Premised on the belief that the arts are an effective vehicle for social transformation, Dance Theatre Etcetera unites artists and community members as co-creators in dynamic cultural activities. Through site-specific performances, festivals, parades, and performing arts and media education programs, Dance Theatre Etcetera stimulates the social imagination through acts of informed expression, creating a more just and joyful world.
Officially incorporated in 1994, Dance Theatre Etcetera (DTE) is an important cultural programmer based in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
DTE is nationally known for making the arts a vital component of urban renewal efforts in the waterfront community of Red Hook, Brooklyn. With the creation of On The Waterfront (1993), DTE’s Founder and Executive Director, Martha Bowers, planted the seeds for a long association with the Red Hook community. This site-specific work combined live dance and music performance with a walking tour of the then abandoned Red Hook waterfront that involved a cast of professional artists and over 50 local community members. In conjunction with this event, DTE initiated community arts programs at local schools and senior centers.
Soon after, DTE spearheaded the creation of Red Hook Partners, a group of local service providers, business representatives, neighborhood residents and waterfront organizations that met regularly to coordinate local urban renewal efforts. DTE is one of the founding member organizations of the current Red Hook Coalition that formed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to assist in local recovery efforts.
In 2002, the Board made a strategic decision to focus the organization’s mission and primary activities on arts education, and to continue producing the Red Hook Festival and other performance projects as ancillary showcases for student work and opportunities for advanced students to work with professional artists. In 2007, DTE was selected by the O’Connell Organization to be one of three not-for-profits offered a Red Hook waterfront office/studio space, rent-free, in recognition of its contributions to the community.
With a distinguished history and track record in Red Hook, DTE is now a deeply-rooted community arts organization with multiple programs that proudly serve and showcase the Red Hook community. DTE has replicated many of its art education programs in other low-income communities throughout New York City. DTE recognizes that community cultural development requires long-term commitments between artists and communities. In service to its long-range vision of a culturally aware and active community, DTE links its various education programs with its festivals, performances and administrative work.
DTE’s core values evidence our belief in: 1) the power of community; 2) importance of respect for all and commitment to challenging inequities; 3) the importance of collaboration to address inequities and improve the lives of youth; and 4) value of art as a tool for self-empowerment and social change.
Community: From our experience in Red Hook and similar urban “villages,” we see that it literally takes an entire village to support our young people. We coordinate with families, partner organizations and businesses to locate a young person in crisis, or identify resources to support them through life transitions. We earn trust and build networks through involvement in community affairs, joining Sandy relief efforts, or attending meetings on gang violence. Teaching artists in our youth programs are trained in techniques to create supportive communities for learning and creating. Our school-based programs and celebrations create school community cultures that help students thrive.
Respect/Equity: As described above, a deep commitment to equity and respect is integral to DTE. Our student-centered approach builds on students’ strengths and honors their diverse experiences as valid sources of knowledge, while they find their voices as advocates. Festivals provide an equitable cultural platform that celebrates youth, employs residents, and addresses the interests of low-income residents.
Collaboration: DTE collaborates with schools, social service agencies and other non-profits to create positive learning cultures that re-engage students in their educations. School-based collaborations have extended for 10+ years, and EBC High School’s principal cites DTE as key to the school’s record attendance rates. Community-based partnerships in Red Hook support an annual summer Digital Boot Camp, which provides 30 teens and young adults with paid digital media instruction.
Value of Art: When Jenna joined our Hip Hop poetry class in East New York, she was sixteen, pregnant, and living in transitional housing with her two children, whom she was supporting through the sex trade. Through two years of poetry classes, Jenna became a writer, gained critical understanding, and learned to use poetry to speak out against institutions that penalize sex trafficking victims. She completed high school, attends college, and advocates for young sex workers with the Red Umbrella Project. Jenna is just one of the many teens who develop the capacity for honest, courageous self-expression with DTE.