Creativity and Resilience

An Interview with Raélle Dorfan at Dance Resource Center

Raélle Dorfan is the Executive Director of Dance Resource Center, a nonprofit member-supported service organization that provides the Los Angeles area dance community access to information, resources, and services. Here, she discusses how Dance Resource Center has worked to distribute monetary aid to its constituency, how it seeks to support equity and inclusion in its programming, and how resilience is not new to the LA dance community as they continue to evolve and respond to the times.

This interview is part of a series looking at how dance organizations have responded to the tumultuous events of 2020.

2019 Day of Dancer Health

DRC’s Day of Dancer Health in 2019, Photo by George Simian

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What was Dance Resource Center’s initial response to the pandemic back in March and April?

Dance Resource Center (DRC) pivoted within two weeks of the stay-at-home order to launch an emergency fund to distribute monetary aid to the dance community as quickly, equitably, and effectively as possible. The fund was made possible due to the generous support of individual donors and the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs. Applications were unrestricted and open to all Los Angeles (LA) county dance professionals. DRC received more than 200 applications and issued funding twice to all dance professionals who reside in LA county. This included dancers, teachers, choreographers, and companies.

How did DRC shift (or did it shift) in response to the George Floyd protests this past summer?

In 2017, DRC presented an equity and inclusion policy that was unanimously adopted by the board and has since been a foundation for the work that DRC conducts. Diversity and equity in the dance community is what contributes to the groundbreaking work that shapes and evolves LA culture. In the past year, DRC has facilitated several low-cost or free convenings that were held in underserved communities and districts in order to increase equitable access to dance resources. The work that DRC conducts builds the capacity of dance leaders throughout LA so that dance can be sustained throughout the city. At the heart of DRC’s mission is the understanding that access to the arts is integral to the vitality of humanity.

DRC continues to acknowledge the acute need to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of dance groups, dancers, choreographers, and administrative/management staff from historically excluded populations who are currently underrepresented in the dance field. DRC is a signatory to Dance/USA’s Statement in Support of a Healthy, Safe, and Equitable Culture. DRC demonstrates its commitment to the core values of equity and inclusion by recruiting and retaining leadership who reflect the diversity of the communities which DRC serves, by providing educational and professional development programs as well as policy positions that are relevant and culturally competent, by acting as a leading voice in the dance and greater arts community for the recognition of the challenges to diversity, equity, and inclusion, by providing a platform for the honest and open exploration of paths towards a truly inclusive dance community in the metropolitan area, and by supporting Dance/USA’s development of national standards in conjunction with Dance/USA’s overall mission that promotes and encourages the dance community to be knowledgeable and sensitive to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, DRC’s partnerships and collaborations with BIPOC community leaders, members, and organizations are essential in thoughtfully and effectively responding to the needs of underserved populations.

What are some ways DRC is currently responding to the needs of the dance community?

DRC was founded in 1987 by a collective of LA-based choreographers who had a shared dream of contributing resources and programming that would strengthen the already brilliant dance communities of LA. Originally a volunteer-run organization, DRC focused on generating shared resources for dancers through marketing and programming efforts. DRC also provided fiscal sponsorship for dance artists regardless of budget size, which allowed for smaller organizations and artists to grow. DRC was built from a rich history of arts and culture in LA. To honor that history, DRC established the Lester Horton awards in recognition of Lester Horton, an influential dancer in LA and beyond. The awards are given to chosen choreographers, dancers, advocates, educators, presenters, and other dance stakeholders who have advanced the field of dance and fuel the well-being, vibrancy, and inclusive growth of the greater LA arts community. From its roots, DRC has continued to work to build community and celebrate the field of LA dance creatives.

DRC continues to expand its programming, services, resources, and reach in order to best represent and contribute to LA’s flourishing dance community. DRC currently serves a varied constituency consisting of small to mid-sized dance companies, choreographers, independent artists, presenting venues, administrators, and educators. DRC is proud to be the only discipline specific dance service organization in Southern California that offers creative options to meet the significant infrastructural needs of its constituents. Our priority the past few months is ensuring the community has access to resources available to and for them, as well as ensuring our programming captures relevant topics. For example, last year focused on the AB5 ruling as well as finding affordable/free rehearsal space for the community, while this upcoming year health and wellness related programming/resources and leadership training are our priority.

2019 Day of Dancer Health

DRC’s Day of Dancer Health in 2019, Photo by George Simian

We are looking forward to announcing new services and resources that will be available to and for the greater LA community in early 2021. In large part due to the pandemic, we have been able to produce new avenues to continue supporting the creative community during the pandemic and beyond.  Stay tuned for announcements coming with the launch of DRC’s new website!

Looking toward the future, how far out does DRC feel able to plan? And are events all virtual, or have any in-person events been planned?

DRC is planning all virtual programming for the first half of 2021 and is ready to continue virtual programming to abide by any restrictions in place via the county and state. DRC will not hold in-person events until it is safe to do so. Planning ahead for small to mid-size organizations has been an ever-present hurdle in the LA dance community due to limited resources and funding opportunities. The pandemic has amplified the need for ongoing support even further to aid in successful planning and, as has been recently experienced, when immediate changes need to occur.

For the first half of the new year, DRC will be hosting virtual convenings and workshops prioritizing health and wellness during the pandemic and as we navigate back to the new normal, as well as leadership training for both teachers and arts administrators. Our new website will offer a suite of new services to support the dance community.

How do you think 2020 is going to impact DRC in the long term?

Like many of our constituents, DRC is dependent on contributions from government and private entities as well as revenue streams generated by live performances. Since most live performance will not resume until well into 2021, the financial impact will be significant on DRC and the community we support. That said, DRC has taken this time to assess and find innovative ways to continue to support the diverse, colorful, and vibrant LA dance community. DRC is currently building a website with new features for our community, which we look forward to sharing in 2021.

How do you think 2020 is going to impact the dance field in the long term?

Creativity and resilience are not new to the LA dance community. Whether it be juggling multiple jobs or budgeting to accommodate low-funding opportunities, the LA dance community has continually prioritized art being accessible, and this pandemic is no exception. Leaping into virtual programming and outdoor classes/performances, LA dance artists are continually evolving and expanding. The pandemic reflects dance artists’ ingenuity in advancing the field and inspiring others. However, without (continued) financial support, if they haven’t already been forced to, businesses will close or move. It is imperative the community continues to support one another as a priority, and those in seats to do so – tackle challenging but necessary conversations with stakeholders.

Raelle Dorfan

Raélle Dorfan, Photo by Luis “Panch” Perez

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To learn more, visit www.danceresourcecenter.org.

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