Shawn Short
Shawn Short

Shawn Short

I am Shawn Short, hailing from the East coast, Washington, DC to be exact.

I am a former dancer with the Adrian Bolton Dance Company, Bolton/Smith, El Teatro de Danza Contemporanea El Salvador, and a guest artist with Dance Alloy. I have had the opportunity to study with faculty from Philadanco, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Evidence Dance Company, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, The Washington Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet, Lines Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. I hold a BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University and a MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin.

My teaching experience spans 12+ years; I have taught in dance studios, national schools and higher education dance programs.

In 2007, I founded Dissonance Dance Theatre, Washington, D.C.’s only Black-managed contemporary ballet company, where I function as the producing artistic director and resident choreographer. Since its inception, Dissonance Dance Theatre boosts alumni that are working nationally and internationally as dance artists.

The Director-to-Director column is an open forum that shares working knowledge that I, along with other successful directors, have gathered through experience. Director-to-Director aspires to galvanize and engender aspiring directors, as well as established directors, with tools to increase the number of African-American owned and operated dance institutions.

Professional Dance Company for Dummies

So you want to start a dance company of your own? Owning or managing your own dance company can look great on paper, but it’s no ‘walk in the park’. Creating the right dance entity for your artistic purposes can be crucial to its success. Here are a few basic questions to consider:

  1. Do you want a repertoire or signature styled company?
  2. What kind of dancers do you wish to employ?
  3. Are you a project artist?
  4. Do you want to have a full production season or participate in and/or secure fun gigs?

Do you want a repertoire or signature-styled company?

This can be the ‘make or break’ of a dance startup.

A repertoire company is one in which the dance company’s catalog of dance works are not created solely by one choreographer; other choreographers are commissioned to create works for repertoire companies.

  • Examples of successful repertoire companies: Philadanco and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

A signature-styled company is one that performs dance works that are solely created by one choreographer.

  • Examples of successful signature-styled companies: New York City Ballet, River North Dance Chicago, Dissonance Dance Theatre

Evidence, A Dance Company

What kind of dancers do you wish to employ?

  • Rule of thumb: The more trained and experienced the dancer, the more he/she will expect to be paid.
  • Start your company with fellow dancers that you know and feel comfortable working with. College students are also great company member candidates to help get your company’s artistic product off the ground.
  • Keep dancers happy with a great rehearsal space, an organized operation, performance stipends, and professional dance photo shoots for your promotional purposes and their personal dance reels and resumes. This will show your dancers that you appreciate them. Sometimes this will suffice, initially, in lieu of your poor pockets.

Are you a project artist?        

If you want to have your choreographic voice heard, but don’t want the crushing financial operational overhead, think about creating a project-based company.

Consider a fiscal sponsorship program to help with funding and organizing your project. Most fiscal sponsors offer workshops on developing your project, and can assist you if you wish to turn your dance project into a larger non-profit dance company.

Check out the New York Foundation for the Art or Fractured Atlas.

Do you want a production season or fun gigs?

Productions cost MONEY and time!

If you are just starting your company, consider showcases at credible dance organizations with marketing capacity to get your company’s brand into a local dance community.  Once you develop an audience, consider putting your money into a one-night performance.

With success, you are on your way.

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