Direct Access gaming grant funding cuts leave Vancouver dancers reeling

The local dance community is starting to feel the effects of cuts to Direct Access gaming grants. The Dance Centre learned in late summer it would lose its $75,000 grant from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, but centre executive director Mirna Zagar says that reality is now sinking in.

“We anticipated cuts—we’re not blind to the economy—but we didn’t think we wouldn’t be getting a cent,” she told the Straight by phone. “We don’t have a sense of entitlement—these grants are never a given—but over the last several years our gaming-grant funding has been in that range. We had no reason to believe it would be cut altogether.”¦In the arts, no one has any fat to cut; we’re all working with lean operations, and every source of funding is very strategically placed.”

The $75,000—which represents about 15 percent of the Dance Centre’s annual budget—had been earmarked to cover outreach and education programs that Zagar says are now threatened. Among them is Discover Dance, a monthly noonhour dance series. If it survives, it’s likely that ticket prices will go up, detracting from the event’s accessibility.

Zagar, who notes that the centre’s six staff members have all taken pay cuts, says that smaller companies in particular will be hit hard, with some cancelling tours, shortening seasons, or folding altogether.

Other consequences hit home during the biennial Dance in Vancouver showcase, which ran October 14 to 18. “We had so many presenters from across Canada and abroad here,” Zagar says. “They were all shocked to hear that this is in fact happening.”¦They were here to discuss future programming, and they said, ”˜We’re programming two years from now. Will these artists still be around?’

“The cuts are distorting relationships this community has been investing in for so long. Vancouver was on the threshold of becoming the mecca of dance on the West Coast, and as a community we’re being thrown out of the game, not because of lack of knowledge or talent.”