Jacksonville Dance Theatre (JDT) is a contemporary dance and performance company based in Jacksonville, FL. JDT is led by Katie McCaughan (Executive Director), Rebecca R. Levy (Artistic Director), and Tiffany S. Santiero (Creative Director). Each spring, JDT produces its Annual Repertory Concert at the historic Florida Theatre in Jacksonville's urban core. In addition to local performances, JDT also has a touring season. The dance company has performed at the Dance Gallery Festival (New York City, NY and Huntsville, TX), where JDT won the Audience Choice Award (2014), MixMatch Dance Festival (Santa Monica, CA), and the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival (Chicago, IL). JDT was a 2016 recipient of a PNC Arts Alive grant, which was the first year PNC extended the grant program to the state of Florida.
Executive Director, Katie McCaughan, is a dancer, performer, and educator. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Katie holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington and a Master's Degree in Dance Education from New York University. While living in Washington, Katie was involved with Seattle's dance community as a performer, administrator, producer, and educator. Velocity Dance Center, one of the busiest and most innovative contemporary dance spaces in the Pacific Northwest, served as the hub of involvement for Katie.
Katie has committed herself to the ongoing study of contemporary dance techniques, including composition, contemplative dance practice, authentic movement, choreography, and improvisation. As an educator and choreographer, Katie has led workshops at schools and theaters around the United States, including The Chicago Academy for the Arts (Chicago, IL) and The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University (New York, NY). Additionally, Katie is a certified teacher of the Simonson Technique and a certified practitioner of SOMA Bodywork.
Katie is in her sixth year as the Director of Dance at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Dance at Jacksonville University. Her creative, therapeutic, and educational work is shaped by her interest in the body as symbol, vessel, and home.
10 Questions with Katie McCaughan
What is the mission of your organization?
Jacksonville Dance Theatre (JDT) is committed to creative innovation and exchange through dance making, performance, and education. JDT is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit contemporary dance and performance company dedicated to creating and promoting excellence in the field of professional dance on local, national and international stages.
When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
JDT was founded in 2012 by Rebecca R. Levy, me (Katie), and Tiffany S. Santiero. We each either moved to, or returned home to, Jacksonville after completing Master’s Degrees in dance/choreography from distinguished universities and performing with renowned dance companies and famous choreographers throughout the country. We all have significant experience developing and sustaining dance companies and dance education programs.
With an initial focus on providing a local, professional outlet to prevent “talent-flight,” as well as to attract talent from outside Jacksonville, we created a core company of 17 talented, professional dancers. Over the past few years we have grown in size, budget, and audience attendance, with over 450 people attending our 4th Annual Concert at the Florida Theatre. Our partnership with the Florida Theatre has been significant to our growth and development as has our commitment to doing our work regardless of “success” or accolades. We feel strongly that we just have to continue making the work, pushing ourselves physically and artistically, and taking major leaps of faith when it comes to how we will fund a show or a program.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
JDT realizes and appreciates the fact that our audiences gather their information from a wide variety of media. Social media has become the norm lately and for many it serves as a primary source of event notifications, a means to express their opinions, and an avenue to recruit and support what they like.
JDT has dedicated marketing resources to social media and publicity. We utilize several tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we have received very favorable feedback from this. With that said, there is still an effort made to produce and distribute hard printed materials to high traffic locations where we can continually reach out to everyone who may not know how to find us on social media.
Venues where we perform, like the Florida Theatre, have featured us on their billboards and in their showcases. Audiences of all kinds frequent these venues and it has allowed interested individuals to learn more about us. Once at a performance, JDT also makes a great effort to engage our audiences. Often before, during, and after performances, you will hear from one of the directors about what you’ll be seeing that night, where it came from, who the performers are, and what these pieces mean to them.
After many performances, the performers will interact with the audience in what has become a very popular Q&A and conversation session. Our audiences are trying to get into the heads of the performers and choreographers to understand what was behind the pieces they just saw. Witnessing these interactions reinforces to us that we have very engaged audiences, which drives us to continue doing what we’re doing
Why is art and culture important?
