Dance Place Co-Directors Announce 2017 Retirement

By Editorial Team on April 21, 2016

The Dance Place Board of Directors announces Founding Director Carla Perlo and Co-Director Deborah Riley’s upcoming retirement on August 31, 2017. Over 35 years, Carla and Deborah together 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.

Because of Carla and Deborah’s vision, Dance Place has become a recognized center for dance, creative placemaking and outstanding youth programs both nationally and abroad. “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,” says Carla.

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 the building was sold due to commercial development in the area. With support from the Board of Directors and fellow artists, Carla purchased a building in a desolate area of the Brookland / Edgewood neighborhood and moved Dance Place to its new home on 8th Street NE in 1986. Thirty years later, Dance Place is now an anchor in the revitalized community, having played an integral part in its development.

In 1980, Carla met dancer/choreographer/teacher Deborah Riley who would later join Dance Place as a faculty member, artist-in-residence and administrator, before partnering with Carla as Co-Director in 1999. Together, the duo created a unique model for executive and arts management, working closely with each other as co-executive directors rather than follow the traditional artistic/managerial divide. Now upon their final season together, Deborah remembers the journey: “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.”

Carla, Deborah and the Board of Directors have strategically prepared for this leadership succession over the past eight years through several major efforts including the completion of the $4.5 million “Moving Forward” Capital Campaign; partnership with DC Department of Housing and Community Development, Artspace Projects and Jim Epstein to create the Brookland Artspace Lofts adjacent to Dance Place; creation of Art on 8th free community programming; and conception and development of the future 8th St Arts Park (opening September 2016). This thoughtful preparation has allowed the Board of Directors to simultaneously honor Carla and Deborah’s contributions and plan the company’s future. “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. 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.”

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(via Dance Place. Photo courtesy of Dance Place.)