Dance Canvas Founder, Angela Harris, looks back on how it all began:
The beginning of summer and the planning for next season has given me some time to reflect on why I started Dance Canvas. Six years seems like just yesterday. Looking back: I had been in Atlanta for 3 years, and decided not to return to the Georgia Ballet for a 3rd season. I loved performing, I had been with companies and touring throughout the country, but I knew that my heart was in creation and choreography. Atlanta, at the time, was not the same dance city as it is today. I hear from resident Atlantans that there was a huge dance scene in the ’80s and somewhere in the mid ’90s it started to trickle away. So, in 2006/07, when I was looking for my “next step”, there were not many options.
I could have headed back to NYC, where I went to school and trained, and have friends and family. But, there was something about Atlanta that kept me here. This was a fertile ground, a place where I could plant roots, build and grow a company, and hopefully act as a catalyst for the dance scene to continue to grow. It was a bit of a leap of faith. I was teaching and choreographing at studios throughout Atlanta, but besides Atlanta Ballet and a few strong smaller companies, there weren’t many new “start-ups” happening at the time. And, an even bigger hurdle: Where would the money come from?
So, I went out on a limb…I started talking to people…I started building my network…I started picking the brains of the people who made dance happen in Atlanta and beyond. What was needed in this city? What was missing? What expertise did I have that I could offer to this community and to other artists? And how could I continue to stay true to my mission in the process?
So, with a bit of my savings from college…Dance Canvas was born…As a place for emerging choreographers to take that “next step” to getting hired by established companies… As a place for new works to be cultivated and at the same time help to cultivate new audiences. We prided ourselves on three major values: Diversity, Professionalism, and “Relatability”. Our guiding principals were Collaboration and Inclusion. And most of all, like I say to each cast before every show, we have to “have fun while doing it…no drama…all love…because we don’t get paid enough to do what we do!”
I’m proud of what we have accomplished in 6 years! This year, we saw our 1st DC NEXT students graduate from college and head out into the workforce. Although we had to say goodbye to a theater we have performed in since the beginning, we are heading to bigger things at the Rialto next year. And, it is amazing that I can say that we have performed for at least 10,000 audience members and worked hands-on with over 1,000 students (and I know most, if not all of their names!) And I have been able to create and see others create…which is the best part of all!! I couldn’t have imagined this 6 years ago! But, I also couldn’t imagine Dance Canvas’ home anywhere else but Atlanta.
And look how our Atlanta dance community has grown!! We have thriving adult dance studios, many new companies and choreographers at work in Atlanta…A huge commercial dance scene…and theaters producing and presenting world class dance companies and works. Let’s continue to grow together and work together…Let’s continue to strive for excellence in both TECHNIQUE and PERFORMANCE! Atlanta is that fertile ground to have high paying dance jobs, so that professional dancers and choreographers don’t have to head to NYC or LA or overseas. If you check out Dance Canvas’ Facebook page, you will see our “Supporting our Friends in Dance” posts, where we highlight performances, companies and choreographers at work in our community. Go see and support…Because we have to continue to nourish and nurture the talents of Atlanta’s creative workforce, and make Atlanta the “Dance Hub” I know it can be.
Photo Credits to Richard Calmes, Bradley Rhoton, & other DC friends who helped capture some of these great moments!
Just my 2 cents! Happy Summer!
– Angela Harris
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