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Peter DiMuro, To be an artist is to be an entrepreneur and community builder

Peter DiMuro is "a career long artist." Like most artists, Peter dons many different hats, "I've been making a living by either performing dances or teaching or creating dances, since my 20s. And I said, by the time I was 30, if I wasn't making a living at it, I would switch careers." Suffice it to say, Peter's early career goals were attained.

In this Co-Creators in Conversation interview, Peter shares the story of two different businesses he's currently leading, The Dance Complex and Public Displays of Motion. At the heart of both businesses is a commitment to approach dancing in unconventional ways. He uses it to build community, celebrate diversity and lean into change. In an industry which has long been mired by the illusion of perfection and unhealthy expectations of dancers including the shape of their physique - Peter believes different abled-bodies deserve a spot on the dance floor.

The Dance Complex is a large studio space where instructors from a variety of dance genres teach. Peter shares, "we've been called the United Nations of dance because of the work that we naturally do. We seek out others who don't think dance has a place for them. And this includes immigrant families and LGBTQ plus teens and elders." This approach is centered around the "idea that there is no other in dance."

Peter celebrates all walks of life through dance in order to provide a forum for growth and progress individually as well as collectively. "When you lean into change, it's about movement. When we're static, you can devolve or go backwards because there's no bodily inertia bringing you forward"

These core beliefs also serve as the foundation for his performance business, Public Displays of Motion (PDM). PDM is intergenerational and intersectional dance troupe, "we all come from very different movement backgrounds."

PDM is not only an avenue for performing shows, but a mechanism for promoting social change. "We have two or three people who are dancers with disabilities who are recurring guests, because I feel that the information in those bodies, and the way they've adapted dance to work, communicate something very much needed."

Peter goes on to reflect on a more recent installation, Stones to Rainbows, Gay to Queer Lives. The premise for the show came out of a conversation he had where two young queer dancers inquired about Peter's experience living through the aids epidemic. The performance has sparked "intergenerational conversations, that promote healing and deeper understanding of identity." To create the program, queer artists engaged in a series of conversations with community members, listening to their experiences and struggles. The dances are based off their stories.

Contrary to commonly held misconceptions, Peter believes being an artist laid the foundation for him to also be a successful entrepreneur, "In essence, you're already running seven little businesses, you're teaching, you're performing, you're, you know, you're touring, you're doing all these other things."

Peter's commitment to both community and sound business practices is visible in the Dance Complexes response to COVID. "We could have just said sorry, doors are closed. You can't make any money anymore. Well, we decided not to do that because we had to lead with our heart as well as our head. So we put together an artist mental relief fund fundraising effort with which in like a matter of two weeks had $12,000" The funds helped dance teachers maintain their businesses.

His experiences running a dance studio and performing arts company over the years gave Peter an advantage to navigating the disruptions of COVID. "We have to pivot all the time, because the funding structures are almost non existent for small mom and pop dance companies or businesses like us. So we learn how to live, hopefully without PTSD about it, we learn how to live always shifting the landscape and when that when a funding cycle changes or the support changes, I try to find out what's the authentic line through our work that can support the work"

One of the common challenges among artists is figuring out how to sustain their efforts financially. Peter encourages artists not to chase the money, but rather let your vision attract supporters. When Peter was approached by a benefactor, "They said you've created such a brand about the dance complex, we want to support your vision."

The leadership and co-creating insights gained from dance are remarkable. Peter observes, "for people to understand the ebb and flow of, of human dynamics, they should all visit a dance rehearsal, because you're collaborating, you're making, you're leading, you're following, you're silent, you're dealing with the nonverbal, you're dealing with the verbal, it is very, a very complete office world."

We concluded the interview by exploring what co-creating means to Peter, "we get to actually use every single idea around the table. And yes, we curate it and we, we finesse it. I equate it to, we're all furniture makers, and we made the furniture and now I am rearranging how it all fits in this beautiful performance"

Change-makers from all walks of life can glean inspiration and insight from this interview with Peter DiMuro. Check out the episode online here.

Connect with Peter and his Artistic Ventures


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