Yannis and I returned late Saturday night from the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) conference in Seattle exhausted but absolutely energized and focused from an incredible week of submersion into the world of performing arts presenting and management. We weren’t sure what to expect, how to make inroads, and how best to network with the industry representatives. By the end of the week, we had learned an incredible amount about touring in the U.S., we had made strong connections that we think will lead to lasting partnerships and good friendships, and, most importantly, we put into focus a clear vision of how to proceed.
Let me have Yannis give you an overview of our week in his own words:
Participating in the Western Arts Alliance Conference in Seattle, WA was an amazing experience. Coming from Greece and not knowing what to expect from the conference experience, my knowledge and understanding of touring in the U.S. are now enriched. WAA’s professional and friendly approach to networking left an everlasting impression on me.
• I received very useful advice and counseling by mentors who introduced me to the WAA organization and how to get the best out of the conference.
• Dena and I attended informative lectures, workshops, artists’ showcases and the WAA Membership Meeting.
• We visited many booths at the “Commons” exhibition halls and collected information on agencies and artist management companies.
• We talked formally and informally to several artists, agents, managers and presenters. During these informative discussions we described our artistic vision to promote our work. All of the contacts with agents and managers not only gave us a better understanding of the inner workings of the industry and the demands of touring in the U.S., but also seemed to be promising in terms of the possibility of one of these companies bringing Echodrama for a tour in the U.S.
• We also met with members of the Greek community of Seattle, who expressed a great interest in hosting us in Seattle for performances.
In closing, I would like to mention that I was impressed by WAA’s emphasis not so much on the booking business as on creating a community of artists, agents and presenters.
Thanks to you, our backers, the overall experience was wonderful and the prospects of bringing Echodrama to the U.S. seem excellent.
– Yannis Pisimisis
Our hosts, Tim Wilson, WAA Executive Director and Michael Knapp, WAA Membership and Communications Manager, were unbelievably supportive of us. Both took the time to answer our questions, to encourage us and to make us feel part of the community. They both also went above and beyond by supporting us as Kickstarter backers! Thank you, Tim and Michael!
I aslo want to acknowledge Rachel Cohen of Cadence Arts Network and Harold Norris of Pentacle who were our first on-site mentors. Rachel and Harold gave us that initial guidance we needed to understand conference protocol and get the most out of the opportunities ahead.
Two individuals stood out amongst all of the attendees for their encouragement and generosity of spirit; Michael Solomon, Associate Vice President of Programming for the Music Center for Los Angeles County and Katherine Miller, President of Kamstar Artist Management. Katherine spent an incredible amount of time with us sharing her expertise and, through Michael, we have a very promising meeting set with the Music Center this week.
We also have a meeting this week with Brockus Project's Artistic Director, Deborah Brockus whom we met at the first showcase we attended at the conference. I happened to sit next to her and before the evening was over, she already had numerous suggestions for us and was planning to continue the conversation in LA. In addition to Brockus Project, Deborah also co-produces the LA Dance Festival with L.A.-based Diavolo.
One of our many goals for the Kickstarter campaign is to connect with Greeks here in the states who are interested in promoting dance. I was contacted early on by John Nicon of Greeks in Washington and we had a wonderful meeting with he and John Soudas of the Seattle AHEPA organization, who are both very interested in presenting Echodrama in Seattle.
One of the possible venues for a performance for the Greek community in Seattle is in the community hall at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. A few days after our initial meeting, Mr. Nicon and his wife Joann took Yannis and I on a wonderful tour all over the city. While at St. Demetrios, we met facilities coordinator, Saundra Maroussis, who showed us the hall and was very accommodating and gracious, answering all of our questions.
Our conference goals were achieved... and exceeded. We made strong connections with the presenting and artist management communities. We learned how to best market Echodrama in an extremely competitive contemporary dance marketplace. We observed the dynamics between presenters and agencies, between agencies and artists and between artists and presenters... and, as a result, we now have a better understanding of the challenges of presenting a foreign company on U.S. soil.
I'll keep you posted on the Los Angeles portion of our trip in a few days. So far we've spent a LOT of time in front of our computers, writing emails, getting all of our networking information into digital formats and searching out the best combinations of dining and wifi... all with great success.
On behalf of Yannis and myself, I want to again thank you for your support for our Kickstarter campaign. I am looking forward to reporting even more success the next time we meet here!
– Dena Dahilig