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NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.


Performing Arts Organizations Spotlight Part 2: Joyce Theater Foundation, Movement Exchange, & Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company

A group of adult dancers in colorful pants and black tshirts, holding various objects and posing against a white backround

Welcome to Part 2 of NDEO’s blog series highlighting Performing Arts Organizations who are institutional members of NDEO, and celebrating their contributions to the field of dance education.

In dance performing arts organizations, creativity and passion come together to uplift communities and celebrate cultural diversity. These institutions serve as beacons of artistic expression, providing accessible avenues for individuals of all backgrounds to engage with the transformative power of dance. From local dance companies dedicated to preserving traditional folk dances to urban youth ensembles empowering underserved communities, each organization plays a vital role in fostering inclusivity, resilience, and social cohesion.

Join us for a glimpse into the world of performing arts organizations, exploring the profound impact they have on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. In this blog post we will hear from three performing arts organizations, and learn more about their mission, community outreach initiatives, and other projects they have been up to. These submissions were collected through an open call to NDEO Performing Arts Organization Members.

The mission of Joyce Theater Foundation in New York, NY is to support and promote dance and choreography, advancing public interest and appreciation for the art form alongside music, design, and theater. Their programs encompass a wide range of movement styles, aiming to educate and engage a diverse audience while encouraging innovation and tradition within dance. The Joyce Theater Foundation offers sensory-friendly performances, geared towards students on the autism spectrum and other diverse learning students, which has grown, as more companies at The Joyce express interest in offering this type of program.

A group of students randing in age from small children to grown adults, in colorful clothes, take class in a gym setting in Panama.

Movement Exchange (pictured above and right at a dance exchange in Panama) based in the US and Panama, founded by Anna Pasternak, utilizes dance as a tool for social good, offering accessible and sustainable dance education to underserved communities globally, including free programs for over 1,050 youth in the U.S. annually. They also organize international exchanges and an annual event called Move to Change Day. Movement Exchange challenges conventional views of dance as merely entertainment, advocating for its potential to effect positive social change.

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Salt Lake City, UT, is dedicated to advancing contemporary dance through performances, education, and outreach that elevate standards and deepen connections with the art form. They achieve this by presenting innovative original works, offering dance education for all levels, touring regionally and internationally, and training artists as performers, educators, and choreographers. Since 1964, the company has been a leader in dance education, creating a national model still used today, and their commitment to bringing dance to diverse audiences is exemplified through their comprehensive education programs for all ages and levels.

Driven by a commitment to community empowerment, these dance organizations extend far beyond the stage, offering educational programs, outreach initiatives, and collaborative partnerships that enrich the lives of individuals and communities alike. Through their dedication to serving marginalized populations, promoting cross-cultural exchange, and championing the value of creative expression, these community-based dance organizations inspire unity, resilience, and a shared sense of belonging.

In March 2023 at Movement Exchange, students from their Weber State University chapter participated in an international dance exchange to Panama with ten students and two professors, as part of a year-long course at their school. Collaborating with Panamanian-American artist Karlies Kelley, they performed a dance piece rooted in Panamanian folklore and modern dance at both their university and in Panama. The students developed pedagogical skills by teaching dance locally in Utah before implementing their lessons in Panama, enhancing their exchange experience and strengthening cross-cultural relationships through a deep dive into Panamanian culture and history.

A group of young students and two older teachers create shapes in an art gallery

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (pictured left on a Creative Leaps field trip) has a program called ‘Within Reach’ that fosters collaborative relationships with non-profit organizations, art institutions, and community groups to promote inclusivity in dance regardless of background or ability. Partnering with the Bud Bailey Apartment Complex in South Salt Lake they provide free monthly Creative Dance Classes for elementary school students from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and formerly homeless families. Additionally, the program includes community performances and interactive sessions with dancers, aimed at engaging and enriching the lives of children and families in the Bud Bailey community.

The above are just a few examples of the work that these organizations have engaged in. Among these community outreach projects, these organizations also work to support emerging dancers, educators, and choreographers, and provide support for them to develop their skills and showcase their talents.

Movement Exchange's university chapters are deeply involved in year-round volunteer teaching of dance at various organizations nationwide, including youth/community foundations, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and schools. Throughout the year, these chapters prioritize professional growth, participating in workshops focused on dance pedagogy and inclusivity, alongside attending an annual leadership conference that offers a weekend of dance workshops, pedagogy seminars, social justice discussions, and strategic planning sessions. Movement Exchange also hosts Move To Change Day yearly, a global initiative where communities worldwide give back through dance, offering free classes, workshops, performances, or flash mobs to support various causes and promote community engagement.

The Joyce Theater Foundation (pictured right with David Parson speaking to a student) has a program called American Dance Platform each January. They also offer underwriting presentations, and lastly they offer commissions to create new works and hire emerging choreographers and dancers as teaching artists and interns.

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company had an unconventional concert where original choreography created by the current Company dancers were showcased. This performance highlighted the creative artistry and incredible skills that their talented dancers continually bring to the organization.

These incredible organizations are imperative to the continued growth of dance education across the country, and in making dance accessible to ALL. NDEO is grateful for the membership of the performing art organizations mentioned in this blog, and beyond. The third and last installment of this blog series, featuring three more organizations, is coming soon!

To read part one, please click here.

To learn more about the performing arts organizations mentioned in this post, please visit the following websites:

The Joyce Theater Foundation

Movement Exchange

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company

Photo credits from top to bottom: Featured photo courtesy of Movement Exchange, second photo courtesy of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company by Ai Fujii Nelson, third photo courtesy of Movement exchange, fourth photo courtesy of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company by Ai Fujii Nelson, last photo courtesy of The Joyce Theater Foundation

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