JDT is the premier civic dance company of Jacksonville and we are proud to bear the city’s name. A part of our mission is to raise awareness about dance as a culturally necessary art form that is often lost or found only on the fringes of Jacksonville’s art scene. Nationally and globally, dance is an increasingly popular art form on television, film, and stage.
Most major metropolitan cities have multiple professional dance companies, freelance choreographers, and working dance artists that create a community of professional dancers and dance opportunities. The fact that we are asking “why is art and culture important?” illustrates that art and culture are undervalued and underfunded in Jacksonville and in the U.S. as a whole. The importance of art and culture should not be underestimated or questioned. Art is at the very essence of humanity, human expression, and the creation of meaning in our world and membership in our communities. We need more art and more culture, and we must continue to flight for a place and a purpose in this city and beyond.
What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
Organizationally speaking, our next milestone is to find a space and a home downtown where we can deepen our work and create more opportunities for dancers and audience members alike. We currently train and rehearse out of Jacksonville University - which has been an incredible partnership that we so so very grateful for. For JDT to achieve its long-term goals, we need a space of our own.
Artistically, JDT is looking to commission new choreography from diverse artists of different races, genders, and nationalities, and offer more regular training to our company members and local pre-professional dancers.
What would you like to see in the arts and cultural community in Jacksonville?
JDT would like to see the city invest in spaces where artists of all genres can create and perform their work - especially downtown. We’d like to see a Theatre District come alive again in the downtown urban core. There simply are not any centrally located spaces downtown that are conducive to dance and theatre production at affordable costs. We love that the 5 & Dime recently found a permanent home downtown, and we hope to do the same soon! A home for JDT in the urban core will enable us to have greater impact in the community and reach more people through dance classes and performances.
Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
In our first five seasons, JDT has presented dance in unique ways in Jacksonville, combining dance with other important aspects of Jacksonville culture such as One Spark, art walks, local gala performances, teaching and learning opportunities, and charitable events. JDT has developed partnerships with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville University, Cathedral Arts Project, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Episcopal School of Jacksonville, and Any Given Child Jacksonville. We received corporate sponsorships for our 2nd and 3rd annual repertory concerts, and recently completed a hugely successful matching campaign. For the second season in a row, we are producing our Annual Repertory Concerts at the Florida Theatre.
What is a program offered by your organization that you’d like to highlight?
Made possible by the PNC Arts Alive grant program, Jacksonville Dance Theatre’s "The Bridge Project" will commission a newly choreographic work by dancer and choreographer James Boyd, a local African-American dance artist with a renowned, national reputation in professional dance.
Once Boyd creates the choreography, JDT will present the work to underserved audiences throughout Jacksonville. In addition, filmmaker Alexa Velez will produce a documentary on JDT’s rehearsal and presentation of the work, which will be screened at a public event. "The Bridge Project" will culminate as part of the JDT’s 5th annual full-company repertory concert on June 24, 2017 at the historic Florida Theatre.
How do you stay up to date with the art and cultural happenings both nationally and in Jacksonville?
As individuals and as a company, JDT travels and tours to national dance festivals and workshops; engages with dance artists nationally and internationally; attends all dance related events in Jacksonville; collaborates with local artists; and supports and attends art events of all genres in Jacksonville. Most all of us are also teachers and scholars who are deeply involved in local dance programs that raise the awareness of dance in our city. We also partner with many local art organizations that host events that bring local artists together. Jacksonville is experiencing a sort of mini-boom when it comes to art and culture, independent businesses, and civic initiatives. JDT is excited to be growing right alongside.
How can others get involved with your organization?
If anyone is interested in coming to a rehearsal, volunteering at a show, or offering their donations or services, they can email me. We are always looking for more volunteers and support! In addition to our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the best way to find out what shows we have coming up and how to get involved.