus and in the studios. Student choreographers will increase their knowledge of the business side of their craft understanding how to effectively communicate and work with presenters and venues, creating opportunities for peer review of work in progress and advocating for the presentation of new dances.

While the center is launching, dance making is already underway, with three pilot residencies at The University of Akron already in the works with selected choreographers John Jasperse (New York City); Carrie Hanson/The Seldoms (Chicago); and Camille A. Brown & Dancers (New York City).

The vision is taking shape and talented choreographers are arriving to create those dances that will likely be seen on stages throughout the country in coming years and create lasting memories for audiences far and wide. We look forward to joining in the applause.

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