No dance experience is required to attend the first Women In Dance Leadership Conference this weekend at the Manship Theatre.
Attendees don’t have to be women, either.
“It’s all about women in leadership roles,” says Sandra Parks, founder of Women In Dance. “It celebrates female leadership in dance making and continues further discussions about developing more female leadership positions for all professions.”
The conference runs from Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 1, and includes speakers, panel discussions, master classes, solo performances, specially choreographed dances and public performances by professional dance companies.
More than 150 people have already signed up, including choreographers bringing dancers from throughout the world.
“We had choreographers from 21 countries submit their work to the conference,” Parks says. “We chose 10 out of the 21 through a juried process. Only eight are able to attend the conference. We’ll have them coming from Canada, Italy, Taiwan and the United States.”
And each of these groups will be traveling to Baton Rouge at its own expense.
“All of the speakers are also donating their time,” Parks says. “We are grateful that so many people want to participate”
Among the featured choreographers will be Baton Rouge native Anji Crain, who now lives in New York.
Members of the LSU Dance Program will be performing her six-minute piece, “Tipping the Scale,” which Crain calls “urban fusion choreography.”
“The work will be presented in two increments — ?rst as the original short ?lm and second as a live production with LSU dancers,” Crain says. “‘Tipping the Scale’ began as a site-specific choreography with 25 dancers and explores the contrasts that are ever present in faith, our relationship to self and others and the cathartic release of purging such forces to find a more authentic self.”
The conference is a Louisiana premiere for Crain’s work.
She has previously worked with performers from New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Parsons Dance, Philadanco and Broadway shows, as well as with Virgil Gadson and Megz Alfonso of recent “So You Think You Can Dance” fame.
Parks has been director of the LSU Dance Program for three years and is excited that her students will be working with Crain. She sees the conference as a chance to further their education, teaching them about stepping into leadership roles where only 30 percent of the field in the U.S. is headed by women.
“I did my research, and you would think that in a field like dance, you would have more women heading dance companies,” Parks says. “I was surprised to find that this isn’t the case. So, this is a chance to empower and encourage women.”
Women In Dance will include presentations by Amy Hall Garner, past choreographer for Beyonce’s concert tours; Yin Mei, a choreography fellow of the New York Foundation for the Arts; Kim Jones, former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company; Ann Dils, chair of the University of North Carolina Department of Dance; UCLA professor Susan Leigh Foster; and Karole Armitage, artistic director of Armitage GONE! dance company
Both companies’ appearances also are a part of the Manship Theatre’s Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Dance Series. Both companies also will offer master classes.
“This is something for everybody,” Parks says. “We hope to make this a biannual event.”