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Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 2

Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 2

By Joanna L. Johnston, MBA, CPA
RDT Board Treasurer and UACPA Non-Profit Committee Member

This article was originally published in The Journal Entry, a publication of the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants. Writes Joanna, “Since this article was published in 2014, I’ve learned so much more about Repertory Dance Theatre and the art form. Consequently, I’ve re-upped for another term as a trustee of RDT’s board. This extended stay at America’s premier repertory dance company has given me added insight into the way America’s arts organizations not only survive change but thrive because of it and how accounting professionals can be a critical part of that success.”

In part 1, Joanna, a professional CPA and Repertory Dance Theatre’s current Board Treasurer, talks about the history of modern dance, RDT, and what she feels our art from offers an audience.  In this post she talks about the challenges and unique opportunities a dance company faces as it transitions staff members and strives to keep the Company and the art form moving forward.

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Like most arts organizations … RDT must compete with other performing arts companies and entertainment outlets for audiences, sponsors and donors. Throughout the last decade of economic downturns, RDT has needed to look for new ways to recruit and retain valuable corporate and foundation sponsorships. In addition, RDT has had to evaluate its financial position and cut expenses without cutting quality. Several years ago the Company reached out to the accounting community through the UACPA [Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants] in an effort to recruit CPAs for its board of trustees. Three CPAs responded, and [as of 2014] two are still serving on the board in executive positions. Having CPAs on the board has proved to be an invaluable asset. Their awareness of current tax laws and GAAP standards have helped the organization obtain refundable small business health care credits, provide assistance with reporting issues, budget and plan for cash flow fluctuations, work with auditors throughout the audit process and act as liaisons with local and state agencies concerning public funding for the arts. The administrative staff for RDT is only five full time employees, and none are accounting professionals, so it is imperative to have CPAs on the board to advise and support the staff on financial and reporting matters.

Recently, RDT has had to confront an unanticipated succession issue. RDT’s bookkeeper for the last 13 years was diagnosed with a terminal illness in June 2013. Even though the position was only part-time, she was responsible for recording all the financial transactions including receivables, payables, payroll and tax payments. She performed reconciliations and prepared financial reports for the administrative staff and the board. She was the only member of the staff who knew how to use the accounting software, print checks and prepare the financial information and reports. When Linda Smith, RDT’s Executive Director, became aware of the bookkeeper’s illness, the Company was challenged and in need of current and accurate financial information for grant proposals and end-of-year reconciliation. There was a struggle to get the books caught up while attempting to advise other members of the staff and board treasurer how to use the software to record transactions, prepare reports and print checks.

RDT wanted to honor a dedicated employee’s years of service while recruiting a new bookkeeper. A smooth transition needed to be created to keep financial continuity in the interim. I was asked as the board treasurer to step in for a two-week period to get invoices recorded, payables paid and travel per diem checks printed for the dancers going out on tour, before another bookkeeper was hired and took over. … RDT’s new bookkeeper … [had] to adjust to new software and accounting methods that function differently. It … [took] some time before the financial process … [was] running smoothly again, but with the help of experienced CPAs on the Board, the succession [was completed.]

This situation has demonstrated to the staff and board the importance of cross-training and information- sharing in a small non-profit organization. Going forward, a plan … [was] created to ensure that more than one person knows how to perform basic financial functions within the Company, and that key personnel feel comfortable sharing those duties with other members of the staff. Currently the board and administrative members of the RDT staff are formulating a strategy that incorporates segregation of duties and contingency planning to ensure accurate financial reporting and financial stability. Meanwhile, the artistic staff continues focusing on the mission of the organization which is still, [now in its 51st year] … dedicated to the creation, preservation, performance and appreciation of modern dance.

Many people confuse the non-profit status of an organization with the organization’s goals to be profitable in order to achieve its mission. Incorporating skilled accounting professionals on the staff and on the board of a non-profit arts organization like Repertory Dance Theater help ensure financial continuity while enabling the artistic staff and performers to provide quality entertainment and educational opportunities to the community.

