An Interview with Terry Fox, Executive Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects

Interview conducted by Steven Weisz for The Dance Journal

The Philadelphia Dance Journal was fortunate enough to be able to interview Terry Fox, Executive Director of Philadelphia Dance Projects (PDP), as the organization gets ready to kick off their 2010 season in Philadelphia!

[Dance Journal] Can you tell us a little about how Philadelphia Dance Projects got started and where you see it today?

[Terry] Philadelphia Dance Projects was started By Sam Miller, when he was the Director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. It grew out of something called “The Winter Pillow”, where dance artists creative residencies at UArts.   It  was mostly to provide several local companies a way to stabilize their annual seasons and provide them with opportunities to have  guest artists.   I was invited to be Coordinator.  PDP was a 3 year initiative funded by Pew. When the 3 years were over, and Sam moved on, the only company that remained stable was Philadanco.  So PDP morphed into a partnership with Danco.  Our first projects were The  Studio Access Project  and a commissioned project with  Rennie Harris and Grisha Coleman.  Little by little we broadened our scope of activities  with workshops, classes and other presentations,  and eventually, become an independent non-profit organization.

[Dance Journal] Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be involved with  Philadelphia Dance Projects?

[Terry] I was a dancer in Philadelphia in the 70’s and as an artist was invited to curate dance programming at the Painted Bride.  I started “Dance With The Bride”  consolidating their program into a series. Most of the 80’s,  I was Artistic/Managing Director of the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s in the Bowery in New York City.  In 1993 I had moved back to the area and was asked to return as dance curator at the Bride.  That’s when I was invited to also coordinate PDP (as noted in the previous question).   I left the Bride to devote more time and effort to PDP.  At first we (PDP board and other artists and organizational partners) tried to fill in where we felt attention was needed, including some community organizing, when the Dance service organization was fading out.   After Philadelphia emerged effectively on the scene, and later Dance/USA Phila got started, we formally revisited our planning process. We realized there was a need again for a presenter to support local work. So in 2009 PDP Presents was launched.

[Dance Journal] In what ways do you see PDP fulfilling a need in the dance community?

[Terry] Providing more opportunities for individuals and small companies  to perform, where there is a guaranteed fee as well as  comprehensive production and promotional  support.  We offer a vehicle to lift the burden from artists, who for the most part have to “self present”.  In addition, PDP has started placing local artists on the same program with peers from around the country. I think this provides a very useful context for audiences to see contemporary work.  They can get a sense of the breadth of styles and ideas being explored today and they can see that Philly artists are definitely “in the mix.”

[Dance Journal] Can you tell us a little about PDP Presents 2010 and what we can expect to see this season?

[Terry] We have a series that highlights mature artists with younger ones.

For the Local Dance History Project,  I invited some artists who were creating work circa 1978-‘83  to re-construct or re-imagine  pieces they presented at that time.  They are working with some very talented younger artists in realizing that work. I think it will be really interesting to see how it all holds up to today.  Because we started  featuring local artists on the same program with guest ones,  Local Dance History Project is opposite to Next Up –  where we have include younger artists, Chris Yon and Otto Ramstad,  from Minneapolis, who are making inventive dance work.  Minneapolis kind of parallels Philly today in it’s thriving and active dance scene.

I am very excited to see what Lisa Kraus and her Trisha Brown Company colleagues will premiere in “Red Thread.”  I saw a studio showing of the perfomance and enjoyed seeing the younger Philly dancers take on the different personas of Kraus, Karczag and Shick.  Quite mysterious and beautiful.

And of course there is SCUBA !  If you haven’t been following it… it’s always a program of contrasts and surprises showcasing artists from our partner cities –  either San Francisco, Minneapolis or Seattle with a local artist.

You know everyone thinks their programming is unique… but truly – I think this year’s PDP Presents is just that.

[Dance Journal] Motion Pictures 2010 is now in its eight year. How has this evolved? What is the goal behind this project? And what is on the bill for this year?

