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Purple Moon Dance Project Historical Overview

1992 – 1995

PMDP was founded in 1992 by choreographer/dancer Jill Togawa with the goal of promoting visibility for lesbians and women of color through the medium of dance. In these first years PMDP put together its core ensemble and began presenting an annual production. Long-standing relationships for the organization such as with lighting designer Stephanie Johnson, and installation and visual artist Pam Peniston (currently Executive Director of Queer Cultural Center) were established during this period that are critical to us today. Many of the core ensemble members went on to make significant contributions to the dance community: Nancy Ng moved on to be co-director of Asian American Dance Performances; Patricia Reedy moved on to found Luna Kids dance education organization; and Soyinka Rahim has gone on to create her own works. In addition to the home season productions, PMDP held several community dialogues as a way to engage its audiences and to gather perspectives that would be useful in guiding its early development. Also during this period, PMDP was fortunate to be presented by Dancers Group: Footwork and to co-present shows with Theater Artaud and with the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (Cowell Theater, 1994).

In 1995 PMDP was incorporated as a 501(c)3 tax exempt corporation. In this process a mission statement was created and the Circle (PMDP’s Board of Directors) was formed. This first mission was to promote the visibility lesbians and women of color and to pursue peace, healing and social change through the medium of dance. This was perhaps PMDP’s first turning point as an organization because it represented a long-term commitment to sustain and build the Company. As part of this process, PMDP adopted a logo and created letterhead as part of forming a clear identity. On the institutional side, PMDP opened up an office in the Women’s Building in the Mission District of San Francisco, and later that year PMDP’s first silent auction was organized. All of this reflected the fact the PMDP was here to stay.

In addition to these developments the newly incorporated PMDP embarked on its first planning process. The issue that Jill and the Circle began addressing was: What kind of programming do we need to implement in order to develop support in the community and to generate the revenue needed to sustain our organization? The main strategies that PMDP then took up were: 1) Developing a home season of performances, primarily of Jill’s interdisciplinary dance theater works. 2) Creating touring opportunities and 3) Teaching dance classes.

1996 – 2001

The next 5 years was a period of managed growth as PMDP established its reputation for quality work that advanced a progressive vision and as a strong proponent of the strong potential role of the arts in building community. PMDP became known as an excellent collaborator working with organizations as diverse as Brava! For Women in the Arts, the Harvey Milk Institute, New Leaf (a LGBT counseling center), the Alternative Family Project, and the Women’s Alcoholism Center.

In creating PMDP’s home season performances, Jill created a PMDP model for interdisciplinary collaboration through works such “Pearl Diving and …According to Jill, “In one piece Angelina DeAntonis created costumes and in another she created sets. She contributed so much both to the look of the pieces we worked together as well as the overall concept. She was a collaborator, not limited to the traditional role of a designer.”

It was also during the 1996-2001 period that PMDP gained a national reputation as it was presented at the Gay Games in New York in 1994 (where Jill garnered a well-deserved favorable in review in the New York Times), at Highways (Los Angeles) in 1994 and 1995, University of Hawaii in 1995, Pomona College in 1996, University of Michigan in 1998. Definitely a high point in 1995 was a performance at the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Beijing, China where the focus was advancing the cause of women.

2001 – Present

The next major turning point for PMDP was in the Spring of 2001 as the organization approached its 10th Anniversary Season. The Circle took this opportunity to assess the state of the organization and make plans for further development. During this period the PMDP added a Development Associate to the organization’s core capacity. In addition the Circle gained new members with expertise in resource development including Dipti Ghosh (former Development Director of the Asian Women’s Shelter) and Pauline Aguilar-Guillermo (consultant with the Community Technology Foundation). These new resources resulted in a plan that called for expanding the PMDP’s activities, raising salaries and seeking out program space.

On the heels of this planning process came a very successful 10th Anniversary Celebration in September 2001. The event proved to be successful despite the crisis in the country created by the 9/11 Tragedy. While many arts organizations took major hits during this period, PMDP underwent unprecedented growth with its message of healing, social change and peace through the arts. The organization began to attract funding from new sources such as the California Endowment, California Wellness and the Horizon Foundation for its efforts to promote the leadership of the arts in building community wellness as well as visibility for lesbians and women of color. In addition, the CAHEP enlarged its base of partners to include San Francisco Department of Public Health, Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Asian Women’s Shelter, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, the Latino Commission, Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Resources, Chinatown Public Health Center, A Women’s Place and LYRIC. It was during this period that PMDP’s budget doubled from $70,000 in FYE 2001 to $150,000 in FYE 2005.

In its home season presentations, PMDP began curating multidisciplinary work from lesbian and women of color artist communities to complement performances of Artistic Director Jill Togawa’s dance theater works. Multidisciplinary presentations included the 2003 Greater Than the Sum of All Our Parts, the 2004 Community Healing Garden Festival, the 2004 Co-Presentation with Kularts and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center “The Nature to Transform” and the 2005 Transmissions. This approach further developed PMDP beyond its original role as a performance ensemble to a multifunctional organization that combines art-making, arts presenting, health education and community-building in the service of lesbian and women of color communities.

In the Spring of 2005, the Circle began the process of creating its first 3-Year Organizational Plan for the period 2005-2008. PMDP is looking forward to its next period of development as a well-respected and mature organization on the eve of its 15th Anniversary Season.


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