The modern-day professional conference is one of the more strange and awkward offspring of capitalism. Hundreds of people in the same field, many of whom already know one another in a less artificial context, pressing flesh in a cheaply carpeted airplane hangar and downing coffee by the pot to stay alert for long days of workshops, speakers and power lunches and nights of overpriced (but partly tax deductible) downtown cocktails. This week the plastic-housed nametags catching the fluorescent lights of McCormick Place will not rest on polo-shirted potbellies but dangle instead from the supple necks of dancers and the administrators who support their work. The event is well justified; in today’s, to borrow a now-familiar phrase, economic climate (that is, one increasingly hostile to art) the dancer must be equal parts artist and hustler. They compete on the same Darwinian playing field as software developers and Hollywood moguls—the measure of success: buzz and dollah dollah bills.
Dance/USA is the national professional organization offering career development, advocacy, the occasional funding opportunity and other business-y resources to individual dancers and their companies across the country. This year’s annual conference program is designed to help dance orgs stay calm and afloat in a stormy abyss of funding cuts, as well as offer related advice on issues like collaborating nationally and engaging and holding the attention of Generation Tweet. Titled, somewhat cumbersomely, “Design It. Dance It. Be the Architect of Your Future” the conference offers managerial, marketing, financial, legal, tech and a smattering of creative insights, couched in the soft-focus language of break-out sessions and speed-consultations.
The four-day event puts a bright intra-industry spotlight on Chicago’s dance community and theaters; two evenings of showcases at the MCA and Dance Center of Columbia College feature a couple dozen of Chicago’s finest companies and artists. Hometown hero Lar Lubovitch, founder of the Chicago Dancing Festival, will be honored Friday night at the Cultural Center in a ceremony open to the public. All other events are for registered conference attendees only; a rather pricey ticket as these things go regardless of the industry, but hopefully one that helps our artists thrive. (Sharon Hoyer)
The Dance/USA conference takes place July 13-16 at McCormick Place and locations around the city. For more information, visit danceusa.org.