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COHI | MOVE Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative


Beginning in 1960, the Founding Member Organizations of The International Association of Blacks in Dance, Inc. (IABD) - Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT), Philadanco!, The Philadelphia Dance Company (DANCO) - rooted in the Black Dance tradition, have played unique and vital roles within their individual communities and in the Dance field. Since each company's founding, they have created access and opportunity for Black Dance artists, at-risk youth, and helped to shape and develop leading administrators, arts leaders, choreographers, companies, and dancers over the last 50+ years.

These organizations have existed from 38-50 years in the Black dance field (in order of oldest to youngest) Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (1968); Philadanco!, The Philadelphia Dance Company (1970); Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (1974); Dallas Black Dance Theatre (1976); Lula Washington Dance Theatre (1980), and represent national presence in the dance field throughout the United States in California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. They are documented historical breeders of professional dancers and considered “Mothers” to the Black dance field.

These Institutions have proven their effectiveness of leadership and development through their programming, and must continue their work artistically, in their communities and throughout the world. Over the years, IABD has seen Black-led dance companies close down operations. The struggle for these companies to keep their doors open is ongoing, whether a small to mid-sized organization, geographically isolated, or a community-based institution. The loss of these organizations is significant and weakens the dance ecosystem as a whole. While there are many contributing factors, the financial challenges of these organizations represent decades of marginalization by the arts funding infrastructure. To address this issue within the Black dance sector, IABD is partnering with the  Nonprofit Finance Fund® (NFF) to pilot a capitalization project that moves beyond a conversation about the importance of equity into strategy and action.

Managing Organizational Vitality and Endurance (MOVE) is a collaborative program with NFF that delivers methodology and resources to strengthen the financial and organizational health of the IABD Membership. As an existing body of dance companies, IABD is uniquely positioned to tackle this issue. NFF provides the analytic basis, requisite data, training, and planning for a comprehensive initiative that addresses the financial capacity and capitalization needs for long-term stability of these critical dance organizations.

MOVE is a four-year initiative with two phases. Phase I (2017-2018) involved diagnostics, education and planning. We used convenings, surveys, individual conversations, financial analyses, along with site visits, to understand the strengths and challenges of our Membership. Points such as limited knowledge on the diverse ways capital can be implemented, challenges with facilities, gentrification and displacement of core audiences, and staff capacity, including succession, were key issues that need to be addressed. The MOVE program was designed to support organizations as they navigate these nuanced challenges. To view participating organizations of Phase I, click here.

As an organization that has been servicing the Black dance community for twenty-eight years with a focus on education, networking, and professional development, IABD is poised to bring to light the innovative methodologies of these Black-led dance organizations, that enabled them to make historic accomplishments in spite of pervasive and sometimes crippling racism as well as systemic financial inequities – utilizing dance as a means of protest, survival, and social change.

IABD and NFF are currently engaged in Phase 2 (2018-2021) of MOVE. This phase engages a cohort of 30 Member organizations in a four year process designed to enhance sustainability. The process includes organization- and cohort-level financial analyses, seminars that will help participants use financial information in decision-making, and assessments designed to identify core needs that will inform next steps toward financial strength and flexibility. Cohort members have access to general operating support, change capital, technical assistance and a team of consultants to help them to manage their current situations and to experiment with new possibilities with mitigated risk. MOVE also provides support for the entire IABD Membership through specialized learning opportunities, access to consultations with field specialists, and facilitated peer exchanges with cohort participants during the Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance. To view participating organizations of Phase II, click here.

IABD’s very existence recognizes that if we, as Blacks in dance, do not endeavor to preserve and promote dance by people of African ancestry or origin then there is certainly no other group who should or will take on this responsibility.

This program is generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

For more information, contact:

Denise Saunders Thompson
President and CEO
IABD, Inc.

Claire Knowlton

Trella Walker
Senior Associate

Nonprofit Finance Fund