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Meet Debra Cash of Boston Dance Alliance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Debra Cash.

Debra, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For three decades, I held down at least two jobs. During regular work hours, I was a corporate customer experience researcher with an international clientele. At night and on weekends, I was dance critic for the Boston Globe and many other publications. I taught as an adjunct at a number of area colleges, and give preshow talks before World Music/CRASHarts dance performances at the Institute of Contemporary Art. I am the Scholar in Residence at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine during the summers and have had a similar role at Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires. I have always been an advocate and activist for fair treatment of creative professionals, especially since the internet has had an impact on publishing and the arts. I have won prizes for my poetry, and have one book out, with a second slowly taking form.

If I had to name a category, you could say I am a “culture worker.”

In 2015, I was ready to commit all my energies to work in Boston’s cultural sector. While it meant taking a pay cut, it also meant that I could wake up every morning committed to helping the arts that bring me such joy, and collaborating with colleagues who believe in the power of the imagination. That has been very rewarding.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Dance is the most ephemeral of artforms. In order to thrive, it requires tireless devotion by its practitioners and its supporters in the audience and across our community.

Securing funding for the arts is never easy. It is especially challenging for an organization like Boston Dance Alliance that makes its impact behind the scenes, and supports a huge range of organizations from youth organizations to professional artists.

In recent years, BDA has received generous funding from local foundations, but are always working to diversify and increase our sources of support so that we can sustain our unique programs and expand the good work we do every day.

Since 2015, we have been able to take advantage of technological advances. We completely redesigned and relaunched BDA’s website so that it shines a brighter light on the wealth of dance activity going on across the region. A CRM system has increased the efficiency of our back office activities and our tiny staff. But as anyone who has ever built a database from scratch can tell you, it’s a process something like birth — it hurts while it’s happening, but you have something to celebrate when it is complete.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Boston Dance Alliance – what should we know?
Boston Dance Alliance improves the conditions for dance so that it can thrive across the metropolitan area. Our community spans ballet to hip hop and culturally specific forms as well as social dancing in the sunlight and under the moon.

We provide information in our website and weekly newsletter to dancers and audiences.

We support professional dancers, choreographers, and teachers with the tools they need to create their entrepreneurial small businesses. We have created unique programs including a Dancewear Distribution program that last year provided over $26,000 worth of tap, ballet, jazz shoes and sneakers, tees, tights and more to financially disadvantaged dancers of all ages. We encourage and welcome dancers of all abilities through our dance and disability referral service. And our special portable dance floor let’s dance happen anywhere, inside or outdoors. BDA’s Raise the Floor! fund solicits donations so that we can loan our t floor to the Boston Public Schools at no charge. Not at all least, we are proud of having been able to advocate for dance and dancers in Boston’s Cultural plan.

Founded as a volunteer organization in 1984, we have come a long way. In 2017, BDA was one of four small nonprofits in the *state* to be finalists for the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s award for Excellence. It was wonderful to receive our citation at the MA State House alongside other hard-working nonprofits.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Persistence. We know that dancers never stop reaching for their best, and neither do we. BDA is always looking for ways we can identify and share resources that will make dance possible for dancers of all abilities, backgrounds, genres, and neighborhoods.


  • Like public radio, we rely on our members! Basic membership starts at $50, with more for premium and organizational members. Join us!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kim Maroon
Liza Voll
Alicia Downey
Ann Wicks

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