Fund Raising And Dance Merge, On And Off The Stage

'The State Of My Art' Is Product Of An Artist's Frustration

July 07, 1991|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Staff Writer

Frugging in tight, red dresses to "Taxman" by the Beatles, five barefoot dancers shouted such un-artsy litanies as budgeting, financial statements and matching grants.

The production that mixes dance with dialogue and the purity of art with the unholy pursuit of money reflects the trials of its creator, Dorothy "Dottie" Fried.

The 48-year-old founder and director of Kinetics Dance Theatre isusing her innovative piece to convey frustrations that culminated inher recent resignation as artistic director of the Ellicott City-based company.

"I was forced to think about how I got here and reflect on my life as a creative artist," said the slender, angular-featured Fried.

Her latest piece was commissioned by the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which asked Fried to premier a dance work. She did -- last Wednesday at Wilde Lake High School.

" 'The State of My Art' is as much text as musical piece. It's a personal statement of my experience, but it ends up being about money and the arts," Fried said.

Professional and personal hurdles forced Fried to re-evaluate her position last year as Kinetics' driving force when co-founder Stephanie Simmons resigned as administrator and Fried was diagnosed with cancer.

"There wasn't room for problems like this. Everyone was worried I'd fall apart, but I was very driven and pushed ahead," Fried said.

"We didn't replace Stephanie once she left, and I had more work. The board worried about saving money. So I was running the place and coping with health problems."

The final blow was an unfavorable review last spring in The Sun, which she said left her "devastated."

"My co-workers said 'No, you're the Rock of Gibraltar.' But I was having a breakdown," Fried said.

"That's when I decided changes would have to be made.

"I took on too much, so I decided to step down. I said I would resign as director of the the performing company asof July 4 -- not of the whole organization -- because I wasn't functioning."

Fried will work part time as executive director and free-lance as a choreographer. "I haven't lost sight of the dream, just myrole in it."

The dance company she and Simmons co-founded in 1984has grown to include 300 students in Kinetics Dance Theatre; 12 dancers in its adult dance company; and eight in its Junior Dance Camp for 12- to 15-year-olds.

"Half our program is recreational and the other half is professional," she said. "We're expanding the school for2- and 3-year-olds who are autistic or disabled."

A Columbia branch will open in September.

Alvin Mayes will replace Fried as artistic director. A dance professor at the University of Maryland-CollegePark, he started in Kinetics as a dancer, then moved on to choreographer and teacher.

"He's very charismatic," said Fried. "He looks like a football player, and he used to be one. He's a good choreographer and very good with people."

In the part-time position, Mayes will run rehearsals, audition dancers, select pieces and run the company class.

But the administrative work will be Fried's domain. She plans to put more energy into the booking and financial aspects of productions.

"We hope to perform outside the state. I will pursue performing in Washington. We will also expand the performing season," she said.

"And our next step will be to fund raise so we can salary people."

Her dancers are now paid a token stipend -- after expenses for costumes and sets are met for a particular booking.

When Kinetics began with an enrollment of 60, none of the dancers, including Fried, were paid a salary.

"We just got paid for performing. Now we get minimum wage for rehearsals. . . . We are semi-pros," she said.

But Fried hopes that within the next five years, Kinetics dancerswill be paid full time as professionals. Now "they work all day, come for a class in the evening and rehearse after 8:30."

Kinetics' 1991-1992 operating budget is $160,000 -- $25,000 more than last year.The company is supported by state and county grants, the Columbia Foundation and private contributions.

Fried also had to learn the art of fund raising, taking workshops in the state Arts Advancement Program.

This starving artist syndrome is the underlying theme in Fried's "The State of My Art," in which dancers galavant about on stage while contrasting their great urge to perform with their pitiful financial plight.

"You want to be a pure artist. But the government questions us on what we are and defines us," said Fried.

"If we haveclients, they say we're commercial and not pure artists. That's the dilemma. If you're totally a pure artist, how do you support yourself?

"And who is the patron? Today, it's not the old wealth. It's thegovernment. So I show the funny and serious and draw on the experience of people in the company. I intermix the wearing of many hats."

The Michigan native began her career more than 20 years ago as a ballet and jazz dancer. She attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where she fell in love with modern dance.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.