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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

Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 1

Accounting for Change at Repertory Dance Theater, part 1

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.”

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What is Modern Dance? As a board member for Repertory Dance Theater for over five years, I still have difficulty answering that question. My typical response is “Modern dance is an emotional, free-flowing dance style that needs to be experienced. Please join me at a performance. You won’t be disappointed.”

Modern Dance was born in the early 20th century. Early modern dancers broke away from classical ballet  and other forms of “academic” dance. They focused on “self-expression” and created movement to communicate the energy, the society and sometimes the politics of the 20th century.  Costumes became less restrictive; dancers frequently performed in bare feet and were not afraid to show the effort in creating movement. In the 1930’s, pioneers such as Martha Graham focused on muscular contraction and release, resulting in movements that were sharp, jagged and “fraught with inner meaning, with excitement and surge.” Other choreographers such as Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp are known world-wide for developing their own individual movement languages, styles, and choreographic theories.  Today, modern dance encompasses a wide variety of influences including African-American dance, jazz, ballet, and traditional cultural dances from across the globe. It is now an international art form.

Repertory Dance Theater (RDT) was founded in 1966 through a cooperative effort between the Salt Lake City dance community, the University of Utah, and a major grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Virginia Tanner, a respected educator and director of the Children’s Dance Theater, dreamt of having a professional company of dancers dedicated to the performance, creation and preservation of American modern dance. As a founding member of the company, Linda C. Smith has strived to fulfill that dream, first as a dancer, and now as RDT’s Executive/Artistic Director. As a result of her efforts, RDT, in residence at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, has become both a museum and contemporary gallery of modern dance.

The “storefront” for many performing arts groups including RDT is public performances. However, there is so much more to the Company than meets the eye. RDT’s community outreach programs include adult dance classes [conducted at RDT’s Dance Center on Broadway], ranging from Flamenco and Jazz to African and Ballet. Summer workshops offer high school and college students opportunities to dance and create with nationally renowned choreographers. Ring Around the Rose is a monthly series of interactive performances targeted toward families to encourage understanding and appreciation for the arts. Through Arts in Education programs sponsored by the Utah State Office of Education, each year RDT dancers visit 25,000 students in elementary schools across the state demonstrating the interaction between art, history, ecology and cultural diversity through dance. Students learn new concepts in problem-solving through movement and are presented with new avenues of awareness that can improve self-confidence and provide opportunities for each student to create and explore. RDT’s extensive collections of dance works enable the dancers to tour the country throughout the year, providing national recognition for the company. Through its performances and outreach, RDT is telling America’s story through dance.

 

Come back for part 2 on Monday to learn more about the unique difficulties and challenges RDT faces each year and the special skills Joanna brings to the board as she helps steer RDT to success.

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

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

Vigor, gusto, zest, enthusiasm . . . a note from the Executive/Artistic Director

By Linda C. Smith

This weekend, RDT presents BRIO … an appropriate title for a concert filled with vigor, vivacity, gusto, verve, zest, enthusiasm, vitality, dynamism, animation, spirit and most of all energy.

BRIO will present five works created by two incomparable artists known as Shapiro & Smith. Danial Shapiro & Joanie Smith, logo_shapirosmithhusband and wife, started collaborating in 1985. Fascinated by the situations and passions which shape our behavior, they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation. Their work is balanced by a unique blend of biting sarcasm, breathtaking physicality and emotional depth. Shapiro & Smith Dance has a reputation for performing tales of beauty and wit that run the gamut from searingly provocative to absurdly hilarious.  They have earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment.

… they made dances about real people, creating metaphors of trust, loss and cooperation.

RDT became acquainted with the choreographic duo in the mid 1990’s. I was initially impressed with their remarkable method of collaboration and their inventive use of props. In 1996, RDT was able to acquire a short but unique dance featuring items from World War II army surplus.  The work highlights close coordination as dancers leap, catapult, catch and soar with the aid of two vintage blankets. I never tire of watching the daring RDT dancers execute tireless and unexpected movement on the edge of chaos.

