The non-profit Contemporary Dance School in Fort Worth, TX marks their 21st year doing educational outreach programs.
“When we started this organization, there was no professional modern dance company in Fort Worth and there never had been,” said Kerry Kreiman, executive/artistic director and co-founder of Contemporary Dance. “We felt like part of our mission was to educate people and provide opportunities. We wanted for artists in the area to have more regular and reliable venues to perform in for the modern art dance artists that work here so education has been a really important part of what we have done all along.”
According to Kreiman, most people in the country are no familiar with modern dance, either in terms of the art form’s history or its current state. She said it has become a very diverse art form.
Contemporary Dance performs works by choreographers recognized on local, regional, and national levels, and provides lecture performances for schools and organizations. The company, founded in 1990, sometimes performs for adults. They presented performance programs for Fort Worth Ballet and Texas Christian University (TCU), and they’ve done many performances for students. Contemporary Dance has also done work at correctional facilities, community centers, and some after school programs.
“In terms of hitting more adult populations, we’ve also done events in festivals and parks,” said Kreiman, who has choreographed over 60 works. “We see that as an outreach opportunity especially for people to see performances who might not be able to afford it. We’ve never had any employees. All artists and teachers work for very small honorariums and agree to specific jobs they go out and contract to do. Dancers donate all their rehearsal time. It’s not really how we would prefer to have it done and we are trying to change that. It definitely is a labor of love.”
Contemporary Dance’s festival and park events are free, designed for all ages, and open to the public. They have toured the U.S. and Mexico and Kreiman and the other artistic leader, Susan Douglas Roberts, have taught and performed internationally.
Contemporary Dance also sends their teachers to dance classes through funding for residencies where teachers might be able to instruct a group in a six-week period twice a week. Even though it’s not a particularly long and concentrated period of study, it does allow for that particular group of students to have more in-depth experiences, said Kreiman.
“They might remember some terminology and hopefully when they would go to see other dance performances in the future they would also have a little better understanding and appreciation for dance as an art form having had some physical and personal experience,” she said. “I think that it can be hard to relate to dance if you have never really had some personal experience with it. Especially in our current culture where people are so locked into their computers, TV screens, and video games and they aren’t moving around as much. So, I don’t think people as easily tap into their kinesthetic sense.”
Sometimes Contemporary Dance designs other outreach programs to meet other people’s request. The company has worked with the Kimbell Art Museum several times and created programs related to the facility’s art exhibitions. Contemporary Dance has also work with the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) art department through Imagination Celebration Fort Worth where the group designed activities correlating with visual art.
In the fall of 2000, Contemporary Dance worked on their biggest project with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the JP Elder Fine Arts Program to produce a show based on Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Visual artists oversaw puppet constructions and classes were held at multiple elementary schools. Middle school and community programs were taught at Southside Preservation Hall and at all locations students made visual art, such as masks and puppets, including several giant oversize puppets held up on poles. It culminated in a number of performances at multiple locations.
“That was just a huge thing involving art projects and people that lasted three months,” said Kreiman.
In 1996, Contemporary Dance was awarded the FWISD Adopt-a-School Program Outstanding Small Company/Organization Award for its exemplary partnership with Manuel Jara Elementary School.
Contemporary Dance is also a member of the artist rosters for the Heartland Arts Fund of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the Texas Commission for the Arts Touring Program, Imagination Celebration, and the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s Neighborhood Arts Program with the City of Fort Worth.