Dancer Spotlight: Kate Folsom

Sarahart

I danced with Kate in college at James Madison University and we performed together in the Virginia Repertory Dance Company. She graduated in 2011 and has already immersed herself within the D.C. dance community. Over the summer, Kate was temporarily serving as the Interim Executive Administrator and this month is starting as Programs Associate at Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance.

With Dance/USA you helped plan the 2012 Annual Conference in San Francisco. What were the top lessons you learned in planning an arts conference? 

April Gruber, Director of Programs, and myself inherited a lot of work initiated by other people. We found that honoring the relationships Dance/USA created, as well as being as prepared prior to the conference were extremely helpful. We were striving to put all the labor in before we left, so that the conference would ‘fall into place’ so to speak. Events of this caliber are impossible to be perfect, but I believe preparation, minute-by-minute planning, and professional & genuine attitudes are skills I will use in future event planning, as well as my creative partnerships.

What were some of your key takeaways from the conference, either in coordinating the event or participating in workshops? 

The dance world is huge and small. Huge in the fact that comprehending the budget size of some companies, or the staffing it takes to run performance venues was not a concept I had experienced first hand before. It was humbling to know what there is to look forward to in my future, as well as scouting the type of positions I would like to hold in my professional career.

The dance world is small in that so many of the professionals in attendance had long term ties with so many colleagues and have relationships they’ve built initiated by the Dance/USA Annual Conference. I know I will see familiar faces when I return to the conference in Philadelphia, and will continue to see these folks throughout my life and hope to generate good working relationships from the full scope of the dance field.

What are some things you are learning now about arts administrators or dance in the “real world” that surprised you? 

Arts administrator is a far reach from the movement-based college experience I had. I am dancing significantly less and find myself having to mentally push myself to go to classes and train on my own time. I had been told “you’ll miss having these classes everyday,” or “you’re lucky to get one class a week in the real world.” I’m finding that to be true in many ways, but it’s certainly possible to be in arts administration and dance at the level you’re capable of. It’s difficult, and I’m still figuring out that balance.

 

Working at Dance/USA was my first experience in an office setting and it has taught me so much about professionalism, the scope of dance advocates, and the importance of administrators in the continuance of the dance field. The hours and nature of the work is something for me to get used to as a kinetic person, but I know the importance of what I’m doing and it encourages me to keep up that work for the field of dance, and to keep being an advocate for dance for my own future as well.

 

I hope I will continue to be surprised about the world of dance.

I’ve spoken with Keira Hart about having so many JMU alumni in UpRooted Dance. It’s great that the JMU dance community is making moves in D.C. What are some differences from the college dance setting and professional dancing? 

Being in UpRooted Dance has allowed me to transition and adjust to the dance scene in DC smoothly. I am dancing with women I danced with in college and have a group of like-minded people to go to other performances with, explore my artistic voice in this area, and have a home base of artists to converse with about where we came from and where we want to go. I’m fortunate to get to continue friendships and creative partnerships that allow me to grow in an existing family and encourage me to branch out to artists that are new to me. I dance significantly less than I did in school, but it makes our rehearsals that much more potent and valuable. Every show is a blessing, and each person that comes out to support our work is truly an advocate, whereas in school… they might have been forced to go and write a paper about it. Both are valid reasons for experiencing dance, but I know that the development into a true dance supporter is what makes the professional world of dance so much more meaningful.

Kate is successfully pursuing dance in the real world through working, performing, and being involved in the arts space. Working with Dance/USA has taught her about the politics and administrative side of dance, while rehearsing with companies, like UpRooted Dance, have given her professional performance experience.