To our RAWdance family,
It’s been almost a year since our last public update on RAWdance’s ongoing individual and organizational anti-racist and equity work. We wrote an initial letter in June 2020, with an update on further actions and next steps in November 2020. With a continued goal to be transparent about our process, we’re sharing another brief report.
Over the last 10 months, we have focused on identifying discrete and actionable steps to progress our work. There are both specific actions we can take at this moment to improve our practices and other changes that will take time to implement with intention. With this in mind, here are some actions we’ve focused our efforts on since we last wrote:
1. Launching the Radiate Fellowship: RAWdance’s pilot fellowship program, prioritizing Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Bay-Area based, early-career artists, officially launched this summer. From December 2020 to the launch of its application process in June 2021, we (RAWdance’s three Co-ADs) connected with peers, advisors, and artists in our community to gather insight, information, and advice on how to develop this new program. Through their guidance, we developed a loose structure as a container for selected Fellows to serve their individual artistic journeys. Main points of the program include a paid stipend to each Fellow of $4000 to support their artmaking, monthly check-in meetings based on a foundation of community agreements we collectively created, facilitation by RAWdance as a holistic organization (actively working against the traditional mentor/mentee relationship by expanding access to dancers, administrators, board members, collaborators etc.), and a clear pipeline to a third-party paid equity advisor to support the fellows as needed.
The application and application process (administered by referral for this pilot year) were developed in collaboration with equity consultant Rebecca KellyG. Over 40 local artists, teachers, and arts leaders supported the program by sharing the application with early-career artists. A panel of RAWdance representatives and local arts/community leaders (Melissa Bell, Nick Brentley, Giselle Chow, Eric Garcia, Wendy Rein, Ryan T. Smith, Katerina Wong, and Stacey Yuen) reviewed applications and recommended six artists for round 2; RAWdance’s Co-ADs met with the six and invited three to be Fellows. We had our first orientation gathering in August 2021 and will continue our partnership through September 2022. You can learn more about the program and each of the fellows on our website. We are so excited to venture into this new program with them and support their individual artistic visions in the coming year!
2. Formalizing EDI Work in our Strategic Plan: As referenced in our last update, this spring we began a three-year strategic plan to strengthen the company organizationally and artistically, and to set forth how RAWdance can better serve its community. While equity, diversity, and inclusion is woven throughout the entire plan, calling out this effort more explicitly by making our investment in EDI work its own strategic direction was essential to us to ensure that it’s importance was prioritized. Among many action items, the plan calls for an organizational review and improvement of equity practices for public programming and administrative procedures; working with local tribes to reimagine the company’s land acknowledgement practices and acting as an ally to indigenous communities; the expansion of access services such as ASL, captioning, and audio description; the development of standards for the “front of house” for any RAWdance events; continued board training and discourse; and further diversifying the company’s board and employees. To help guide this process, the board has created a liaison role to focus on the company’s EDI efforts.
Since finalizing our strategic plan, we’ve met and exceeded goals in some areas, such as increased access services at events and implementing raises for our administrative and movement collaborators. We are not as far along as we had desired on others, such as making another board equity training happen and continued research on equity in curatorial practice. Launching the fellowship took more time and resources than we had envisioned, but we all agreed it was important to do that work. Returning to live performance has been thrilling after a year and a half, but has also taken a great deal of bandwidth. We’re glad to have prioritized planning and creating a roadmap so we know where we still have work to do, to own those shortcomings, and chart our progress.
3. Active Board Recruitment and Expansion: We are actively recruiting new members of our Board of Directors to prioritize space for more voices and experiences. Initial EDI sessions with an outside consultant in 2020 and specific intentions outlined in our three-year strategic plan guide our discussions and next steps in this process of expansion.
4. Participating in Community Discourse: We often talk about RAWdance’s shared leadership model as a counter to the traditional hierarchical, single choreographer, dance company model. In addition to sharing our experiences with fellow company leaders and consultants, Co-AD Katie organized and moderated a panel discussion for Dance/USA’s Annual Conference in June 2021 titled “Shifting to Shared Leadership Models” with Co-Directors of Gibney, HMD, and Ryan and Wendy. She also participated in a panel conversation by Chlo & Co Dance called Tabled, on the topic of Race and Identity alongside fellow artists Jhia Jackson and Fanny Kahlo.
5. Continued Evolution of Curatorial Practices: We’ve continued the new curatorial practices we implemented last year, including partnering with CONCEPT series Coordinator Megan Kurashige as an equal member of our curatorial team for the series. For the series, we now invite curated artists to more formally suggest future participants. For all digital rounds, we’ve been able to offer a guaranteed honorarium to each participating artist, as well as splitting any ticket profits between them. We continue the series’ long history of prioritizing representation in guest artists both in regards to artistic aesthetics and lived experiences, with an explicit focus on racial diversity in the last two rounds.
6. Sharing Other Voices: We’ve begun conversations about new ways we may be able to support other artists beyond our existing curatorial practices and our own choreographic work. We’re quite early in these considerations (and have woven some of this as long-term exploratory work into our strategic plan), but for our virtual Spring Benefit in May 2021, we commissioned two of our RAWdance collaborators, Stacey Yuen and Jhia Jackson, to develop and produce short dance films that premiered at the event. These two mini-commissions were a step towards thinking how RAWdance can support dance-makers earlier in the creative process, as well as creating an opportunity to present work to a supportive audience.
Outside of our work as an organization, each of us as Co-ADs have personally and individually committed ourselves to ongoing listening, reflection, reading, and attending training, workshops, and panel discussions to deepen our understanding, which in turn will impact company processes and decisions into the future. There is much more work to do but we continue to commit to learning, evolving, responding, and updating you on our progress. We invite thoughts on resources and further steps we can take moving forward.
Katie, Ryan, Wendy, Co-Artistic Directors of RAWdance