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ABT's new $5 million challenge grant for national residencies

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Interesting and possibly exctiting news: the Mellon Foundation has given ABT a challenge grant of $5 milliion to establish a "national residency programs" in various regions of the US -- targeting the MidWest, Southeast, West Coast, and Washington DC. The grant is conditional on the ABT's raising matching funds on its own.

What do you think? How would you spend it?

And a larger question: Does the ABT have the potential to become a truly "national" company for the USA?

Here's a link to the story.


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It will be great for whatever places ABT does their residencies... How will it be for the dancers, though? I guess the barre is always "home" for a dancer. I assume they'll be returning annually to these residencies or are they just short term?

I'd spend a good portion of it on audience outreach... Oddly enough, I wouldn't spend it on acquiring new repertory... just on encouraging the audience to "get" what they can out of ABT already has to offer. By outreach, I mean finding as many angles as possible for audiences to connect with the dance (if they're doing residencies at Universities, there should be ample variety for approach: music, history, physics, athletics, scenario, glamour, classical, medical, visual aesthetic, anthropological, etc.).

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Most likely the grant is conditioned upon ABT actually undertaking specific activities. It is a huge opportunity for ABT to prove itself worthy of its claim to be America's National Ballet Company. And a huge challenge.

I presume each residency will include at least one or two master classes, which has the reciprocal benefit of identifying the most promising young dancers in those areas. Better if the master classes just happen to be open to the public to observe.

I doubt that they'll have the opportunity to dig in long and deep enough to deal with some of the esoterica suggested by Amy, (although one can hope), but returning to the same place in all four quarters year after year gives an opportunity for some very solid audience building.

Good luck with your Mellon moola, ABT. Spend it wisely and well.

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This is an interesting development -- in the 1970's the NEA ran a touring and residency program (the Dance Touring Program) originally developed just to get more companies more time on the road performing, but it had several side benefits. Because the tours emphasized residencies (not very common at the time) more communities got to see more of a company -- classes, rehearsals, making new works and maintaining old ones. It encouraged open rehearsals and lecture-demonstrations as well as straight-ahead performances. It educated more audiences, gave young dancers a better peek into the professional world, and in a few situations, actually ended in companies relocating to a community where they had been in residence. Seattle benefitted twice from that phenomenon, when the Bill Evans Dance Company and First Chamber Dance moved to Seattle in the late 70's. For many years, members of those groups and the people they attracted have formed a significant part of the dance community here -- their residencies, and then their moving here, jump-started a big surge in development for ballet and modern dance.

I don't necessarily think that the money being offered to ABT is done with those results in mind, but it does seem to build on the earlier NEA model.

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