Joanna L. Johnston, CPA is a Tax Manager at BDO USA, LLP with a passion for non-profit arts organizations. She is the Treasurer for Repertory Dance Theater, Vice-President of Finance for the Utah Wind Symphony, as well as a member of the University of Utah Business Alumni Association Board. She can be reached at jljohnston@bdo.com

Movement That Transcends its Meaning: New Work in RDT’s EMERGE

Movement That Transcends its Meaning: New Work in RDT’s EMERGE

A hand placed over your mouth …

A hand covering your eyes … your partner’s eyes …

Grabbing someone by the neck …

Imagine my joy when I get feedback on my piece saying, “Wow, you did a whole dance about the ‘forbidden’ gestures.  That was gutsy.”

Oops … I totally did.

How did this happen?  I didn’t mean to use gestures that I’ve seen a million times before–that have been done so often that they almost don’t mean a thing.

When I choreograph I usually try to keep one thing in mind DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

What does that mean exactly?  That statement is a lot harder to fulfill than it might seem–it requires that you be fully aware of your habits, your usual choices, your movement style and movement vocabulary.  It means you have to explore new musical choices, you have to break old habits, you have to push yourself to do something you find uncomfortable. It means you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to just do something different than what I’VE done before?  Do I want to do something that NO ONE has ever seen before? Do I focus on a new movement vocabulary?  A new process?”

In this day and age, that’s very hard to do–not all movements are created equal.

Contemporary dancers live in a time that is so saturated with movement that many movements or “moves” are already freighted with associations, ideas, images, or even time and place.  They become a kind of short-hand that short-circuits the creative process. Hence, the forbidden moves …

  • death drop to one knee
  • tricks/leaps/turns that we can see coming because of a preparation, a set up, or a chasse that ALWAYS comes before the trick
  • moves that are made famous in a music video and are then copied by people in every walk of life: for example, The Whip, the Dab …
  • grabbing your head in both hands and moving it in a big circle
  • reaching out into space, grabbing nothing with a pained look on your face
  • a fan kick or side tilt with your who-who-dilly directed straight at the audience
  • any of these moves by the now in-famous Contemporary Eric …

In dance we use the term “movement vocabulary.” And as with spoken language, moves (like words) can come and go, becoming fashionable and then unfashionable. And they can also lose their meaning altogether, just as words and terminology do: Who knows what the word “synergy” means these days (especially when they appear in a business book), or “surreal.” Words actually do have a denotative meaning (you can look them up in a dictionary), but they’re used so commonly (“We need to have ‘closure’.”) that terminology can become bereft of meaning, even leading, in its extremes, to what’s been called “semantic satiation.”

The same is true of vocabulary in movement or dance. There are overused phrases or words that eventually when spoken or performed no longer carry meaning or importance which have been lost over time after they were used repeatedly without focus or intent. In dance, it’s not just mindless repetition that causes this; sometimes the language loses its power when it is tied to the lyrics of a pop song or even just the crescendo of the music.  In fact, these moves can actually subtract meaning from your work by referencing something so common place, so well-known that they become virtually indecipherable.

So why on earth did I use several of them as a motifs for my duet Folie A Duex which debuts this weekend at RDT’s Emerge?

Good question. I don’t know–all I can tell you is, I wasn’t thinking about those moves as stock gestures.

It was about following an idea … a feeling–a state of being–a brief image that popped into my head, months ago, as I was thinking about this duet.

I don’t believe in questioning an idea. I simply work to fulfill that idea, and that idea comes with a movement vocabulary, a style, a series of qualities.  I work to identify those qualities and create movement, partnering, and dance structures that fit that idea.

Yes … my original idea did include these moments of touching, of covering eyes, mouths, necks, check, hips, etc.  But it was the quality of touch that was important.  It was the way the dancer made contact with themselves or their partner that caught my attention … that’s what I was exploring.  It didn’t seem to matter that I’d seen the gestures before.  Obviously, that didn’t even cross my mind.

I guess that like a creative writer, I was exploring movement language in a new way.  I was exploring the quality of the language, these moves in their purest form. They aren’t made in anger, in sadness. They aren’t moments designed to represent tenderness or compassion.

RDT Dancers Ursula Perry and Dan Higgins will perform “Folie A Duex,” an original work by Nick Cendese at EMERGE.

This is a challenge for both the dancers (Ursula & Dan) and myself. We’ve worked hard to coach one another in how we touch each other: the directness of the hand, the firmness of the touch, the way the hand doesn’t caress up the body to the place where it ends. All these gestures, when you look at them closely, have what seems to be inherent meaning.  The most basic arrangement of the duet–a man and a woman–already says so much! Humans are meaning-making creatures and we subscribe meaning to almost everything we see, even when we don’t mean to or know we are doing it.