[Terry] Motion Pictures draws attention to a genre of video and filmmaking that is not often seen. Filmmakers and dancers share a preoccupation with motion and the results of this can be seen in Motion Pictures.

Besides the artful ones, we try to present documentaries as well.  It’s always enlightening to learn more about Dance.  We have shown wonderful documentaries on Flamenco greats Carmen Amaya and Antonio Gades,  on the fabulous Carmen DeLavallade and Geoffrey Holder and on Maya Deren, who is prime example of mixing her roots in dance and film.   This year we are showing a long lost episode from PBS’s Dance In America.  It’s from 1980 – the same time period of the Local Dance History Project.  It includes some great vintage footage of Steve Paxton, David Gordon, Laura Dean, Kei Takei and Trisha Brown – including her first company which included Lisa Kraus and Eva Karczag.

A time capsule must see, right ?

Because we are partnering with the ICA Dance With Camera exhibit and the I-House film program, we are only doing 2 programs this year.  We usually do much more.  The Shorts program will include some selections from the Dance On Camera at Lincoln Center Festival 2010 and a sneak preview of Kate Watson Wallace’s new internet dance event “Everywhere.”

[Dance Journal] Dance Tag, which was designed by PDP for teaching artists is probably not as known. Can you tell us more about this program and what it seeks to accomplish?

[Terry] PDP’s Dance TAG seeks to refresh and inspire artists who teach.  The FREE sessions are designed to share ideas with practical content.  There is a host of knowledgeable artists in our local community, who are asked to lead sessions, as well as invited guests from out of town.   I have enjoyed attending the sessions as well, even though I don’t teach (anymore).  I am looking forward to  Ellen Gerdes’ session, which is coming up.  She has an extensive background in classical Chinese dancing – although she is not Chinese.  She will be talking about teaching forms from cultures, that are not one’s own heritage.  Sounds fascinating.  Anyway, it’s an amiable group of artists and there has been, over the past few years, a lot of information shared as well as some new friends and professional contacts made.

Mady Cantor  is the Dance TAG Coordinator.

[Dance Journal] PDP offers classes and workshops as well as reduced rate studio access.  What is the goal behind these offerings?

[Terry] Classes and workshops are now offered in the context of our presenting series.  So this year we offer a “class” with the Local Dance History Project artists – for anybody and  all ages and levels of experience. We are offering a “master” class with Lisa Kraus, Eva Karczag and Vicky Shick.

PDP does not have a full a roster of classes, as it has had in the past.

I have found that if the classes don’t originate with a partnering organization or come through a suggestion by someone in the community, that attendance is very, how shall I say…“fickle” ?   Last year we had some exceptional teachers that only a few dancers took advantage of.   The SCUBA artists guest teach at Temple, which is great because the students then become very eager to see the SCUBA concerts.

And PDP has an ongoing Dance artist is residence at Olney High School.  This year Clyde Evans, Jr. and Lamar Baylor are artist teachers.

Oh, Studio Access.  Well, it was one of our first Projects.  Philadanco has generously lent us their empty studios during the week for local independents and small companies to rehearse.   The low hourly rate – helps to stem overhead.  It seems to be used when artists are in a crunch, like Fringe coming up or other.  It has continued to be of worth so we have kept is as a viable Project. We thank Danco, our partner.

[Dance Journal] Is there anything else you would like to add that I have missed?

[Terry] So –  see you at Philadelphia Dance Projects 2010 ?  Thanks.  PhiladelphiaDance.Org  has become a reliable resource in our community.  Thanks, again.

[Dance Journal] Most definitely and thank you for the kind words!

Philadelphia Dance Projects

PDP Presents ’10
Tickets on Sale Now on Dance Box Office

February 26-27, 2010 – PDP Local Dance History Series 1
March 4, 2010 – Motion Pictures ’10
March 5-6, 2010 – PDP Local Dance History Series 2
March 12-13, 2010 – Premiere of Red Thread
March 19-20, 2010 – SCUBA ’10 National Touring Network for Dance