Vermont Performance Lab Receives $27K Grant for Engaging Dance Audiences

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VPL's community engagement efforts garner support from Dance/USA's national funding program

Vermont Performance Lab (VPL) was recently selected as one of 20 national recipients in Round Two of Dance/USA's Engaging Dance Audiences (EDA), the first national funding program for audience engagement practices focused specifically on the art form of dance. The selected organizations were chosen from 57 applications through a rigorous review by a national peer panel. VPL's award will support the new VPL Performance Club.

Reggie Wilson community shout

Community engagement is at the core of VPL's mission. Here, community members participate in Reggie Wilson's "Community Shout" at the Broad Brook Grange in Guilford, Vermont. Photo: VPL.

Modeled on a book club, VPL Performance Club members will meet regularly to attend and discuss live dance performances, have special guests (including curators, artists and scholars) join in pre- and post-performance discussions and gatherings over food and drink. The VPL Performance Club project will focus on some of the dance artists in VPL's 2013-14 season, including Luciana Achugar, Pavel Zustiak, and Beth Gill as well as travel together by minibus to other festivals and venues in the region.

"Dance/USA is honored to have been given the opportunity to disseminate learning about audience engagement extensively throughout the dance field, and now to directly support twenty of our members in enhancing these practices with their own knowledge and insight," said Amy Fitterer, executive director of Dance/USA. "We expect the nature of exchange among our members to be meaningful and long-lasting, contributing to a growing body of knowledge and expertise in audience engagement."

To augment project support totaling $700,000, a core operating support grant is being provided to each recipient of project funding for Engaging Dance Audiences. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is offering this additional, generous funding of $248,000 to provide greater stability to participating arts organizations and may be used for whatever purposes best support them.

"We are once again delighted to support this roster of grantees and Dance/USA's Engaging Dance Audiences, which is helping dance artists explore promising approaches for engaging their audiences and communities in new and deeper ways," said Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. "The first round of Engaging Dance Audiences was an inspiring success, supporting exemplary projects and generating important research for the entire field. The structure of this second round—asking grantees to build on the models created in Round I—will help the dance field move forward as a whole and enhance the impact of what has been learned to date. We are especially pleased to be able to continue offering general operating funds to their project grants as both a recognition of their importance in the arts community and a way of promoting their longer term financial health."

Engaging Dance Audiences is a $1.748 million program conceived of in 2008 by Dance/USA in collaboration with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to significantly increase the dance field's capacity to engage audiences by researching, implementing and documenting effective and forward- thinking practices, and sharing them with the field. The EDA project manager and facilitator is Suzanne Callahan, founder of Callahan Consulting for the Arts, who managed Round One of EDA as well as other re-granting programs for Dance/USA. Rory MacPherson, principal at Trudel | MacPherson and formerly of the Wallace Foundation, will serve as co-facilitator. For more information about EDA, visit:


Dance/USA's mission is to support and advance professional dance by addressing the needs, concerns, and interests of dance artists, administrators, and organizations. By providing national leadership and services, Dance/USA enhances the infrastructure for dance creation and distribution, education, and dissemination of information. As a national membership-based organization, Dance/USA provides programs to its core constituency of dance groups working in the genres of aerial, ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific, hip-hop, ice, international, jazz, liturgical, modern, single-choreographer, and tap. Dance/USA also serves other members of the broader dance ecosystem including dance presenters, dance service organizations, dance agents, dance educators, independent dancers, and freelance choreographers. Member companies have operating budgets ranging from under $50,000 to over $50 million. Dance/USA focuses its work in three areas of core services for its members and implements a variety of special initiatives designed to advance the field. All members benefit from the core services of Leadership & Learning, Research & Information, and Advocacy & Visibility.


The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation ( is to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties. The Arts Program focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theatre artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them.


Vermont Performance Lab (VPL) is a laboratory for creative research and community engagement. Over the last five years, VPL has brought artists of regional, national and international stature to the grange halls, studios, theaters and classrooms of rural Vermont through its innovative artist residency program. Since 2006, VPL's community and education programs served more than 1,500 students, families and seniors in Windham County through workshops, informal performances and art-making experiences. VPL often partners with local organizations to host such residencies and create meaningful connections between artists and rural Vermont communities.