The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management at Oklahoma
City University is the first of its kind in higher education and its creation
is truly an historical event. The United States has been a powerhouse for
creating, producing, and managing the arts and entertainment. A case could
be made that arts and entertainment are America's greatest export and
in many ways identify and define what it is to be an American.
While higher education has easily embraced art forms firmly rooted in European
traditions, it has often ignored those developed out of an uniquely American
experience. When Oklahoma City University, under the leadership of Jo Rowan,
established a dance program, the American dance art forms of tap, jazz, and
musical theatre dance were not included in the curricula for dance degrees
at other American universities. Even today, when tap and jazz are included
in dance curricula elsewhere, they are usually included reluctantly and at
low technique levels.
Unlike European art forms which were founded in nobles' courts, funded by
royal patronage and then filtered down through society, America's art often
started on the streets of its cities and in the fields of its farms and plantations.
Pilgrims and indentured servants brought to America may have been poor, but
they were rich with imagination and innovation. Cultures mixed, shared and
borrowed from each other, and the results were like seeds planted in fertile
earth, first sprouted and growing, then blossoming and bearing fruit.
America has brought equal creativity to the management of its arts in both
the commercial and non-profit sectors. Our history of managing and producing
the arts and entertainment is filled with entrepreneurs, impresarios and
visionaries -- George M. Cohen, Florenz Ziegield, David Merrick, Sol Hurok,
and Lincoln Kirstein easily come to mind. This is a history of people who
used energy, innovation, talent, perseverance, and cunning to leverage dreams
and scarce resources into wonderful realities.
The uniqueness and sophistication of American management of arts and entertainment
becomes quickly apparent to those of us in the field who work internationally
or who converse with colleagues in other countries. Without significant state
and national funding of our arts, American managers have had to hone their
programming, audience development, marketing, financial and fund-raising
So why is the creation of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts
Management an historical event? Because now there is a single place within
a respected university where American dance art forms and arts management
can be nurtured and developed to their highest level and properly recognized
for their contributions to art and culture throughout the world.
As we begin the new school, we are committed to changing dance, dance education
and the management of the arts by sending forth well-educated and well-trained
professionals to work in all aspects of the entertainment industry. There
will be a time not far in the future when someone will pose the question, "Why
are so many leaders in entertainment, on stage and off, from Oklahoma?" When
that time comes, you and many others will know the answer.
Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management