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Arts Advocacy: A Dancer Discovers Her Niche
Snowy Range Summer Dance Festival intern and University of Wyoming dance performance major Krina Turner has always had a knack for getting things off the ground. Like her hero, Russian ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, who helped to found the Ballets Russes and famously promoted the Russian aesthetic in the West, Turner is excited to bring together artists from all walks of life to create and perform.
By the tender age of 15, Turner was booking live music for her peers in her hometown of Evanston, WY. Interested in seeing who she could get to come to town, Turner started securing venues, approaching artists and booking concerts, and promoting events with flyers.
“It was really exciting for me that people began to know who I was and that I was supporting artists and giving them a space to do what they love doing,” says Turner.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but this work influenced me hugely, and is one reason behind my interest in arts management today.”
This summer, Turner is putting her managerial and promotional skills to work in her second stint working on the Snowy Range Summer Dance Festival, a 10-day long dance intensive workshop hosted at the University of Wyoming each July. Now in its 18th year, the festival brings together dozens of students, aged 13 to adult, as well as dance professionals to study and to perform, a massive undertaking that relies heavily on interns to run smoothly.
“What’s so great about the dance festival is that it’s just a really well-rounded experience. We’re teaching yoga, wellness, and historical dance, as well as traditional dance classes,” says Turner. “It’s great to be a part of all that.”
Turner started dancing at age 10 after watching some of her friends take classes at a local studio. Dance soon became Turner’s main mode of self-expression, a perfect outlet for a self-described “shy child.” And she was a natural at it, quickly moving on to more and more advanced classes.
By the time Turner came to UW, she had done several dance intensives, including the Snowy Range Summer Dance festival, and she was also teaching dance at her home studio.
Turner’s family ran an HVAC business and this also peaked her interest in the world of commerce. She took several business courses in high school and considered minoring in the subject at UW.
“I was looking for a way to bridge the gap between the arts and business, but didn’t really know what was out there,” said Turner.
Then UW dance faculty member Lawrence Jackson succeeded in bringing in Dr. Antonio Cuylar, an arts administration and management specialist, to talk to the dancers as part of the Guest Artist Series. Cuylar had been a singer, but was burned out after college and decided to a take different route. Turner found herself feeling the same way as Cuylar.
“I am very injury-prone, so I realized that professionally I could not work full-time as a dancer,” said Turner. “Antonio explained to us that in arts management, we’re not teaching managers to appreciate art, but we’re teaching artists how to be managers, and that really appealed to me,” she added.
According to Marsha Knight, Professor of dance at UW, Cuylar’s residency was a turning point for Krina, as he expanded future possibilities and options for dancers and actors able to blend the multiple abilities necessary for arts administration.
“As a direct result of Antonio’s visit and with full encouragement from dance faculty, Krina set her course in this direction. Every arts organization needs skilled advocacy, and Krina is on track to a fulfilling future,” said Knight.
Cuyler encouraged Turner to get internships to prepare for graduate school, so Turner began looking right away, landing a position with the Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City. She worked for two weeks doing entry-level work like stuffing envelopes and data entry.
“That internship was a first look into what a dance organization is like on the inside, and how people communicate with each other,” said Turner. “I learned how important the artistic community is and how everyone has to work together or they won’t be successful.”
Turner later served as an intern for the Eminent Artist Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company residency, teaching her peers about the company and its values and repertory and promoting events.
The Bill T. Jones internship opened up a lot of doors for Turner, including providing contacts in the Seattle University Arts Leadership program, where she will go for graduate study.
“All the internships I have had have helped me to see what I want to do,” says Turner. “It’s not about what you’re doing as an intern, but about what you’re learning.”
Turner’s immediate career goals include working as a company manager for various dance companies, continuing to dance for her own enjoyment, and learning as much as she can about the art of making and producing art.
“I think that one of the main reasons why I am doing what I am is that life is too short to do something that you hate or to be working for companies that damage the environment and so on,” said Turner. “I want to be working in something where I can affect people positively around me the whole time.”
Eventually, Turner wants to be her own boss, and to run her own performing arts venue with educational and performance functions, as well as space for different kinds of artists to work collaboratively.
“I want so badly want to promote my art form and collaboration among artists and to see their work flourish,” said Turner. “I want to promote this live performing arts experience as something that strengthens communities and to bring it into the public schools.”
“I guess I want to be the 21st century Diaghilev and encourage collaboration in dance,” she laughed.