Provide funding to Dance/UP for a transition/phase-out period.

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Dear William Penn Foundation Board of Directors, 

We, the dance community of Philadelphia, write you in response to the sudden dissolution of Dance/UP resulting from the discontinuation of its William Penn Foundation funding. This vital service organization, thanks to seven years of your support, has become indispensably woven into the fabric of Philadelphia dance. In order to ensure the continuation of crucial programming developed by Dance/UP we are making a heartfelt request that the William Penn Foundation provide six months of transitional funding, making it possible to migrate Dance/UP’s programs to the stewardship of other organizations.  

In the current situation, an extraordinary service organization and the innovative and effective programs it built with your support will vanish virtually overnight. This seems out of alignment with the Foundation’s strategic priority of ensuring sustainability. Instead, we request that the Board consider funding to Dance/UP for a transition/phase-out period.

Without that, here are the programs and functions that will be lost:

  1. Information Clearing House - Dance/UP serves an estimated 2,000 individual professionals including choreographers, educators, artistic directors, managers, designers, writers, and curators and is an integral part of the vibrant Philadelphia dance community. They cull opportunities for residencies, grants, teaching and performing into one accessible place online and in a newsletter.
  2. Audience Development - The DancePass program both offers discounts for dance artists to attend performances and workshops, and also acts a marketing tool for these events. “Dance in Public Places” has heightened awareness of the city’s rich dance culture by offering free, open viewings of companies-at-work. The annual Rocky Awards ceremony likewise focuses the public’s attention on noteworthy Philadelphia dance.
  3. Production Support - The portable dance floor available for rental allows performances to take place in unconventional sites.
  4. Promotional Support - The annual showcase has exposed international presenters to 37 Philadelphia artists and companies, offering them opportunities to tour and share the cultural riches of Philadelphia with the world. A video editing suite is used by dancers to create promotional materials. Dance/UP curates and designs an annual “Philadelphia Is Dancing” wall calendar.
  5. Grant-writing Support - Lois Welk’s consultations and grant reviews have provided hundreds of dance artists with free expert advice and guidance on their applications.
  6. Professional Development - Monthly Hi-Teas create informal spaces for local artists to meet visiting luminaries. The Artist Exchange Program has brought 10 Philadelphia dance artists to Poland and Hungary and 11 Eastern Europeans here for creative dialogue and cultural exchange. The Dance/UP lending library is a rich resource for research.

After seven years of creating these invaluable programs, networks and stores of information, Dance/Up needs time to transfer its materials and initiatives to safe, sustainable homes in other organizations.

We want to find homes for as many Dance/UP resources and programs as possible. We understand that some resources (the dance floor) are easier to steward than others (The Artist Exchange Program). Dance/UP with assistance from the dance community needs time to plan, identify appropriate steward organizations and to train them in the vital practices and projects they will be taking over.

The dance community of Philadelphia is grieving the loss of a service organization which has dynamically and nimbly provided for so many of our needs and envisioned solutions to longstanding problems. Dance/UP has been a space to meet, network, build community, disseminate information and to house invaluable programming. The sudden dissolution of Dance/Up, without a plan to disband intentionally, will have a fracturing effect on us.

We implore the Board to consider the disastrous impact it would have on the Philadelphia dance community and the waste it would be for these programs, which the William Penn Foundation invested in and helped create, to suddenly disappear. We urge the Board to reflect on how enabling these programs to continue by supporting a transition phase will contribute to the positive legacy that the William Penn Foundation has created in Philadelphia’s cultural life.


The dance professionals of Philadelphia…


In my 50 years in the city I've never seen a better or more professionally run or valued arts service organization than Dance/UP under Lois Welk. –Jonathan Stein 

This is such a tragic loss for Philadelphia. I cut my teeth at Dance/UP and experienced first hand, under Lois Welk's direction, the power and potential of big visioning with steadily doing the work. The saddest thing to me though is that when foundations refuse to work hand in hand with organizations in supporting transitional moments and plans, as I think happened here, what we are ultimately denied is our own local creative and cultural heritage. –Meg Foley

A huge loss. Dance/UP was responsible for many of the best professional experiences I had while freelancing in Philadelphia. They brought opportunities to this city for makers and lovers of dance, emerging artists and students, international performers, and even the occasional multi­disciplinary manager. Thank you Lois Welk and staff. –Julian Karlen

I can hardly imagine how a cultural organization could have a more positive impact on a community. In shock. Enormously sad for PHL and wishing that the culture we live in could support the great and positive work of Lois Welk and her fantastic Team. –Lisa Kraus

A tremendous loss. Dance/UP provided me with such valuable opportunities to grow as a young artist while I was in Philly, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from this amazing organization. In 2013, I was invited by Dance/UP to be in the PHL/Budapest Bilateral Artists Exchange, which provided me with a three week study visit to Budapest where I was given the time, space, resources, and community to delve further into my craft of dance filmmaking. My dance company was also given the opportunity to perform at The Barnes Foundation in June 2014 as part of the Dance/USA conference. This will hit the community hard. Thank you everyone at Dance/UP, I am forever thankful. –Tori Lawrence

I'm really disappointed to hear that Dance/Up is closing. When I was in college and considering a move to Philly, Dance/Up was an institution which made me feel welcome. High teas with artists like Ishmael Houston-Jones, Yvonne Meier, K.J. Holmes, etc, were always very special. I even found my first big dance job through Dance/UP! This feels like a big loss, but I can only hope that somehow this grim verdict will yield something bright and something stronger for the dance arts in Philadelphia. –Stuart Meyers

I can not say enough great things about Lois and all the hard work she has done here in Philadelphia, our city would not shine as bright without her and all the great people at Dance/UP. –Brett T Mapp

In a community that experiences competition, scarcity, trauma, and disparity in aesthetics and access to resources, Dance/UP Philadelphia is a physical symbol and actual hub where all dance artists and organizers in Philadelphia are invited to call or visit during business hours and to be vulnerable and express their struggles, needs, and curiosities. This personal approach provided by the part-time employees and the incredibly generous and thoughtful Lois Welk makes Dance/UP not just a place of action but a place of retreat...a refuge, a church, a commons, a shelter.  –Christina Gesualdi

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