September 17, 2009 News » Cover Story

Jan Johnson 

Founder and artistic director, Ormao Dance Company

At Ormao Dance Company, we have developed a place for emerging choreographers to work with professional dancers, as well as a school for young dancers to be celebrated and encouraged for their creative ideas. All emerge as stronger dance artists than they were the day before.

But financially, it has been a very difficult climb. Colorado Springs has repeatedly voted down the idea of a "Scientific and Cultural Facilities District" tax, an idea that has worked for years in the Denver area to support many small performing arts initiatives. Without sufficient financial support, there is no question that we have missed opportunities to bring guest teachers and choreographers to this community.

To have successful concerts, our dance artists, families, friends and business colleagues must fulfill many roles in marketing and administration without compensation. We depend upon countless hours of in-kind professional support, from the dancers and choreographers to the graphic designers and photographers. Competition for grant funding here is high, corporate funding has significantly been reduced, personal contributions are carefully offered, and philanthropy in general is rare, but joyfully received by performing arts organizations.

On the other hand, professional-quality modern dancers continue to move into the area, and therefore the quality of Ormao performances continues to rise. The community has embraced our work, with audiences steadily swelling each year. And opportunities to collaborate with other major arts organizations, and to share resources with local college dance departments, have grown in number, too.

Ormao comprises so many passionate, amazing dance artists who continue to work in the face of a cultural environment that does not generally know much about modern dance as a form of expression about life or politics, for example. We work tirelessly toward a different time, a time when our culture will be as excited about a gifted professional dancer or choreographer as it is about a celebrated professional athlete.

Meanwhile, we encourage each person to consider a culture without the arts, and then to attend live performance events such as dance and theater with an open mind, to enjoy the challenge of viewing an artist's expression. Know that you do not have to "get it" — that whatever you see in an abstract painting or piece of dance choreography is "correct." The point is to challenge your way of thinking about your relationships, society, the world, or politics. If you can give financially or with your time, give! Find an arts organization you can be passionate about, call them and make an offer!

I believe the area is richly populated with very talented performing and visual artists, though many are unknown to the general public. We have the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region and Peak Radar's online calendar to prove that there is no shortage of great arts and cultural activity in this area.

Jan Johnson has led Ormao Dance Company for the past 18 years. Her belief in the inclusive nature of modern dance has created a company with depth of artistic expression, brilliance of technical skill, and given back to the Colorado Springs community a professional contemporary dance company it can call its own.


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