Dance thinking is one of the three tracks offered during ODC’s Next Moves Summer Intensive. In their class, students formulate and discuss questions prevalent in the dance field today, thereby increasing contextual understanding for dance and the performing arts. In addition to participating in daily technique classes, students complete assigned readings, observe working rehearsals of their compositional peers, view live and previously recorded performances, act as a performance docent to ticketed events at ODC during the program, and plan as well as implement public discussions about the topic of their choice such as dance history and aesthetics, the process of dance making, or the art of watching. Several assignments are in the form of a blog post. Students’ first written assignment entailed summarizing an interview with Dance Heginbotham Managing Director Adrienne Bryant.
An Interview with Adrienne Bryant | By Belgica Del Rio
While these words may evoke images of polar worlds, one in which creativity is king and one where pencil pushing rules, Marie Tollon’s interview with Adrienne Bryant illustrated a symbiotic picture of art and administration breathing and growing as one.
Along her trajectory from young competitive dancer to Managing Director at Dance Heginbotham, Bryant discovered intellectual rigor in dance, eventually worked with Mark Morris Dance Group, and became friends with John Heginbotham, then a company dancer. As she furthered her administrative career beyond Mark Morris, her friend Heginbotham approached her for assistance managing his dance company. “John is the nicest guy in the world,” Bryant cheerily recalled, and she could not say “no” to the nicest guy in the world.
Two and a half years after saying “yes,” Bryant has transformed her role with Dance Heginbotham as something she did “on vacation and on weekends” to her full-time commitment and mission. Significantly, Dance Heginbotham is gaining support among artists and institutions alike, including Mark Morris, the Lincoln Center, and the Guggenheim Museum. Heginbotham also recently won the 2014 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. His successful transition from a dancer to a critically applauded choreographer, signals a nurturing and tactful collaboration between Bryant and Heginbotham, between administration and art.
Bryant detailed her duties, including endless vital tasks, with palpable belief in Heginbotham’s work, which depends on her passionate support. Collaborations with musicians are central to his work, and Bryant helps him achieve these works by arranging the many and changing logistics. As exemplified by Bryant’s presentation of Dance Heginbotham at Jacob’s Pillow, Bryant taps into her network to create opportunities for the company. She also assists greatly with other things, including helping Heginbotham relax to be confident in his work. Through their collaborative relationship, Heginbotham focuses on his craft, and Bryant helps him realize it.
As Bryant related, when she sits backstage during rehearsal and is furiously sending emails, she occasionally steps out to watch whatever is happening onstage. Then all else dissipates and only the dance and her contagious belief in Heginbotham’s artistic future fills her. In those moments she remembers, “Ahh! This is what it’s all for!” She then returns to “it,” to her flurry of emails, and her administrative role, becoming instrumental for art.
When in Doubt, Invest More Trust | By Amber Hopkins
Adrienne Bryant works in the context of relationships. She met John Heginbotham during her tenure with the Mark Morris Dance Group and now serves as the managing director for his company, Dance Heginbotham. Their particular bond laid a foundation of trust, but personal affinity is not all that Bryant invests. Her multi-faceted background in arts administration has equipped her with a nuanced sense of what it takes to make the show go on. During her conversation with ODC’s writer-in-residence, Marie Tollon, she shared her take on artist-presenter reciprocity with participants of Next Moves.
Bryant brought poignant clarification to Heginbotham’s reception of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. Rather than being a simple affirmation of excellence, the award gives Heginbotham a “chance” to excel in future works. In Bryant’s view, it was one in an auspicious succession of opportunities afforded by arts presenters, beginning with his first residency with Baryshnikov Arts Center. She doesn’t wish to waste time debating about the point in his career Heginbotham has reached, or whether he is worthy of prestigious recognition, she challenges his audience (and would-be critics) to anticipate the momentum that he can generate from the spotlight. He doesn’t repay a debt by excelling in his work, he advances trust and appreciation in a network of supporters.
Adrienne strives to create organizational strategy that is compatible with Heginbotham’s creative process in the studio. Professionalism is not just about pragmatism. Efficiency emerges from continuity between vision and structure. She holds the reason-to-be fresh in her mind’s eye, even taking breaks in the middle of planning retreats to see art. Bryant brings a dynamic to Dance Heginbotham that is wonderfully grounded on the human level.
Adrienne Bryant’s Interview | By Kathryn Puckett
Working in the field of dance ain’t easy. Money is scarce, hours are long, and job security is fleeting. One way to ensure the hard choice is worth it: Work with friends. This is exactly what Adrienne Bryant and John Heginbotham have chosen to do.
Adrienne’s initial connection to the art comes from childhood but her path could have easily veered into other realms. However, it is in the theater that she feels at home and so she pursues a career in the place she feels most comfortable. Early on a friend clued her in to the role of an arts administrator and since discovering the path existed she has pursued it with earnest intent.
Over the years Adrienne has worked most angles of the dance administration world. She cultivated skills as a presenter working at Jacob’s Pillow. She learned logistics and company management at the Mark Morris Dance Group. She dug into development, programming and marketing as an Arts Management Fellow at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Apparently it was always clear to her how she could best serve the arts and she has made life choices accordingly.
I suppose it is no surprise then that when her friend from the days at Mark Morris, John Heginbotham, asked her over brunch for a bit of help with his foray into producing his own work she was happy to engage the challenge. She seems excited by the task of heralding her friend’s work, synthesizing her own experiences to service the art and the artist. To her, the role of arts administrator is to do justice to both by giving the audience “perspective on the work”.
Something inherit in any good friendship that is also key to a good working relationship is trust. This crucial ingredient makes for rewarding work. As a trusted friend Bryant can offer perspective and opportunities for growth that a less familiar company manager simply is not capable of providing. As a result the two, Bryant and Heginbotham can spend their annual ‘State of the Union’ meetings discussing the future of the company they co-create: Heginbotham as artist and Bryant as administrator.