As choreographer, I want my dancers to be able to perform these gestures, which makes up the work’s “language,” without commenting on them. If I’ve done my job properly, you won’t see the touches as the main goal of the piece. These moves that have been executed a thousand times are a recurring motif that, hopefully, has been used to paint a picture of a feeling, of a moment between two people, a moment that is intangible and diffuse and ghost-like.  A moment that lives openly and allows you, the viewer, to enter the conversation and to add your own meaning. In a sense my objective is to have the movement in “Folie A Duex” transcend the meaning of its vocabulary, something that a poet–whose tools are words drawn from the pool of vocabulary we all use–is always aspiring to.

Come see if I was able to do that this weekend at Emerge–my little duet based around forbidden movements.

RDT Gift Guide for the Dancer (or dance lover) in your life

RDT Gift Guide for the Dancer (or dance lover) in your life

the ultimate

Dance Classes

Every dancer knows that the only way to get better is to take class! Even our professional dancers take class EVERY DAY to get better, hone their skills and progress.

But you don’t have to be a professional dancer to take class. At RDT’s Dance Center on Broadway, we offer classes for every skill level (even if you’ve never set foot in a dance studio before).

All classes are in the evenings and on weekends, so they fit into your schedule and there’s no long-term commitment! You can drop in to classes as you please.
And …  there’s everything from Modern to Hip Hop to the newly formed Bollywood class!
Check out the full schedule here.

A 10-Class punch-card is good for any class on the schedule and the best bang for your buck.

Purchase Now

 

If you’d like to purchase a gift card for your loved one in a denomination other than $100, contact us. 🙂

And … if you can’t decide, check out the OPEN HOUSE on January 7. You can dance all day for just $10! Learn more>>


Concert Dance Tickets

Not everyone wants to try dance — they’d rather just watch. And who’s to blame them? Beautiful bodies moving beautifully on stage is really a sight to behold.
Well … you’ve come to the right place. This is our specialty. 😉

RDT has a incredible shows coming up that you won’t want to miss.

For the wild spirit: EMERGEEMERGE_DATE

EMERGE is RDT’s dance choreography showcase, featuring 8 dances by the RDT dancers and Artistic Staff. Dances feature local artists as well as RDT dancers.
It’s the place to be to see the next generation of choreographers. BUY TICKETS HERE>>

For the party animal: REGALIA

REGALIA is not only a choreographic spectacle, but an awesome party! With a VIP ticket  you and your guest will enjoy a generous cocktail hour while you wander the studios of the Rose Wagner to watch dance being created before your very eyes.
Then you’ll devour a scrumptious meal catered by Utah Food Services in the Leona Wagner Black Box Theatre.
Then it’s time to watch the newly created REGALIA_datedances on stage by 4 competing choreographers who have been selected for the experience, artistry, and wit.
After which you get to vote for your favorite to win an RDT commission for next year!
Afterwards, join the whole cast and audience on stage to dance the night away with the Joe Muscolino Band.
A seriously awesome evening.

BUY TICKETS HERE>>

Not quite in your price range? Check out the Performance Ticket for just $50. You’ll see the full performance and get to dance on stage after the show!

 

15109588_10154192988690197_7574637109403919961_nFor the undecided: ArtTix Gift card

You can purchase ArtTix gift cards so they can choose the RDT show they want to see!

Click here to purchase


 RDT-79_dan_winterdanceWinter Workshop

For the semi-professional/pre-professional dancer in your life. Check out WINTERDANCE, for the dancer who is really serious.
Students will work with RDT dancers in technique, improv, composition, and … even learn a piece to perform at RDT’s concert EMERGE, January 6-7!

Learn more>>

 


 Kneeotech Yoga/Dance Pants

If you’ve ever taken a dance class, you’ve probably had some aches in your knees. Kneeotech by Evolution Activewear has the solution. Their stylish yoga pants have knee-pads built right in. So you can take yourself to the floor with ease and not worry about your knees turning as purple as RDT’s logo. 😉

RDT endorses Kneeotech and loves wearing these awesome pants in rehearsal. Check out the RDT dancers trying them out!

