Dance Counts: Project Overview


Project Background and Description

Dance Counts: The Boston Area Dance Survey Project is a Dance for World Community-led effort to better understand and connect the Boston-area dance community.  Funded by the Barr Foundation, the project’s first phase focuses on identifying the breadth, depth, and diversity of the dance community.

This project has grown out of pre-existing dance activity.  Dance is alive in and vital to Boston. It appears in concert, therapeutic, religious, social, and educational settings.  Our community dances in public schools and in parks, on stage and on the subway.  And many of us regularly dance in the privacy of our own homes.  Seeking to amplify the vibrancy of this dance scene, in 2009 José Mateo Ballet Theatre launched Dance for World Community (DWC), an initiative designed to bring all people together around dance and to harness the vast power of dance to create social change.  DWC makes a conscious effort to be inclusive, but as we have worked to identify and include more dance forms in all DWC programs and activities, we have become increasingly aware that there are many parts of the dance community that we are not reaching.  For example, over 80 groups represented more than 40 dance forms in this year’s annual DWC Festival, but there are still many parts of the dance community that we do not know and that very probably do not know us.  Seeking ways to discover and include the entire Boston dance community led to the concept for this multi-phase project – a network weaving and network mapping project that would help the community at large to fully understand the size, strength, and importance of dance in Boston.  We believe that a fuller knowledge of the diversity and vibrancy of Boston’s dance community could have value for everyone in the community, not just those who are already publicly well known.

This multi-year project will involve several phases.  We will begin with a discovery phase, during which we hope to identify and gather dance makers, dancers, therapists, and other dance enthusiasts throughout greater Boston.  Through a series of community meetings and discussions, members of the dance community will meet or introduce new friends and colleagues.  We will begin to create a portrait of:

–       Who is dancing?
–       How do they dance?
–       Where is it happening?
–       Why dance is important to people who dance and to the community at large?

We will work with interested parties in the community to complete as full inventory of dance activity in Boston as possible, build greater visibility for the sector, and continue to grow and weave the network.  We expect that this work will:

–       Develop a sense of the scope, numbers, and diversity of the dance community and create an initial picture of the ecosystem
–       Begin to identify issues of concern in the dance community
–       Build stronger connections grounded in trust between the leaders of the known dance community
–       Begin to grow the network beyond the horizon of the current known dance community


Phase 1: Discovery and Community Meetings

The first phase of this project will focus on discovery – on identifying and connecting with hard-to-reach members of the dance community.  We include all forms of dance: performance dance, social dance, educational dance, traditional dance, cultural dance, ritual dance, spiritual dance, and more.  To seek connections in all parts of the dance community, we will reach out to cultural organizations, consulates, minority faith-based organizations, and other existing dance networks.  We ask any participant in the Boston-area dance scene to become involved, contact people they know, seek out new connections, and encourage others to become connected.  We will collect basic information from people so that we can communicate and grow our network.

During this stage, we also invite dancers to fill out a brief survey about their involvement in the Boston-area dance community.  Specifically, we seek to discover where and how people dance, and how dance is being used to strengthen the social, physical, and mental health of our communities.  Survey data will be used to discover people and places in the dance community previously unknown to us; from there, we will build deeper relationships with these new connections.

Phase 1 features four community meetings in the following groups of neighborhoods: Back Bay/South End/South Boston, Roxbury/Dorchester/Jamaica Plain/Mattapan, East Boston/Chelsea, and Cambridge/Somerville.  The meetings will be open to anyone in the dance community and will be an opportunity to introduce this project and to hear feedback and ideas.  They will be held during Fall 2015. Phase 1 will also include Talk About Dance meetings on the themes of Dance, Health & Wellness and Spiritual & Secular Traditions in Dance.


Phase 2 and Beyond

Future phases will be determined with input from the community during Phase 1. Likely activities include a comprehensive survey of dance activity and/or dancers in the Boston area.  A potential output is an interactive dance map on which dance organizations (formal or informal), dance spaces, etc. could place themselves.  Such a map could increase connectivity in the community and would increase the visibility of the community at large; it would be an open resource for dancers, scholars, funders, and anyone with an interest in dance and an Internet connection.


Get Involved! How You Can Help

Send dancers and dance enthusiasts in your network our way! In particular, encourage them to attend a community meeting.

Those interested in getting more involved should contact Julie Yen.



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