As we emerged from 2020, the narrative of survival reverberated through the arts. Like many of you, we began 2021 filled with hope, but also plagued with fear and uncertainty. Every month brought new protocols, pivots, and additional costs necessary to ensure safety, with little income in sight. But as we envisioned our story — how RAWdance’s year would be defined — perseverance and endurance weren’t enough; we wanted to create a story of vitality and relevance. Of responsiveness and growth. Of living and about the future.
This year we pushed hard at the boundaries of what we do (and what dance does) not just as a reaction to safety limitations, but also in search of new possibilities. From the shift to a digital CONCEPT series to our most recent dance film Shadow (part 1), we turned to the camera, experimenting with the choreographic freedom of film editing software. Earlier this year, The Healer brought a shared theatrical and sensorial experience into our homes. Our film Collected Breath, commissioned by Jim Campbell’s studio, brought RAWdance to new heights, 1,070ft up to the top of San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower, where it was presented nightly throughout May. And our short dance films, including Slipping Sand and last year’s Picnic, travelled from small screens to the big screen through film festivals as far as Nepal.
Our live work also traveled to new destinations, introducing our audience to new places and the company to new audiences. Portal was the first major site-specific work created for San Francisco’s Salesforce Park, enlivening the space between towering skyscrapers with dancers and media projections. We also started putting down roots in the Catskills and the Berkshires, performing along the riverfront in Hudson, in a sculpture park in Ghent, and in downtown Pittsfield.
Alongside all of this growth, we sustained our tried and true programs like ChoreoFest, in partnership with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. This year’s YBG ChoreoFest fulfilled its original commitment to all nine 2020 commissioned artists with new work across three days, including the premiere of RAWdance’s multigenerational piece, Unconditional. For many of the festival’s 1700 audience members, the free, outdoor shows were the first in-person performances seen in over a year! It’s been so inspiring to watch audiences rediscover the palpable thrill of live performance, while also finding new pathways to connect to art and one another via screens. Witnessing our audiences’ excitement and enthusiasm was a true reminder of the value of what we do.
Since the beginning of 2021, we’ve committed to a story of vitality, responsiveness, and the future. We decided to focus on abundance, not challenge. And we’ve stayed true to that vision. We’re proud of the connections we’ve forged and the multitude and diversity of all we’ve produced, reaching an estimated 70,000 people. We’re energized by the work we’ve undertaken to respond to our field and, while the huge inequities and barriers that persist remain daunting, we’re grateful to be in the fight. The SF Chronicle recently wrote, “RAWdance has emerged as an anchor of the Bay Area dance community.” It’s a lot to live up to with only three full-time staff, all working artists! But we’re dedicated to making it happen.
If you’ve been part of our story this year, thank you. Please help us write the next chapter of trying, learning, adapting, and creating as we look to 2022! We need your continued support to live up to our mission of pushing at the boundaries of contemporary dance — what it is, where it happens, who it includes, and the role it plays in all of our lives. Your support is pivotal and so very much appreciated.
Wendy, Katie, & Ryan
P.S. We often highlight RAWdance’s extended family, since the company would not exist without the community that upholds it. Last month our family grew by 19in. =) Welcome to the world, Katie’s new baby Bria Sage Zollo!