Oct 7, 2021 - Things to Do
Dance is the next NWA art venture
photo of dancers
Photos by Corey Lamb (first two, left to right) and Max Grubb, courtesy of Karen Castleman. Graphic: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Get ready to see a more choreographed approach to engage NWA residents in dance.

Driving the news: Dance artist Karen Castleman used a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to study the state of the NWA dance community. She presented her findings to the public this week along with fellow dancer Heather Hartley.

Why it matters: People are leaving the area to see performances, and spending money to see those shows that could otherwise be spent here.

  • They're not traveling to just art destinations — like Chicago and New York City — but to nearby cities, like Dallas, Kansas City, Little Rock and Tulsa.

The arts have gained a lot of traction in NWA over the past decade.

  • See: Crystal Bridges, TheatreSquared, The Momentary, an expanded Arkansas Music Pavilion, Fayetteville Cultural Arts Corridor, Bentonville Film Festival, Railyard Live at Butterfield Stage and more.
  • But dance is often overlooked. The vast majority of people surveyed as part of the study hadn't even heard of the most existing dance organizations in the area. (Sorry, dance orgs. Keep moving — and tell us about it.)

What they found: The No. 1 reason people who are interested in dance don't attend local performances or events is a lack of awareness. So, having a central spot that dance organizations can use to get the word out could help. Working with Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE) is an option here.

  • The survey also showed that some health care and wellness organizations are interested in learning to incorporate more dance for general fitness and to help patients with diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

What's next: Partnerships, events, awareness. Castleman says she'll turn her attention to developing strategies to first meet the existing enthusiasm for dance, which will likely involve amped-up communication and working with health and wellness organizations.

Go deeper: See the full presentation and survey results here.

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