Reflections: 2019 was about planting seeds; Let's see what Blossoms in 2020!

by Angela Harris, Dance Canvas Executive Artistic Director

Every year, I find myself taking a long look at the ever-changing dance community of Atlanta. It always blows my mind how fast we speed through the years. In 2018, Dance Canvas celebrated our 10th Anniversary season, and so quickly we are now mid-way through our 12th.

10 years ago, the Atlanta dance community looked vastly different than it does today. Back then, I was a young(ish) choreographer looking for ways to have my work set on major companies. I was an artist, fresh out of dancing full-time with professional ballet companies, craving outlets for artistic growth and presentation. There weren’t many resources for me at the time…And soon, Dance Canvas was born. 

Our dance community is not only growing, it’s morphing, and it makes me proud!

Flash forward 10, (well…12 years), just look at the plethora of opportunities for young/emerging choreographers in Atlanta. Besides Dance Canvas, there are dance collectives, training programs, festivals, residencies, and open studio spaces for dance makers and dancers alike. Our dance community is not only growing, it’s morphing, and it makes me proud! 

Dance Canvas has morphed too, in a sense. As I looked back on our 2018-19 Season, I realized that our company has grown into a wonderful umbrella to continue to grow professional dance and dance makers in Atlanta. Our signature programs haven’t changed (in fact our 2018-19 Season supported the work of 3 out-of-state choreographers, 1 co-produced work with The Georgia Ballet, and an incredibly strong cast of over 40 professional dancers who call Atlanta home). 

Rachel Barker speaking to 2019 DC NEXT students about her PhD program

Our youth program, DC NEXT, continues to watch eager young eyes open, as they are exposed to the many opportunities their futures hold. This past year, DC Intern Alumna, Rachel Barker, came to talk to our 2019 students about her career path. Rachel interned with DC NEXT when she was a freshman in college at Georgia Tech. She told the students how she was struggling with the decision to leave dance for a scientific route. Through DC NEXT, she realized that she didn’t have to choose. She changed her major, focused on how to integrate movement studies into her scientific practice, and is now a phD candidate at Emory University. She said ‘the spark’ happened at DC NEXT, and we witnessed her story igniting ideas in the minds of the DC NEXT students that listened.

Artist-to-Artist with Maeghan McHale

2019 also allowed us to reach out to the community by offering FREE Artist-to-Artist workshops with guest teachers/choreographers. We started the year with Ballet Hispanico, in partnership with the Rialto Center for the Arts. We also held workshops with Broadway artist and choreographer, Shonica Gooden and brought in longtime Giordano Dance Chicago Dancer and internationally awarded choreographer, Maeghan McHale. We also hosted a FREE teacher workshop with The School of American Ballet (the official school of New York City Ballet). Master teacher, Katrina Killian, met with 15 Atlanta area ballet teachers and choreographers to discuss George Balanchine, his technique, teaching and choreographic principals. 

Artist-to-Artist with Ballet Hispanico

We love our partnerships, and 2019 helped us to continue to build new relationships and strengthen long term collaborations. We worked with our friends at The Georgia Ballet to co-produce a work by Watershed Dance Theater Director, Sarah Emery, for Dance Canvas’ 2019 Performance Series. The work featured 5 Georgia Ballet dancers and was also performed last spring in Georgia Ballet’s ‘Dancers up Close’.

Sarah Emery in rehearsal at The Georgia Ballet

We continued our partnership with Alvin Ailey’s Destination Dance Atlanta, bringing 30, k-5th grade Center of Hope students and their families to see the Ailey’s performances at the Fox Theater last February. Our partnership with The City of Atlanta’s Department of Recreation is the heart of our outreach. In 2019, we provided after-school dance classes to students at two City of Atlanta Centers of Hope, marking our 9th year providing the dance outreach programs to The City of Atlanta.

Over the past 4 years, Georgia Tech has been our performance and summer home! We were so sad to see Madison Cario leave for Portland, because she was instrumental in creating collaborative opportunities for dance in Atlanta. Thanks to Madison’s “risk-taking” with Dance Canvas, we presented our 3rd Performance series at the Ferst Center, as well as housed our summer DC NEXT program and performances! Again, a shining example of what makes me proud to be part of Atlanta dance!

Our programs have grown outside of the City of Atlanta (…a school from Macon came to be part our “High School Day” performances!) A huge part of the expansion has been our work in Gwinnett County. We have partnered with the fabulous teachers in Gwinnett County Schools for a 3rd year facilitating the classes and providing the teachers/choreographers for their County Dance Day! Gwinnett County Dance Day is a wonderful opportunity for our choreographers to interact and teach repertory to over 500 students from Gwinnett County Dance Departments. Our choreographers also form connections with the GCPS teachers, which has resulted in guest classes and choreographic residencies.

Gwinnett also brought us a cherished partner in Gwinnett Ballet Theater, who due to a leadership transition brought Dance Canvas in for Administrative and Artistic consulting services! This treasure of a school and pre-professional training ground has been a staple in Gwinnett County for 39 years, it was the first arts non-profit established in Gwinnett County. This past season, we assisted GBT with starting its 1st professional initiative, GBT’s Professional Ensemble. (*GBT Professional Ensemble dancers will be joining the cast of Dance Canvas’ performance series in 2020.)

Finally, our biggest new initiative and a gemstone of our 2019 in review, was our new Company Incubator Pilot Program, where we assisted Dance Canvas choreographer, Vanessa Zabari and her partner, Mary Beth Stinson, with starting Atlanta’s 1st Professional Tap Company. Through a year-long development process, Dance Canvas consulted with Vanessa and team from inception to producing their one night only Inaugural Performance, ‘Conversations in Tap’. (p.s. If you missed that show, you missed one of the best dance performances in Atlanta of 2019! Completely unbiased assessment…ask someone who attended!)

There were so many important things that helped us to grow and programs that moved us closer and closer to this new decade.

The Tap Rebels

There were so many important things that helped us to grow and programs that moved us closer and closer to this new decade. And…If I haven’t said it enough…I am so thankful for all of the supporters, audience members, donors, sponsors and incredible board members that see the value in what we do! 

As I look back, I am so excited to leap…move…turn…roll…fall (or any other dance cliché) forward into 2020. The 1st 20 years of the 2000’s have been an incredibly fulfilling journey…Let’s see where we take it to next! 

Photos by Richard Calmes

For tickets to Dance Canvas’ 2020 Performance Series, please visit:

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