"Dance With Two Army Blankets"
“Dance With Two Army Blankets”
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“Turf” featuring dancer, Katherine Winder

When Utah was named as the site for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I began to commission works that celebrated the spirit of human excellence, human effort and human creativity. I invited Shapiro & Smith to choreograph a work that would make a statement about the spirit of friendly competition, ownership and territory. Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

Turf was created as part of a series of Millennium Commissions leading up to the Olympic celebration which encouraged a way of living based on the joy found in effort.

We were heartbroken when Danny Shapiro died of complications from prostate cancer in 2006. Joanie kept Shapiro & Smith Dance going and began creating works on her own. RDT’s association with her continued. In 2013, we presented her Bolero on a concert honoring the strength and courage of men and women in the armed forces. Bolero is a thrill ride of a dance about the dynamic tensions that define the human experience. The dance explores the endless nature of physical struggle, from war to personal ordeal. It is a dance that demands much of those who perform it as it tests the limits of physicality. Bolero is explosive, with the dancers and momentum never letting up until after the final note.

bolero800x400
“Bolero” performed in 2013.

Joanie’s distinctive wit is highlighted in two new acquisitions that put a spin on classic children’s games and nursery rhythms. Jack and Pat-a-Cake remind us that dance cannot only document history, comment on social issues and inspire a dialogue … it can also make us smile. This is a wonderful way to start celebrating the holidays.

"Jack" performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass
“Jack” performed by Tyler Orcutt and Justin Bass

We hope you’ll join us for a weekend of joy.

Get tickets here>>

Linda C. Smith is the Executive/Artistic Director of RDT.  A founding member of the Company, she now divides her time between preparing budgets for grants and wrangling dancers in the studio.  She also likes to vacuum the RDT Offices.

Performance Etiquette

Performance Etiquette

By RDT Board Member, Jaelynn Jenkins

Good manners are about more than following musty dictates from a Victorian-era matron, but rather a show of appreciation for the hard work and time that each artist has spent to create a piece for the audience’s enjoyment.

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As a lifelong theatergoer, I’ve attended everything from Broadway musicals in the Big Apple to cello recitals for my younger cousins in their parents’ living rooms. Nearly all of those performances have similar concert etiquette expectations, despite the varying types of artistic performances, and being a part of a Repertory Dance Theater audience is no different.

The following guidelines will help you and your fellow audience members enjoy each performance that much more:

Pre-Performance Preparation!

Although it goes without saying, proper grooming is a plus. Strong scents and odors are distracting to your fellow audience members as well as the performers. Tall hats and beehive hairstyles may be acceptable for back row Bettys, but avoid increasing the size of your head if you have any other seat in the house.

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Choose an outfit befitting the event. Far be it from me to dictate your personal style, but I think we can all agree that our concert attire should be something more than Saturday morning cleaning clothes or Sunday comfies. Remember, those performing for you have put many hours of training into this single performance, something like your Sunday best shows appreciation for the dancers’ efforts.

Buy your tickets ahead of time, come early, and leave your food outside of the theater. I’ll accept breath mints, but smacking gum (even if it is in time to the music) is unacceptable.

Contribute to the Ambiance

Refrain from talking during the performance, silence electronics, and hold applause until the end of each piece. A cacophony of sound from the audience can be distracting to the dancers and disrupt their concentration.

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Sounds aren’t the only distractions! Flash photography and audience members who resemble a jack-in-the-box are also disruptive. If you must leave during a performance, try to wait until the break between pieces. To reenter the audience, wait quietly at the back of the theater until a break presents an opportunity to return to your seat.

Come armed…

… with knowledge about the choreographer, music, and dancers! You can find this information here on the RDT Blog, EMBARK, or on the RDT website: rdtutah.org/season and in your performance program. Putting names to faces and recognizing the stylings of a favorite choreographer add to the excitement of a live performance!

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Finally, sit back and enjoy the show … and at the end? Applaud, cheer, and indulge in a good “bravo!”

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Jaelynn R. Jenkins is a current board member of Repertory Dance Theater’s Board of Trustees. She loves the arts and counts RDT among her favorite extra curricular activities. In her spare time, Jaelynn is an associate attorney at Fetzer Simonsen Booth Jenkins, practicing in the areas of estate planning, business law and nonprofits.