LEARN MORE & PURCHASE


Support Everyone’s Favorite Dance Company

While everyone loves getting “things” …  sometimes the gift that means the most is the gift of giving back.
If RDT means a lot to you (or someone you care about), consider making a donation to help us continue to create, preserve, perform, and perpetuate the art of modern dance.
You can earmark your gift for for a variety of programs, including RDT’s school outreach throughout Utah; a particular upcoming concert; RDT’s children’s series Ring Around the Rose; or a particular upcoming commission or reconstruction.

Donate Now

 

If you’d like to make a donation in someone’s name as a gift, including a membership in RDT’s new Sustainers Club (with cool perks!), just click “This is a tribute donation” when prompted. 

THANKYOU


 

MERCHANT_PARTNERS300X300And one final idea…

If the best idea for your loved one isn’t on this list … consider SHOPPING TO SUPPORT RDT.
You can use this link to shop at some of your favorite retailers (only some of which are shown here), and RDT will get a percentage back in return!
And all you have to do is shop!
Shop to Support


Or check out the RDT Gift Shop for some awesome T-shirts!

Shop Now

Bringing RDT’s BRIO to the Classroom

Bringing RDT’s BRIO to the Classroom

Next week, RDT will perform two student matinees for close to 700 students. Before the students see BRIO, they will receive a study guide from our Education Director Lynne Larson to help them understand what they will see. Also, teachers are given lesson plans to help the students prepare for what they will see in the show. Here are some lesson plans you can try with your dance students. 


Lesson Plan—Small Area Choreography

Turf
Shapiro & Smith’s “Turf” performed by Katherine Winder and Ursula Perry.

In Turf and Jack, much of the choreography takes place in a small, defined space: In Jack, sitting or standing on a chair and in Turf, on small, large or rectangular rugs. To choreograph in small, defined spaces is a wonderful skill to develop and can lead to very innovative movement vocabulary.

  • Tape off a 2 X 4 area on the dance floor. Create as many as you can use for the number of students you have in your class. Students can work in pairs or alone.
  • Restrict the students’ movement creation to the space inside the tape.
    1. First Instruction: Create 8 gestures (a wave of the hand, a shrug of the shoulders, etc.) on various levels (high, medium and low) in the space.
    2. Second Instruction: Create 4 movements (a turn, a reach, a twist, etc.) facing different directions in the small space area.
    3. Third Instruction: Combine gestures and movements to create a phrase.
    4. Fourth Instruction: Show phrases to one another for feedback. Ask students watching what images came to mind while they were observing and also what type of sound might accompany the movement sequence.
    5. Students could then take some time to further develop their small space studies with the suggested imagery and music ideas. The same ideas could also be explored on a chair, in a big box, on a bench, etc.


Lesson Plan—Props and Dance

In the BRIO Concert, most of the dances use a prop. These props are quite ordinary and are objects found in your home and that you use every day:  blankets, chairs, and rugs. Using a prop in dance choreography can be challenging and unpredictable, but can also create wonderful movement vocabulary and images.

  • Ask the students to bring an object from home into class, something they use everyday. One of the wonderful things about props in creative dance is that we, as innovative, creative thinkers, can play and discover amazing new ways to use the prop other than the way it was intended.
    1. First Instruction: Talk with the students about the normal use of the prop and discourage them from “acting out” the normal uses of the object, but encourage them to think “outside the box” and create innovative and challenging ways to use the prop. Have them work on creating 4 unique ideas with their prop. If they would like to be in partners or groups to create, that is great. Allow each student time to create with their prop in the group, then switch to the next student to ensure all get creative work time. Once each student has 4 ideas with their prop, show to the class and give feedback.
    2. Second Instruction: Using the feedback with their 4 ideas, have students begin to develop movement phrases around their prop incorporating the innovations they already created and link them into a short movement/prop study.
      1. Ask them further questions, (for example, How is your prop introduced? What is its purpose? How does the movement relate to the prop?) to advance their studies even more.
Shapiro & Smith's "Dance With Two Army Blankets" featuring Nicholas Cendese, Joshua Larson, and Thayer Jonutz.
Shapiro & Smith’s “Dance With Two Army Blankets” featuring  Joshua Larson, Nicholas Cendese, and Thayer Jonutz.

