Challenging Assumptions About Dance
By Alyssa Schoeneman, AEL Intern
Get out the party hats and strap on your dancing shoes! The Dance COLEctive, founded by Illinois MFA Dance alumna Margi Cole, is on the verge of its fifteenth year.
Cole began The Dance COLEctive (TDC) in 1996 in an effort to preserve, advance and strengthen the art of contemporary dance in Chicago and Illinois. Confident in her business know-how, Cole hoped that her company would become an umbrella organization that would attract and support other dance artists. If she wanted to be successful, however, Cole knew that her financial situation was going to need some help.
“My friends and I were initially producing and funding our own work out-of-pocket,” Cole said. “Thankfully, a family friend held a fundraiser for me and raised $10,000. I took that money and began the company… Since then it has been largely through my efforts that the organization continues to thrive.”
TDC regularly self-produces concerts in the Chicagoland area and features site-specific work as a part of its annual repertoire; the company also participates in multi-artist festivals such as Dance Chicago and conducts one or two residencies per year.
“These [dance studio or University] residencies include performances, workshops, master classes, lecture demonstrations and radio interviews,” Cole said. “They provide the company an opportunity to work with people from all walks of life - rural, urban, young, old, privileged, low-income, men and women.”
In addition to their residencies, TDC conducts workshops, classes and lecture demonstrations at area high schools and colleges; past hosts have included Stevenson, Evanston Township, Riverside Brookfield and Northside Prep High Schools.
Cole’s best advice to aspiring dance artists is to look before they leap, no pun intended.
“Do your research,” she said. “And have a plan…The economic climate is not very supportive of the field right now. Accounting and grant writing classes provide significant training for the realities of the field and should be taken by any artist who aspires to found an independent business.”
The economic challenges, Cole continued to say, cause her to spend more time on administration when she would like to be spending more time in the artistic process.
As the artistic director of TDC, Cole prioritizes cutting-edge choreography, innovative collaborations between artists and inspired site-specific works.
“TDC aspires to challenge assumptions about how dance is presented,” Cole said. “Our vision is to become one of Chicago’s premier dance ensembles, and to be recognized for our compelling, socially relevant and inspired choreography.”
Want to learn more? Check out their website at http://www.dancecolective.com/.