We are thankful for…

It’s that ever-important time of the year where we take the time to reflect on all that we are thankful for in our lives. At the risk of tooting our own horn, I asked my fellow Dance Exchangers to take a moment to respond to why they’re thankful for Dance Exchange, not in an effort to be self-congratulatory, but rather to pause from our busy world and remind ourselves of all the incredibly challenging, eye-opening, and field-expanding work that has come before us so that we can continue this legacy today.

Not-so-shockingly to me, my colleagues’ responses have a lot to do with all of you—our supporters, colleagues, partners, students, teachers, dancers, alumni, friends, family members, questioners and mind expanders. You make our work possible through support and commitment, dedication to our mission. Because you bring an open, inquisitive mind to our creative process we continue to thrive. Thank you for being a part of Dance Exchange.

Read on to find out what DX is thankful for this year:

Susan Goode
I am thankful to DX supporters because…their presence, interest and encouragement allow us to explore new ways of answering the questions that shape our dance making!

John Borstel
I am dedicated to Dance Exchange because in a world of flash, tweets, and insistence on the “elevator speech,” it values nuance, subtlety, and the spirit of “nothing is too small to notice.”

I am dedicated to Dance Exchange because it questions authority, challenges orthodoxy, and upturns hierarchy.

I am dedicated to Dance Exchange because it really changes lives – including mine – not by offering or imposing something from the outside, but by allowing people to discover their own capacities for creation, physicality, and human connection.

Matthew Cumbie
I am thankful for DX supporters because, through showing their support, I know that there are others out there who believe in this work, too. And that in working together we can have a greater impact, involving movers of all ages in conversations about what matters through the art that we collaboratively make.

Shula Strassfeld
Fifty years ago this weekend I drove to Washington DC with some friends. It was my first trip to DC. I was a 16 year old, newly arrived Freshman at Barnard and the world had suddenly become a terrifying place, so we did what we thought was the right thing to do. I didn’t think then that I would ever go back to DC.

Yet, on that same weekend in 2006, there I was with my dog and everything I couldn’t live without for 6 months, driving to DC. Dance Exchange had invited me to be a “full time temporary adjunct.” And here it is 7 years later and I am still here.

Why do I stay? Not a love of DC as a city, not because I want to live in the US, not for the paycheck. I stay because of all of you, my fellow Dance Exchangers, because of your concern, dedication, generosity, wisdom and curiosity, and because of the work we therefore do. Whether we are in a senior center, a public school, out in the woods, in a hospital, on a lock down unit, on stage or in the studio, here or anywhere in the world, the work we do matters in ways large and small. Being able to be part of that work is what I am thankful for.

Sarah Case
I am thankful for Dance Exchange as an institution because it is a haven and home for movers, makers, thinkers and creators of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. It will never stop being committed to serving, connecting and nurturing those within and outside of its walls.

I am thankful for the way DX connects with partners because it believes in the power of collaboration, communication and connection. DX finds strength not in isolation or competition, but in the sharing of ideas, projects, ideas and visions. New possibilities, discovery, friendship and change emerges from and through our partnerships. We cherish these relationships and are excited by those that lie ahead.

I am thankful to DX supporters because they see and share our belief, passion and commitment in our work and programming. They keep our doors open and our initiatives thriving and growing. Without our supporters, we could never reach existing and future audiences, students, teaching artists and the local, national and international arts community. We are thankful for all our supporters have done and continue to do for us. We are grateful for every gift you give!

Ouida Maedel
I am thankful for Dance Exchange because it provides the freedom and flexibility to grow, explore, innovate, and learn on your feet. Basically, it means that Dance Exchange attracts very smart and talented people which means I love everyone I work with.

And me? Well I have so many reasons to be thankful for Dance Exchange, but I’ll try to keep it short.

First: I am thankful to work for, and grow with, an organization that places such a high value on family. A little over a year ago I gave birth to my son Lincoln, and he spent the first year of his life as what we affectionately referred to as an “office baby.” He learned how to sit up, smile, roll over, eat solid foods, laugh, crawl, play nicely with others, and dance—all in the company of my co-workers. Because of this generous and forward thinking organization, I was able to continue to be a part of a creative team without having to choose between family and career. When it came time for my husband, Lincoln, and me to move to Pittsburgh to be closer to our families as we wait for baby #2 to arrive, my Dance Exchange family allowed me to make the move physically without cutting ties—to work remotely. I can’t imagine there are that many organizations out there this committed to what an individual can bring to the team. (and a huge thank you to my colleagues for putting up with all the joys of having an “office baby”—being able to tune out a crying baby is a talent that you all have really mastered!!)

Secondly: I am thankful that Dance Exchange exists to stretch the boundaries of what we define as dance and who we define as the dancer. Before working for Dance Exchange I spent a handful of years in New York City working fulltime at Dance Magazine and learning all about the incredible spectrum that is our dance field. I am grateful for all the performances I was able to see in New York and for how they helped to shape my own interests in this field. But I never saw a company like Dance Exchange. The four questions that are the cornerstone of our organizational mission and values—Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is it about? Why does it matter?—are constant reminders that sometimes you have to ask questions to get people to think outside of the box, outside of the comfort zone, outside of the stage, the theater, the “normal.” If it weren’t for Liz Lerman asking those questions and being curious and wanting more from and for the field, we as an organization wouldn’t—couldn’t—be here. And we as a field would be stuck. I’m thankful that Cassie was brave enough to take the organization to it’s next phase when Liz moved on, and that we have an enthusiastic, driven and wildly talented team of artists who work together to make work that is evocative, tender, fierce, and always new.  I’m thankful for this organization’s commitment to going outside of the dance field to seek knowledge and partnerships, to gain perspective and to give back. It’s crucial that communities come together through the arts. We work with experts in their fields to get answers to our questions rather than only looking inward and dancing about how we feel. I am thankful to be a part of a family of movers and makers who are daring, bold, brave, and unusual.

Lastly, I am thankful for those who support the arts. Not just Dance Exchange’s steadfast and loyal supporters, but all of you who open your pocketbooks to theaters and symphonies, to painters and sculptors and dancers and storytellers. I wish money didn’t matter. I wish it didn’t dictate our decisions personally and professionally as much as it does. But money matters. And every time I get a donation for Dance Exchange in the mail, I think: this person gets it. They get what really matters. And they get that without their dollars, we just can’t do this work. So a huge thank you, from all of us.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and warm holiday season. With love from your dance family.

About Emily Macel Theys

Emily (Communications and Development Director) joined the administrative team at the Dance Exchange in January 2010. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Emily received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Allegheny College, and her Master of Fine Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College. Formerly the associate editor at Dance Magazine, Emily’s dance writing has been published in Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, and the Washington Post among others. She is also an avid baker.