MASSCreative Leadership Council Profile: Peter DiMuro
Dance adds the spice to life
How does the art of dance help us to become better citizens of the world? It’s as simple as any lesson we learned in kindergarten, says Peter DiMuro.
“At its most fundamental level, dance teaches us how to get along with others. It teaches us when to lead, when to follow, and how to take turns,” DiMuro, the executive director of the Dance Complex in Cambridge, says. “It shows us that we can lean on someone and we can also take someone else’s weight. No matter who you are or where you come from, these are universal lessons that help you to be successful.”
The universality of dance is abundantly evident in the Dance Complex’s diverse roster of dance classes and teaching artists. To name just a few: Lamine Touré, a native of Senegal, teaches African dance. Ramón de los Reyes, who teaches Flamenco, is a native of Madrid. Carl Alleyne, a native Bostonian, teaches hip-hop. Olivier Besson, who hails from France, teaches improvisional dance. “It’s like a mini united nations of dance,” says DiMuro.
In all, more than two dozen genres of dance (even burlesque!) are taught at this Central Square institution to more than 1400 students per week―children, seniors, hobbyists, and pre-professional and professional dancers. “It is a safe environment for anyone of any skill level to come and try new things,” DiMuro.
DiMuro isn’t exaggerating when he calls the Dance Complex “the hub of all kinds of dance for all kinds of people in this region.” Beyond its myriad dance classes, the organization hosts upward of 100 performances a year, rents out studio space to more than 30 dance companies, and offers a host of artist opportunities like internships, work study exchanges, and the Integrated Artist Residency Exchange, a mentoring program begun in 2013. Last October, the Dance Complex received a $500,000 grant from the Barr Foundation that’s being used for operating support and to complete renovations on a dance studio and event space.
Debra Cash, the executive director of Boston Dance Alliance, partners regularly with The Dance Complex to offer business-related workshops and convene dance community discussions. Cash and DiMuro met more than 30 years ago, when DiMuro began his dance career in Boston, and she says that she can’t think of a better person to lead The Dance Complex into the future.
“As an artist and as an administrator, Peter is a sincere community builder. He truly embraces everything that dance has to offer and makes sure that everyone who comes to The Dance Complex can find a home there,” Cash says. “He is a careful caretaker of one of Boston dance’s most precious resources—space for training, rehearsing, and performing. We’re proud that we were able to support him as a working choreographer with our 2015 Retreat and Rehearsal Fellowship.”
Though the Dance Complex is new to the MASSCreative coalition, DiMuro knows the importance of advocating for the arts in the political realm, especially in tough economic times, when arts funding is often among the first budget items to be cut. It’s a lesson he learned from Dance Complex founder Rozann Kraus, who was a fierce advocate for the organization and its constituents at Cambridge City Hall. “She would attend meetings and would be that persistent presence, advocating for dance on the whole and for The Dance Complex in particular” says DiMuro. "Her advocacy, along with a legacy of the dance community's involvement built over time, allowed us to get the support that we received in those early years.” Taking a page from Kraus’s book, DiMuro, who took over as executive director two years ago, tries to meet with an elected official once a month, such as the city manager who recently paid a visit to the organization.
DiMuro says MASSCreative’s advocacy at the State House and its mobilization of arts and cultural organizations across the state is the key to ensuring that everyone in Massachusetts can exercise their “intrinsic human right to know their own creativity and be able to value their creativity as a tool of being a part of society”―regardless of the economic climate.
“When things get tough economically, the first reaction is to go for an either/or mentality and shrink away from the arts, from things that are creative, and go for keeping what seems like the meat and potatoes,” says DiMuro. “And we know meat and potatoes is not a balanced diet. So why can’t we make sure that the necessary and balancing nutrients of dance, of the arts, of creative approaches to life remain part of the steady and healthy diet for all of us?