Building Theaters, Patronage, and Artistry
In contrast to the fleeting presence of dance itself, lavish new theaters are typical of a nationwide trend in the United States.
Not only have major dance companies become affiliated with particular buildings and cultural centers; the organizations of performing groups themselves have also become increasingly complex and structured. Particularly when new or live music for ballet and modern dance is involved, large financial investments are often required for each new production. And in recent years, artistic decisions--including those involving the musical elements--are increasingly influenced by boards of directors whose members may be more oriented toward business, social, or political interests than they are toward the art of dance.
Some of the dangers in these developments were addressed by several speakers before a national gathering of Dance USA (a service organization for professional companies). Former Ford Foundation executive W. McNeil Lowry, for one, warned that "management has become the right hand not of artistic directors, but of boards of directors. Creative leaders must take control of their institutions." Similarly, in his keynote speech, choreographer Alwin Nikolais voiced concern that performing companies are becoming removed from the creative initiatives that sparked them in the first place. 1
Another development that has brought both benefits and challenges is the increased involvement in the arts on the part of both government and private corporations. On the one hand, their support and funding is most welcome. But on the other hand, there are some accompanying dangers to be wary of. For instance, Agnes de Mille warned students at the Graham School about some of the pitfalls of bureaucracy. Though she herself had been one of the original panelists of the National Endowment for the Arts, she nevertheless pointed out