Dance Place Co-Directors Announce 2017 Retirement

The Board of Directors of Dance Place is announcing Founding Director, Carla Perlo and Co-Director, Deborah Riley’s upcoming retirement on August 31, 2017. At the end of 2015, Dance Place adopted its most recent three-year strategic plan, whose central objective is to build the organization’s future with a new leader. Over 35 years, Carla and Deborah together have developed a unique merger of artistic vision and bold leadership that has prepared them to thoughtfully plan for succession while celebrating Dance Place’s capital and program expansion. A search committee of board members has engaged CJAM Consulting to assist in the organization’s national executive search, with plans to name a new director in Spring of 2017.

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“Carla and Deborah have a truly unique partnership that has always moved Dance Place forward with inclusiveness and excellence. Their foresight and commitment, along with their excellent staff, has put Dance Place on the map locally in the Brookland / Edgewood neighborhood, nationally and internationally,” says Jannes Gibson, Board Chair.

A native Washingtonian, Carla Perlo founded Dance Place in 1980 alongside percussionist Steve Bloom. From 1980 to 1985 the company thrived at its 18th Street Adams Morgan location until its building was sold and the rent quadrupled against a backdrop of booming commercial development in the area – a boom which Dance Place helped spur. Carla turned this challenge into an opportunity and with support from the Board of Directors and fellow artists, she purchased a building in a desolate area of the Brookland / Edgewood neighborhood. She dreamed with certainty about a new vision and future for Dance Place.

That same pioneering spirit led Carla to dancer/choreographer/teacher Deborah Riley who partnered with Dance Place as a faculty member, artist-in-residence and administrator, before joining Carla as Co-Director in 1999. Together the duo created a unique model within executive and arts management.

As Carla says, “I believe that the arts and creative education are the heart and soul of our society. Creative pursuits are pathways to a peaceful, more humane society, where we can applaud our differences and celebrate our similarities. Dance Place has provided me with extraordinary opportunities to express myself through dancing, teaching, choreographing, performing and presenting. I am more than grateful for the board members, staff members, funders, volunteers, audience members, students and performing artists who have helped me realize my artistic vision over these 35 years of leadership.”

Carla and Deborah’s leadership has established the Dance Place campus as an internationally recognized center for dance, an exemplary national model for its creative placemaking ability in the Brookland / Edgewood community and a local home of outstanding youth programs.

“It’s been a joy to contribute to Dance Place’s evolution and to have a home among the many inspiring artists, faculty and staff that are the heart of our organization. The power of dance (and the arts) brings us closer to our true selves and therefore with each other. From toddlers to elders, dance is an experience that unites body, mind and spirit helping us to celebrate and understand our world. I’m grateful for the many artistic and leadership opportunities that have allowed me to work directly with our wonderful board members, donors and community partners to help Dance Place be the cultural jewel that it is,” says Deborah.

Always with an eye toward the future, Carla, Deborah and the Board of Directors have strategically prepared for this leadership succession over the past eight years through several major efforts:

  • Completion of a $4.5 million dollar capital campaign, “Moving Forward,” which supported the expansion and total renovation of the Dance Place facility
  • Partnership with DC Department of Housing and Community Development, Artspace Projects and Jim Epstein to create the Brookland Artspace Lofts adjacent to Dance Place that provides low-cost housing for artists and three dedicated spaces for Dance Place (office, children’s center and dance studio).
  • Establishment of a Program Enhancement Fund as part of the capital campaign, which launched the creation and delivery of free community programming entitled “Art on 8th”.
  • Conception and development of the future 8th St Arts Park (opening September 2016), which will complete the vision for an Arts Campus in Brookland / Edgewood that includes the Brookland Artspace Lofts, Dance Place’s renovated facility and a vibrant community space in between.
  • Improved financial position through diversification of revenue, including new national sources of funding.

Dance Place’s new leadership will capitalize on past successes and chart new paths for institutional growth, artistic programming, educational leadership and community cohesion. The company’s succession activities will be unveiled to the public next season, September 2016 – August 2017. Events will include celebrations throughout the year honoring our illustrious directors, announcing the new director search process and highlighting the season’s work.

“We are fortunate that Carla and Deborah have initiated their retirement in a way that our board has the opportunity to celebrate them as artists, transformers and supporters of community. We envision the future of Dance Place as continuing to build on its core identity with a Director who has a sense of our past and shares our vision for the future,” says Jannes Gibson, Board Chair.