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Arts Manager

Total Company Integration Diagram based on Peggy Hackney's original design.

Total Company Integration (in process)

How the application of Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) and Bartenieff Fundamentals (BF) to dance company management might inform organizational communication and community building.

This ongoing research explores the organizational structures of not-for-profit dance companies through the lens of Laban Bartenieff Movement Studies. 

Like all arts industries the dance field is a rapidly changing environment that no longer obeys the assumed rules that arts managers of the past have followed. This dynamic, shifting landscape requires a complementary shift in organizational priorities and strategy from professionals in the field. However, the retooling of any industry is a task of great magnitude. Because of this, and due to the sheer number and variety of disciplines within the dance field, this paper will focus primarily on professional contemporary ballet companies.

The central purpose of this paper is to explore the potential for the application of a movement theory, specifically Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) and Bartenieff Fundamentals (BF), as an analytical framework for the operations of such a dance company. BF are a subset of LMA, which is the most comprehensive system for describing and analyzing movement currently existing.


The breadth of theoretical concepts this paper covers is extensive. The topic is probably too much to explore in depth within a brief work. Additional inquiry and analysis will be needed to both gauge the appropriateness of LMA/BF’ application to the field of dance management and the extent of its viability and usefulness.

I have chosen to explore one small corner of the larger system of Laban Movement Analysis. But the entire system is potentially ripe with application to dance company management.

Utilizing two case studies, Trey McIntyre Project (TMP) and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, I highlight those principles of LMA/BF employed by TMP and Cedar Lake in their management operation, albeit unintentionally. Using Bartenieff’s developmental patterns I then analyze the strategies and programming of those operations. Finally, a model for “total company integration” is presented which any dance company might adopt to improve overall company management.

Far from a ‘silver bullet’ for quick success the aim of this paper is to identify how dance companies are inherently organized as movement entities. Once these organizations are understood in this way it is both easier to manage them and for them to engage with external communities.

Op-Ed on The Devos Institute for Arts Management's move from The Kennedy Center to the University of Maryland

The Diamondback

December 5th, 2013

The University of Maryland is a world-class, educational institution, leading in arts research and innovation. Therefore, I am not surprised by the recent acquisition of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to the University’s portfolio. The DeVos Institute and its creator, Michael Kaiser will no doubt be a valuable asset in furthering the University’s long established role in art making and research.

I have participated in DeVos workshops and reviewed course materials and it is my opinion that, though a great resource for practice-based skill development, the DeVos Institute does not teach with the rigor of inquiry-based education, but rather with prescriptive models and formulae, that long-term, do not support sustainable arts management. Mr. Kaiser has built a wonderful not-for-profit consultancy firm for arts organizations, but I question its place in academia at a Research I institution where theoretical inquiry is paramount.

Mr. Kaiser is spot on, in his Huffington Post column, that we have a lack of great arts managers in this country. Indeed, there is not enough attention paid to the training of arts managers. However, I question Mr. Kaiser’s view that arts management “…is a practical field…and must be taught through real-time, real-world experiences.” This accounts for only half of what makes a great arts manager. The other half, and I would argue, more important, is deeply engaged inquiry. Arts Management as an academic discipline and formalized profession is a youthful field that has not yet begun to scratch the surface of the knowledge potential it holds. Only by insightful theoretical inquiry applied through practice will we be able to find eloquent, effective and sustainable solutions to the many issues that plague the arts. 

All too often, arts management professionals assume that trendy oversimplified models are an all-in-one solution. However, the arts do not fit into neat categorical descriptions. Humanity is constantly and forever changing, in our relationship to ourselves, our environment, society, etc. Therefore the ways in which we define ourselves, culture, are forever in flux. In forcing the arts into an Apollonian model we lose the very purpose for which they exist: to inspire, to provoke inquiry, to catalyze change, to make sense and meaning of our lives. Business-minded managers oftentimes employ a reductive approach to arts management that limits the aesthetic experience between a work of art and its audience to mere transaction. By reducing art to mere product, to be bought and sold, we change our relationship to it and deny its true purpose.

Perhaps the larger problem here is that we have allowed academia to slip down the slope of core purpose from true learning to that of securing jobs. When education becomes so desperately focused on job training, instead of provoking innovation and illumination, it resorts to mere vocational training.

I have great respect for Mr. Kaiser and for all he has done in the name of arts management but I caution the University in adopting a purely practice-based program of arts management. Instead, a program that strongly focuses on challenging accepted norms of management and arts presentation, while pushing students to ask the difficult questions that will truly change how we manage, through inquiry-based research, should be the aim. Of course this should be bolstered by practice but not led by it. The role of a University should be to both transmit and expand humanity’s collective knowledge. We would do well to remind ourselves that our responsibility is to teach students to become independent thinkers and thereby positively affect the world around them. By teaching through prescriptive methods we disempower them and limit possibility. 

Curtis Stedge, M.A.

MFA Candidate in Dance

School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

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