 


 

Lesson Plan—Children’s Rhymes

In Jack and Pat-a-Cake, children’s nursery rhymes and games are used as the inspiration and accompaniment for both pieces. This is an interesting way to construct a piece using words, concepts and movements that are familiar to a large majority of our population. As in most universal experiences, rhymes and words such as the ones in Jack and Pat-a-Cake will mean different things to different people.

  • Ask the students to select a nursery rhyme that is special to them from their childhood. Have them do a little research to discover if there are variations to the rhyme, different wording, order, etc.
  • Using the text as a basis, have the students begin to develop movement motifs that represent the words of the rhyme. Once again, not “acting out” the rhyme, but taking the words and creating innovative movement from the meaning of the words.
  • Try either the mover reciting the rhyme as she/he is moving or another dancer reciting as the other moves. Show to the group.
Joanie Smith's "Jack" performed by Justin Bass and Tyler Orcutt.
Joanie Smith’s “Jack” performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass.

 

For more lesson plans and ideas about teaching in the classroom, check out the full BRIO study guide here>>

A Day in the life of an RDT Dancer

A Day in the life of an RDT Dancer

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A Day in the Life of a Modern Dancer: What does an RDT dancer’s schedule look like?

By Jaclyn Brown

My daily schedule is something I get asked about in almost every Q&A I have ever been a part of. I suppose people are just intrigued by the idea of dancing as a career, and wonder what we do all day! Most think that we spend the majority of our time teaching, when in reality we are constantly rehearsing and preparing ourselves physically for upcoming performances. To give you an idea, here is a glimpse into the daily life of an RDT dancer:

6:30am– I have learned that our days are hard enough that if I don’t get my cross training in during the morning, I won’t have enough steam left after work to get it done. So, I usually wake up a little earlier to run on my treadmill for about 30 minutes. Then I quickly get ready for the day and leave my house by 8am for the morning commute to work from outside Salt Lake City.

8:40am– Most of the dancers have arrived at the studio by now and we start preparing for the day. For me this includes rolling out, hip opening/strength exercises, breathing/meditation, reviewing material we will rehearse later in the day, etc.

9:00-10:30am– Company class. This is essential to prepare us for a full day of rehearsing. Each company member usually teaches one week per year. The rest of the time the teachers range from our rehearsal directors to guest choreographers and local university professors. Ideally we have two days of ballet class and 3 days of modern class, for a total of 5 rehearsal days per week (Monday-Friday).

10:30-10:45am– We have a 15-minute break. This is usually only enough time to run to the restroom, grab a quick snack, hydrate, and cool down the body/stretch.

20160920_10292810:45am-1pm– Rehearse! We aim to schedule our most difficult tasks during this time frame. The reason for this is that it can be difficult to learn new choreography or dance full-out during the last half of the day when your brain and body can become foggy. This is the time to run dances for stamina, learn new choreography, and the like.

1-2pm- Lunch break. Some of us pack lunch, some of us eat out, some of us go home to eat and let out pets! The weeks closer to our performances become very intense during the last half of the day, so it’s important to eat wisely at this time … enough to fuel our bodies accordingly.

2-4pm– Final stretch of rehearsing. We cover whatever else is a priority at the time. Often we are preparing several different shows at the same time. For example, right now we are prepping our home season concert while also getting up our touring show and other one-time performances. The touring show is full of dances that we have previously performed and just need to revisit and polish up. The home show is usually full of dances that will premiere and aren’t necessarily ingrained in our bodies yet.

4pm– Done for the day! Many go to their other jobs like teaching at dance studios or working in a restaurant. Personally, I don’t have a second job, so I get to go home and recuperate for the next day! This includes things like walking my dog, cleaning, cooking a healthy dinner, and other “normal” people things.

I love our schedule at RDT. To me it is perfectly balanced, and we always seem to pull off what we need to within the 9-4 timeframe. Other companies rehearse for longer or on weekends. Although certain situations arise in which that is true for us, I prefer our schedule because it leaves time to have a regular life as well. The daily grind can become overwhelming when you only have one or two days off to play catch up. This is especially true when we are deep into our busy season. But it is always worth it when we step out on that stage prepared because of our consistency in the months beforehand! After fifty years of this schedule, I believe that RDT has worked out all the kinks!

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Jaclyn Brown is currently in her third season with Repertory Dance Theatre, and greatly enjoys sharing her love of the art form through performing on stages of every kind in every place possible.