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Q&A: 'Dancers are the bricks and mortar' of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

This picture shows some of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performers
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company

Debbie Blunden-Diggs career in dance started long before she was named chief executive of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company earlier this year.

DCDC was founded by her mother, Geraldine Blunden, 55 years ago. Blunden-Diggs has served in the organization since she was 12 years old, as a dancer, as choreographer, and as chief artistic and producing director.

She's learned a lot straddling both worlds of dance and arts administration.

In this interview with WYSO, Blunden-Diggs talked about how she’s approaching her latest role.

Debbie Blunden-Diggs: I will always, always protect the space for the artists. Because without dancer artists, there really is no need for any of us here in any position. And so I really would like to start to think and create the narrative around the dancers, the artists, actually being the bricks and mortar of this organization.

You hear in development circles and fundraising circles all the time that people can really get on board with bricks and mortar if it's going to be a building that you're building. And I'm like, I want people to understand that the dancers are the bricks and mortar.

This is a photo of DCDC Chief Executive and Artistic Director.
Debbie Blunden-Diggs.
Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
Debbie Blunden-Diggs

I just want us to turn the corner on that conversation.

So when I'm talking about economic impact and development, these dancers have currently a 38 week contract, but they come into this community and they buy homes and they buy cars, and they add to the economic impact and development of this community. How do we get funders and sponsors to understand that first of all, we need to sponsor the dancers. We need to make sure that without a doubt, we can pay and support the artists that are the very heartbeat of this organization.

DCDC has been a part of this community for 55 years.

We're going into our 56th season on July 1, and that allows me to call us an institution. I believe we've done the work.

We are a good export for Dayton. Whenever we go on the road, whether that's regionally, nationally or internationally, we proudly carry the name of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company with us.

Being a part of this legacy in many ways, and all of us here are part of the legacy, all of us here that do the work from the youngest dancer that comes into our second company all the way up through and to our board of directors. We're all a part of this legacy, and we are all working very hard to make sure that we find a point of stabilization. That is the work. That is my new focus. My new North Star — if you want to call it a North Star — is to find a space where we stabilize this organization that I've been told many times, is loved by this community and beyond. So trying to figure out a way to stabilize.

"I want to be a part of the community and involved in the community as much as we possibly, possibly can."

Jerry Kenney: You talk about the organization's legacy, which, as you mentioned, continues for its 56th season. That's really incredible. I know you're going to do a major announcement during a Juneteenth celebration on that season. So I know you're not going to lay it out for me here, but can you give me some adjectives or how you're feeling about the upcoming season?

Blunden-Diggs: Excited, fresh, new, deserved... All of those things.

Kenney: People can certainly follow DCDC on social media. And, you've got a website where they can tune in to find out what is in the upcoming season following that Juneteenth announcement. Go ahead and give us that address.

Blunden-Diggs: Our website is dcdc.org. We also show up on Instagram and Facebook quite regularly. The event on Juneteenth is going to be at The Brightside. If anyone wants to join us, please just follow us and look for the information. It's going to be exciting.

I just want to say that Geraldine [Blunden] in 1968 planted her feet in this community, and we're here, and I want to be a part of the community and involved in the community as much as we possibly, possibly can.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.