This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
As of Aug. 2, the Canadian Dance Assembly’s (CDA) Resilience Fund has reopened for applications. The one-time $2,500 payment for dance performers is to support expenses like housing, food, childcare and other necessities.
In May, the Government of Canada announced the Performing Arts Worker Resilience Fund. This program provides more than $50 million of direct funding to independent self-employed workers in the live performing arts sector. There was a national call for applications and the CDA, in partnership with a number of dance organizations in Canada, received $3.88 million to provide support for 1,500 dance performers.
With a simple application process, approximately 700 requests were received during the first week after the application portal opened.
“We knew there were going to be a lot of applications, but not that much,” said Karla Etienne, the CDA’s executive director. “For me, it shows that [this fund] is needed. Dance artists are still living in precarious situations.”
With live performance jobs still at only 62.3 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels, according to a Government of Canada release, Etienne noted that this program prioritizes equity groups who have been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
To do this, partner organizations and advisors helped determine an initial number of grants to reserve for particular regions and equity seeking populations.
The focus on an equitable distribution of funds is one reason for the recent pause in application intake. According to Etienne, the original plan was to do application cycles to make sure they were meeting their equity targets and to ensure that applicants received their money in a timely fashion.
In terms of the equity goals, Etienne said: “I’m really proud to say that people self-identifying amongst everybody that applied is more than 75 per cent.” But most applicants were based in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
Now that the fund has reopened, the CDA is trying to encourage dancers from New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories to apply.
Etienne also noted that CDA recognizes that there are different ways of being a dance performer and that all of these are eligible to apply.
This is echoed by Kenney Fitzpatrick, the new executive director of Dance Nova Scotia, one of the partner organizations whose membership consists primarily of independent dance artists.
Coming from a region that has seen lower application numbers, he said: “It’s one thing for people to miss [the application call], but are they missing it because we are not using the right avenues? Are they missing it because we’re not getting it to the right communities? So I think that’s something on us that we have to take a look at and say, How are we putting the information out?”
He asserts that dance organizations have a responsibility to represent a wide variety of dance practices by actively showing the diversity that exists, which can help validate practices outside of the traditionally supported genres and regions. “That’s some heavy lifting by us, but get the forklift,” he said.
Etienne has heard back from several applicants who have already been approved for the funding.
“People said, ‘Oh my god, I cried when I received this. Thank you so much for letting me feel safe when I asked for the money. Thank you for taking the lead for us, for dance.’ ”
Andrya Duff is a dance artist in St. John’s who received funding during the first round. She spoke about many dancers’ tiring hustle to find money and the effect that supporting people’s basic needs might have on their contributions to the arts and cultural sector.
“For me, that money was really helpful and significant,” said Duff. “I think it’s amazing that these organizations came together and did this, but it’s bigger for me . . . It makes such a good case for basic income.”
Etienne also noted that this fund is just a short-term solution and one step on the path leading to long-term financial stability for dance artists.
While the CDA’s initial request to Canadian Heritage was for a fund to support all dance artists in Canada, they only received funding for live dance performers. Choreographers, dramaturgs and others are encouraged to look for support through other programs, such as those administered by the AFC and, in Quebec, La Fondation des Artistes du Québec.
Dance Media Group strengthens the dance sector through dialogue. Can you help us sustain national, accessible dance coverage? Your contribution supports writers, illustrators, photographers and dancers as they tell their own stories. Dance Media Group is a charitable non-profit organization publishing The Dance Current in print and online.