I first met Dani in a ballet class at UWM. I was in town for a visit and Dani was teaching it. It was a really fun class and I can still remember the adagio. A couple years later we were both working on our MFAs in dance at UWM. I took a modern class from her and realized there was movement I simply could not do. I never liked throwing my legs over my head, but Dani was as comfortable standing on her hands as on her feet. She could hang out in midair with ease and didn’t think twice about crashing to the ground or flipping backwards across the floor. Not me. I knew it was time to start thinking about life after performing; and I have to say, this realization of my limitations moved me right along that path.
When I was hired as executive director at Danceworks in 2002, Dani was in Danceworks Performance Company (DPC) and shared about 50% of the choreography with then-DPC Artistic Director Sarah Wilbur. As I settled into my role, Dani did an amazing job of getting DPC dancers more involved with our work in the community. After serving as Co-Artistic Director for a year, Dani was in a great position to step into the artistic director role when Sarah moved on in 2005. She did it seamlessly—and the rest is history! –Deb Farris
“I was raised to believe that doing what you love, what you’re inspired by—even if it’s a career in (gasp) the arts—is a very viable, even practical, venture. My parents aren’t concert pianists or sculptors. My dad was a car salesman, and my mom worked at the hardware store in town. Still, they paid for organ lessons, took me to gymnastics practice and often told me, “You can be anything you want to be in your life—as long as you work hard for it.” I assumed that everyone grew up hearing things like this.
The next time I was lucky enough to be surrounded by this type of unconditional encouragement was when I was a student bolstered by the UW-Milwaukee Dance Department. Faculty members that nurtured my dreaming and doing, as well as many others, included the unstoppable Marcia Parsons, the soulful Ferne Bronson, the wise and effervescent Janet Lilly and the simultaneously stringent and generous Ed Burgess.
As I exited the university setting, I landed softly in another nurturing environment, surrounded by other, like-minded dreamers and doers: Danceworks.
Danceworks is not a place for the feint-hearted. When you begin your employment, nobody hands you a set of instructions of exactly what you’ll do, or how you’ll do it. Sure, you can find a job description of the person that came before you, and everyone’s friendly and glad to point you in the right direction. But Danceworks’ job descriptions are written in pencil, rather than ink. They are morphed and changed to suit the strengths of each Danceworker. You have to think on your feet and jump in! And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, problems will certainly come. Things don’t always go as planned; it’s up to you to figure it out and adapt. It’s up to you to work together with the people around you to decide, What do we do next? What’s the next best possible solution? What’s the most inventive solution? What’s the most fun solution? Because many times, the most fun, the most inventive, is probably also the smartest solution.Individual and collective creativity, plus work ethic, have driven Danceworks for the last 20 years. In my 16 years with the organization, I’ve always been encouraged to embrace big ideas! I’ve been given the opportunity and resources to explore the art-making process with children, seniors and the highest achieving artists in the city. I value and benefit from all of these experiences equally. They remind me to be both lofty and grounded at the same time, in everything I do.
Danceworks is a place of possibility. It’s a place of optimism. Danceworks is the sum of its parts—the Danceworkers. They have big ideas. And they work hard. Danceworkers believe that the arts make a difference. I’m proud to be a Danceworker. I am grateful for the bounty that Danceworks has provided me. I look forward to continuing to dream and do big things with my fellow Danceworkers.”
See Dani in action, along with the rest of Danceworks Performance Company and many talented collaborators, in DPC’s upcoming INTERSECT, November 15-24, 2013 in the Danceworks Studio Theatre. Get your tickets here–be in the right place at the right time and intersect with us!
Welcome to the Danceworks blog, where we're hoping to share a little bit more about the heart and soul behind Danceworks… what made us join the dance and keeps us dancing, what keeps us inspired, and where we can share some of the stories worth telling.