DanceUSA Comes to Philadelphia

by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal

Amidst spring graduations, recitals, festivals and season finales, nearly 500 dance professionals from across the country gathered in Philadelphia for the annual DanceUSA Conference.  Co-hosted by the Kimmel Center and the University of the Arts, the conference brought together arts administrators, choreographers, presenters, dancers and musicians for four days of workshops, networking and performances.

Keynote speaker Aaron Dworkin, Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization, kicked off the conference with an inspiring presentation on youth development and diversity in classical music.  Breakout sessions ranged from co-op business models and music rights to stress management for organizational development and racial equity.

The conference also included some less-conventional programming in the form of the “Un-conference,” a series of informal conversations led by conference attendees and hosted at UArts, and daily SmART Bar sessions, in which attendees could sign up for individual 20-minute conversations with industry leaders and representatives.

Also unique was the “campus style” organization of the conference.  Participants were shuttled from the Kimmel to the Barnes for the Opening Night Reception, to the Zellerbach for a series of performances at noon, back to the Kimmel for a reception honoring Joan Myers Brown, Barbara Weisberger and Sharon Gersten Luckman, and finally back to University City for a second performance series at Drexel’s Mandell Theater.  Workshops were held at both UArts and the Kimmel, and on Friday night conference attendees had their choice between PA Ballet’s Forsythe & Kilián at Academy of Music, ThirdBird at Christ Church Neighborhood House and Philly Late Night at the Performance Garage.

Although this made for an extremely busy conference, it gave national and even international visitors a great overview of Philadelphia’s thriving dance scene.  Lela Aisha Jones and Deneane Richburg of The Requisite Movers co-chaired the Conference Performance Committee, which was tasked with selecting the best of the best from the city’s established companies, independent artists and up-and-coming choreographers.

The Opening Night Reception at the Barnes featured Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company, Merián Soto/Performance Practices, Kun Yang Lin/Dancers and Tori Lawrence + Co.  The following day, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Group Motion Dance Company, Kariamu and Company: Traditions, Koresh Dance Company, BalletX and Rennie Harris Puremovement performed at the Zellerbach.  Later that evening, Pasion Y Arte, The Lady Hoofers, Raphael Xavier, Pink Hair Affair, Alchemy Dance Company, Philadanco, Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Theater, Leah Stein Dance Company and Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble performed at the Mandell.

Next year’s conference will be held from June 18-21, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN.

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist.  She holds an MA in Dance Anthropology and is also the co-founder of The Lady Hoofers, Philadelphia’s only all-female tap company.  Her work can be found at