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Up until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dance Place had cause to celebrate.
“In my three years as executive artistic director, the budget has grown by over 15 percent, to almost 20 percent, allowing us to pay people better and expand programming,” says Christopher Morgan. “All of our programs are at capacity in every way. And the studios are completely full.”
More than a month has passed since Dance Place suspended programming and closed its doors to the public. It remains unclear when, and exactly how, the intimate venue will be able to reopen for performances before live audiences. In the meantime, Dance Place has made increasing moves online with virtual programming.
“Very quickly we were able to shift some of our adult dance classes to virtual programming,” says Morgan. “All of that is free of charge and open to anyone. Two weeks ago we started a livestreaming virtual presentation series featuring artists whose performances in our theater space have been postponed — as a way to make sure that we stay connected with our artists, our local audience members, and our community.”
Next up in the series is Christopher K. Morgan & Artists, the Dance Place resident company originally scheduled to debut a new evening-length work, Native Intelligence, Innate Intelligence, the first weekend in May.
“In lieu of the premiere and while we wait to reschedule, we’re going to offer what we’re calling a Cocktail Hour and screening,” says Morgan. It will feature a discussion with the Dance Place director and choreographer moderated by Christy Bolingbroke of the National Center for Choreography, a Q&A session with the “at-home” audience, and video excerpts from the company’s work.
Dance Place has been working to try to minimize the financial blow faced by all of its artists as a result of postponed and canceled events. “We’re trying to fundraise [to reflect] the extended timelines now that everyone has to work on,” with the hope of being able “to remunerate our artists even more beyond the original agreements.”
Additionally, all of the organization’s teachers are being paid 75% of their fees while Dance Place remains closed, and the staff remains intact, on full salary.
Morgan has particular concerns about the future, mostly as it pertains to how COVID-19 will impact live performance in general. “I think there’s going to be such great sensitivity and concern for live gathering in large numbers. And even though our venue only holds 144, it feels very intimate and in close proximity. So we’re discussing the ways we can support our community and make them feel safe and comfortable in our space? Everything from increased cleanliness to more space between seats.” They may also expand ticketed offerings to include livestreaming.
“What would it look like if there were some amount of livestreaming that’s only available at the time of the performance or at the time of the dress rehearsal?” says Morgan. “There’s a lot to figure out about this, but I think it’s going to be incumbent on all of us to find more ways to engage with our audiences, because the culture is going to shift, for sure.”
Christopher K. Morgan & Artists will perform a livestream on Dance Place’s website Saturday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m., with a rebroadcast on Facebook Sunday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.danceplace.org/virtual-presentation-series.
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