New nonprofit Dance Tampa Bay on mission to cultivate vibrant dance community in Bay Area

Dance lives in the Bay Area with addresses at Tampa City Ballet, the Straz Center’s Next Generation Ballet, Jansen Dance Project, the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College and a bevy of studios and dance schools.

A new nonprofit is on a mission to spark collaboration in that dance community, increase visibility and create more opportunities for dancers from the area to stay here and make a living.

Dance Tampa Bay’s partners include the likes of the Tampa Arts Alliance, UT, USF, HCC, Tampa City Ballet, Jansen Dance Project, Busch Gardens, the Straz and  Hillsborough County Public Schools. The freshly minted nonprofit’s CEO Shana Corrada says the notion of Dance Tampa Bay first popped up in 2014.

“Leaders of dance in Tampa Bay got together and said, ‘We need to unify because we’re all over the place and not connected,’” Corrada says. "And it’s always been that way. The dance community has got their own little pockets and their calendars even overlap.”

But the plans fell by the wayside. Then the pandemic happened. Eventually, Corrada says everyone came back together at a Tampa area event she organized with New York-based Equus Projects, which puts on performances that mix dance with equestrian riders on horseback. They decided to make the long-lingering plan a reality.

“Someone needs to speak up for dance in Tampa Bay and really support what is going on,” Corrada says.  “We need to make sure we market and help artists, especially new artists, who are moving here and starting companies. They need help to get going - finding venues, dancers, putting on auditions, finding rehearsal space.”

Creating more professional opportunities for dancers raised and trained in Tampa Bay to stay here and make a living is a focus. Corrada says the area has a strong reputation for developing dance talent. That’s one reason the Youth America Grand Prix- the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition- selected Tampa for its finals in 2023.

“We are known as a hotbed of dance education,” Corrada says. “We have oodles of dance education in all different genres. Many of our dancers go leave here and become professional dancers in other places- Europe, New York and Los Angeles. They don’t stay in Tampa. That’s part of the problem. Tampa City Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, or other companies lose their dancers. They train them all the way. They get them to be these phenomenal dancers and then they leave. What we are trying to do is create a culture where dancers stay. That includes funding. That includes resources. That includes more adult classes. There are not professional adult classes for dancers in Tampa. They’re really hard to come by. We’re starting a push to get that going.”  

Out of the gate, Dance Tampa Bay is holding a trio of town hall meetings in February and March to get input from dance professionals, collaborators and enthusiasts on their priorities moving forward. Those sessions are February 26th at the New Tampa Performing Arts Center; February 28th at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus dance studio; and March 26th at The Walton Academy. Each town hall is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Dance Tampa Bay has also launched a website that Corrada says will have 
“every resource you can think of to be a dancer” in Tampa Bay.

“Not only a dancer but a collaborator, choreographer, lighting designer, costume designer, a musician who creates music for dance,” she adds. “The website will comprehensively bring together all of these people who work in the field.”

The website’s resources include a calendar of dance events, a photo gallery, information on job opportunities and wellness resources, including information on lower-cost doctors. Corrada says Dance Tampa Bay is working on a plan to set up health insurance access for dance professionals.

Looking ahead, Corrada is working through her industry contacts to bring the Dance Rising program to the first city outside of New York. Dance Rising NYC launched when dance companies and performances were shut down during the pandemic as a grassroots advocacy, performance and video project. Through it, dancers filmed dance performances outdoors. Videos of the performances have been shown in Times Square and other spots around the city. 

Corrada says USF, UT, the Jansen Dance Project and Tampa City Ballet will be part of the next Dance Rising compilation. Then, the plan is for a  Dance Rising Tampa Bay project to be shot in the spring and displayed in the fall on the outside of the HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building.

For more information, go to Dance Tampa Bay.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.