Diversity in Chicago Dance, Thanks to Joyce Foundation

Being a dancer isn't exactly the highest-paying position in the world, but philanthropic grants are helping performance professionals get paid for their talents. The Joyce Foundation (see Joyce Foundation: Chicago Grants) recently gave $100,000 to the Luna Negra Dance Theater. This grant money went toward creating a full-time artistic support position and expanding the role of the production manager into a full-time salaried position. By securing administrative leadership positions, the dance theater can keep filling the calendar with more amazing performances.

Founded in 1999 by Cuban native Eduardo Vilaro, the Luna Negra Dance Theater is the only contemporary dance company solely devoted to the works of Latino choreographers in the country. The theater gives popular and emerging Latino choreographers a great chance at exposure and recognition. And unlike many other Latino-based dance companies, Luna Negra's contemporary style steers clear of stereotypical and folkloric Latin dance.

Ticket sales don't cut it for local dance theaters like Luna Negra. More than 70% of the funds needed to support their creative works come from charitable contributions from organizations like the Joyce Foundation. These charitable contributions help fund the community events that Luna Negra organizes, including interactive public school performances and weekly dance classes in Chicago's low-income South Side and West Side communities.

Luna Negra's grant is one of many Community-Based Arts grants that the Joyce Foundation funds. (See IPs profile on Joyce Foundation Vice President of Programs Gretchen Crosby Sims.) Rather than focusing attention on the performers on stage, Joyce chooses to support the administrative staff behind the scenes. Joyce's Community-Based Arts grants are structured to build fiscal sustainability, salaries for administrative professionals, and operating support to stabilize dance companies. The Joyce Foundation also helped fund administrative staff salaries for the Chicago Cultural Alliance, Congo Square Theatre Company, Black Ensemble Theater Corporation, and Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre.

If your dance or theater organization is looking to get a grant from the Joyce Foundation, you'd better think local and act global. Most groups that Joyce supports don't perform only in Chicago but also on stages around the world. Luna Negra is touring in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Spain this year. If you're eyeing one of these grants, your organization had also better be culturally specific. Long gone are the days when dance was one-size-fits-all. Almost all the dance organizations supported by the Joyce Foundation are specific to one particular cultural or ethnic group.

Learn more about the foundation's full grantmaking guidelines here.