The International Association Of Blacks In Dance Receives New Grants


( ENSPIRE Interviews ) International Association of Blacks in Dance Receives Grants to Develop COHI | MOVE Further

ENSPIRE Contributor: Halima McDoom

A body in motion speaks its own language. Through art, we give this vocabulary color and light, but through dance, in particular, we comprehend all its wonder. The role of the Black dancer is parallel to that of the intellectual and the storyteller. With grace, Black dance brings forth a world of traditional African heritage and Black cultural consciousness. The International Association of Blacks In Dance (IABD) ensures that this recovery of tradition is protected from the Eurocentric standards that threaten its very possibility. 

In collaboration with the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), the International Association Of Blacks In Dance developed the Comprehensive Organization Health Initiative (COHI | MOVE). COHI | MOVE has preserved the financial and organizational wellness of the IABD community. The program’s foundation was curated from 2017 to 2018; this planning stage involved a thorough analysis of IABD’s weaknesses and challenges to better improve the organization’s function and core purpose. 

International Association Of Blacks In Dance

Their priorities were to broaden the implementation of capital, improve facilities, address issues around the gentrification and displacement of core audiences, and increase staff capacity. As a result, from 2018 to 2021, COHI | MOVE has experienced indisputable growth. According to their website, “This phase engaged a cohort of 30 Member organizations in a four-year process designed to enhance sustainability. The process includes organization- and cohort-level financial analyses, seminars that will help participants use financial information in decision-making, and assessments designed to identify core needs that will inform next steps toward financial strength and flexibility.” Besides this, IABD recently received grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation. This funding will allow the Association to develop COHI | MOVE further. 

The $3,138,500 Mellon Foundation grant will be distributed to the 30 member companies of MOVE and the INFLUENCERS Cohort, and the COLLECTIVE Cohort. In addition, the Ford Foundation funding will be distributed towards the organizational strengthening of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (Denver, CO); Dallas Black Dance Theatre (Dallas, TX); Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (Dayton, OH); Lula Washington Dance Theatre (Los Angeles, CA); and PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadelphia, PA).

ENSPIRE Magazine asked a few questions of the IABD to gain a little more insight about the program.

Congratulations on the receipt of your grants! How will this recognition impact the future of IABD?

IABD has been committed to meeting the needs of the Black dance community for over 30 years now. Still, we faced the same institutionalized and systemic barriers to funding as the rest of our constituency. The recognition is certainly appreciated, but it is the ongoing partnership and financial resources that will continue to propel our community forward.

Black artistry and genius have been historically marginalized – can you offer more insight into how Black dance and dancers have been silenced and/or ignored? And do you believe this lack of visibility is shifting in any way? 

There are plenty of examples of Black dance scholarship, and yet the vast majority of dance curricula and teachings continue to be centered in White European aesthetics and history. I do think we have been experiencing a new wave of recognition as of late, but a more comprehensive history that includes the many contributions of Blacks in dance in popular culture must replace the predominant erasure that still exists. 

What is the purpose of the COHI | MOVE Program? How will the grants be utilized to develop its core initiatives?

COHI | MOVE is designed to strengthen organizational health and capacity. We know and affirm the artistic excellence of Black dance companies; this program provides targeted financial coaching, peer-learning opportunities, general operating support, and other resources designed to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the organization as a whole.

What doors have these grants opened for IABD?

We know that supporting our Black dance companies and institutions, in turn, strengthens the sector as a whole. It’s been exciting to watch as companies who once felt siloed begin to build partnerships and collaborations within the community or to watch companies from the first round of COHI | MOVE leverage funding we have been able to provide to incredible heights. When our members succeed, IABD succeeds.

What new developments are in store for your organization?

We’re excited to launch Building Up: Integrated Learning and Development (BUILD), which will extend the COHI | MOVE program resources to an additional 25 companies. We’re also still in our 30th anniversary season and still have a few surprises ahead later this year.  

What is your hope for the future of Black dancers globally?

Our hope for the future of Black dances globally is our vision of the future of Black dancers globally- for dance, by people of African ancestry or origin, to be revered, respected, and preserved in the consciousness and cultural institutions of all people.

More about the International Association of Blacks In Dance

IABD was established in 1991 by Joan Myers Brown, who now serves as the Association’s honorary chairperson. Since its founding, IABD has promoted dance by people of African ancestry and offered networking opportunities, education, and funding. The organization also provides resources that uplift the dance community and raise awareness on issues regarding Black dance. See the resources overview here.

More about Nonprofit Finance Fund

NFF promotes the success of nonprofits by providing capital, strategic consulting, and using our knowledge and influence to transform the funding and financing landscape.

More about The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom found there. We seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking through our grants, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

More about the Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years, it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

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