Dance Exchange is pleased to announce the appointment of Sarah Case as our new Managing Director. Sarah brings to Dance Exchange a wealth of experience in arts management, arts education and community engagement. Sarah recently completed a fellowship with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and has a BA from Columbia and a Master’s Degree in Arts Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
I interviewed Sarah to find out what drew her to the company and what she’s bringing with her. Read on to see why we’re lucky she’s here with us at DX!
Emily: How did you first learn about Dance Exchange?
Sarah: I first learned of Dance Exchange when I was at graduate school at Harvard. We were learning about community engagement work and one of our readings was about Dance Exchange and Liz Lerman and some of her projects that are specifically routed in place and community. One of my specific areas of interest is the intersection of dance and community and dance as a vehicle for social change. As a dancer I was so excited that we were having a specific conversation about dance. It sparked an interest and I wanted to learn more about DX. I didn’t know at the time that I would ultimately come to DC a year later and that would begin my more personal journey to meet the DX company members.
Emily: You mentioned that you are a dancer. Tell me about your dance background.
Sarah: I started dancing when I was 3 years old in classical ballet. I trained intensively throughout all of my school years and performed and trained professionally with Boston Ballet and the School of American Ballet in New York. I decided to pursue college and not pursue a professional ballet career. During my time at Columbia University, I fell into musical theater and utilized my classical ballet training. I began performing in productions in New York and at national and regional theaters. From that experience, I began to choreograph into my late performing career and teach and pursue arts management and education.
Emily: What brought you to DC?
Sarah: Well I finished up my program at Harvard, and was the class of ‘11. That spring, I had applied to the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. I got an email during my commencement ceremony telling me I had been accepted. So in September 2011, I started the program, which is a 9-month program and I completed it in May of 2012. It was an amazing introduction to Washington DC, to have that opportunity not only at the Kennedy Center, but to really engage and become educated in the arts environment of Washington DC. As a die hard New Yorker, it was really significant to find another environment where you’re finding richness of a new arts community here in DC.
Emily: I know that during your fellowship you came out to visit us at Dance Exchange. Tell me about that.
Sarah: During the fellowship, I had really really wanted to come out to DX. I called Ellen (DX former managing director) and set up a meeting because I wanted to know what was going on. In the fall 2011, I came out to Takoma Park and saw the studios. I was incredibly impressed by the people and culture and energy of the place. I was struck by the collaborative vibe at Dance Exchange: the creative atmosphere as an incubator for new work, and a place that values many perspectives and artistic voices. I was impressed to see a company with such a wide variety of ages, but I was also struck by the young vitality of the leadership staff and incredible intellect and richness everyone brought to the table. There was a feeling that everyone was very capable and in the process of growth and learning. I came back a few months later to witness the Youth Programs and got to see Wayles teach a class. That was a really meaningful experience to me. It was a turning point in my year. It brought me back to the place of where the dance is happening, to a place that felt very much like home.
Emily: Do you think it’s going to be a big transition to our style of dance coming from a classical ballet world?
Sarah: I think with my transition into musical theater, I came across so many different types of dance. Also during my time in New York, I attended a lot of performances of modern dance companies, at the Joyce and BAM. Some companies I enjoyed seeing in NYC (outside of ballet and theater dance world) include Mark Morris Dance Group, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Keigwin + Company. That was part of my love for the world of performing arts—being able to witness many forms of dance. While contemporary dance is not a form I’ve trained in, I’m excited to learn more about it through this experience and I have such a respect for it through the artistic process.
Emily: What are you looking forward to most about working at Dance Exchange?
Sarah: I am amazed and excited by all that Dance Exchange provides and offers people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. The work of Dance Exchange also urges us to explore, question, celebrate and connect, whether through a workshop in a healthcare setting, a Youth and Teen Institute class or the latest DX company performance. Being a part of this amazing team and working to ensure these many initiatives thrive and grow is incredibly meaningful and gratifying.
Emily: So will we see you in the studio, too?
Sarah: Yes! You might find me at lunchtime leaping across the floor. I’m so excited that it’s a permeable space and there is such an overlap between the office and studios. In my heart I’m a dancer. That’s always how I will identify myself. So to be able to stay connected to that part of myself will make me really happy.
Want to reach out to Sarah and introduce yourself? Contact her here.