Despite the impending loss of its artistic director and producer, and uncertainty regarding its performance spaces, Eveoke Dance Theatre's new managing director, Nikki Dunnan, plans to continue the company's mission of cultivating compassion, building communities and providing access to the arts.
"I really value the vision of Eveoke as it stands; I really value the mission as it stands," Dunnan said. "Things will evolve, just because they have to, especially when you have a change of staff. But we are committed to the vision that has been created by the co-founders."
Dunnan, Gina Angelique and Christopher Hall started the downtown San Diego-based dance company in 1994. Through the years Eveoke has fulfilled its mission and maintained its grassroots activism through dynamic, socially aware dance performances, educational outreach programs and special events like the annual Celebrate Dance Festival in Balboa Park.
But this year's festival in August was scaled back to about half the size of previous years due to budget constraints. Thirty-seven artists participated in the two-day event, which took place on a single stage. By comparison, last year's three-day festival comprised nearly 80 dance companies on several stages throughout the park. The festival has been canceled for 2007, with plans for a 2008 event if the funds and resources are in place.
The downsizing was accompanied by news that in June 2007 artistic director Angelique and producer Hall will relocate to Northern California, where the husband and wife team plans to live a sustainable agrarian lifestyle. But the two won't be abandoning the organization they helped establish. Angelique and Hall will continue to have a creative hand in performances, as well as provide a dance retreat for company dancers.
"Technically, they'll be independent contractors for Eveoke," said Dunnan. "We'll contract with Gina for artistic work, and we'll contract with Chris for production work."
Dunnan, a company dancer and teacher, is now managing director of Eveoke, which operates on an annual budget of about $380,000. In addition to producing two full productions each year, the organization also teaches more than 30 classes each week in two downtown studios and runs an outreach program that involves more than 4,000 students throughout schools and community centers in San Diego.
Eveoke rents studio and office space in a former warehouse on Seventh Avenue, and recently opened the Tenth Avenue Theatre, a historic church building just south of Broadway. The theater has hosted performances by Stone Soup Theatre and has also become home to Sledgehammer Theatre.
But the continued availability of both these spaces is now in question. Eveoke's 10-year lease on the Seventh Avenue property ends in March, and Dunnan said the company is currently conducting a facilities search. She would ideally like to locate within a nearby community such as North Park.
"I would really like to be in an area where there are lots of schools around, where we can do great after-school programs -- it's a big goal for us to be able to do that at some point," she said. "And we're currently located in downtown, which is a difficult place to be when you'd like to be accessible. It's part of our vision to figure that out."
The viability of the renovated Tenth Avenue Theatre, which Eveoke inaugurated with its performance of "Hips" in January, is also up in the air. Dunnan explained that another, larger nonprofit has its eyes on the property, and the three landlords are now split about their commitment to Eveoke.
"It's a very real possibility that we may lose the building," said Dunnan. "We're still programming in there, but we don't have any guarantees about how long we'll be there."
But no matter where Eveoke eventually lands, Dunnan remains focused on the company's longstanding mission.
"We're still committed to access, community building, the excellence," she said. "We're still committed to the arts education program. We have a huge outreach program that is not affected by the transition at all, because it has been operating -- though under Gina's mentorship -- on its own through (education director) Erika Malone, who's done a fantastic job of growing our outreach education programs. We're really committed to that -- in particular bringing arts and dance to at-risk, underserved communities."
Look for Eveoke to continue its thought-provoking, socially conscious performances at its "dance action for peace," happening concurrently with politically charged singer, songwriter and feminist icon Ani DiFranco's San Diego performance at Copley Symphony Hall on Sept. 22. "Take It to the Table" is a call to action and a demand for diplomacy in war-torn areas, and will feature dances choreographed by Angelique and others, set to DiFranco's music.