New Hampshire Dance Collaborative advancing its nonprofit mission

Now as a non-profit, NH Dance Collaborative continues its mission to make dance more accessible and understood. Photo/Matthew Lomanno

MANCHESTER, NH — In 2016, Joan Brodsky founded New Hampshire Dance Collaborative (NHDC) to build and nurture what she described as “a nascent dance scene” in New Hampshire.

“When I moved to New Hampshire in 1975, the lack of any substantive dance presence was notable,” she said. “Those of us who danced or wanted to see dance went to Boston or New York for our exposure.”

According to Brodsky, however, dance has potential for growth in the state, especially if “packaged” as a consumable product. She cited ‘concert dance’ as one example. “Concert dance has the ability to shift perspectives, open minds, and further our ability to empathize with others,” she said.

Culturally, dance is often consumed or presented as mere entertainment, like TV’s Dancing with the Stars or You Think You Can Dance. “That’s not the artful, transcendent dance that I’m hoping to cultivate,” she said.

Referring to it as “a universal language,” Brodsky acknowledged that [concert] dance is a form of communication that must be subtly taught in order to be understood, which is part of NHDC’s deeper mission. She said her belief in this deeper mission is why she formed NHDC as a nonprofit organization.

“I want New Hampshire Dance Collaborative to be of service to others and the community,” she said. “Like music or other art forms, dance fulfills needs related to both arts and culture and the humanities.”

Initially, she used NHDC as a vehicle “to cultivate an understanding and appreciation for dance” through collaborations with other cultural, educational, and arts organizations. These collaborations often involved dance as one interpretive element of an event. “I realized that the way to capture people was best done in casual, social settings where the dance was an unexpected addition,” she said.

This realization stemmed from Brodsky’s experience in ArtFront, a pop-up arts event in 2015 she co-founded with several other citizen activists. “We felt that a more progressive, contemporary, and culturally relevant arts scene was missing in our state, so we organized two nights of challenging, timely and beautiful photography, painting, sculpture, and dance,” she said.

A scene from an ArtFront pop-up performance in 2017 during an art exhibition at 1000 Elm St. Photo/ArtFront on Facebook

As the dancers made their way in and out of the gallery space, they interacted with the art in an improvisational manner. “I witnessed attendees becoming quiet and transfixed by the power of trained human bodies moving with grace and human spirit,” she said.

Looking to the future, Brodsky said her focus has expanded to promote dance’s relevance as “a communication and meaning-making tool.” She cited her current priority as NHDC’s NH Dance Accelerator. Launched in 2022, the purpose of NH Dance Accelerator is to rapidly accelerate the growth and sustainability of New Hampshire-based dance companies and solo artists.

NHDC Founder Joan Brodsky, right, with husband Howard Brodsky, who acts as advisor to NHDC.

“I’ve seen many dance companies emerge only to fade into obscurity because of the lack of financial support,” she explained.

Currently, NHDC is working with Zackery Betty in the NH Dance Accelerator. Co-founder of NSquared Dance Company in Manchester, Betty has performed throughout the state since his acceptance into the program, which provides financial support, communication expertise, business coaching, strategic planning, and social media promotion.

“Zack and his company are poised for substantial growth in 2023 and beyond,” said Brodsky, who said NHDC plans to accept applications for their second Fellowship this summer. “We are also exploring ways in which we can align our nonprofit mission with important social causes to enhance the relevance of dance in New Hampshire…It’s an exciting time for NHDC.”

To learn more about NHDC, or NH Dance Accelerator, visit nhdancecollaborative.org.