Arts Producing and Management
Master of Fine Arts
University of California, Los Angeles
Denise Saunders Thompson has extensive experience in non-profit and for-profit, established or start-up organizations. She has advised organizations on administrative, programmatic and fundraising issues including strategic plans, policy and procedures, communications programs, budgeting and contracts. In August of 2021, Denise returned to Howard University's Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts where she serves as the Assistant Dean for Administration. In addition, she currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer for The International Association of Blacks in Dance, a non-profit service organization, and D.d.Saunders & Associates, Inc., a comprehensive fine arts advisory firm offering artist management/ representation, arts producing, consulting, and production services. From 2015-2018, She held the position of Professorial Lecturer at American University in the Graduate Arts Management Degree Program. In April 2015, Denise completed 17 years of service at Howard University in the capacities of Professor, Theatre Manager/ Producing Artistic Director for the Department of Theatre Arts and Manager of Cramton Auditorium.
Denise is Co-Founder of PlayRight Performing Arts Center, Inc., a non-profit arts organization in Atlanta, Georgia, and former Business Manager for The Malone Group, Inc. a non-profit arts organization in Washington, D.C. that co-produced Black Nativity at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for six years. Denise currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Performing Arts Alliance, Friends of Theatre and Dance at Howard University, is a Member of Actors Equity Association (AEA) and Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA).
Freelancing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and across the nation in production and arts management, Mrs. Thompson has held positions at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Alliance Theatre Company, National Black Arts Festival, 1996 Olympic Arts Festival, 1996 Olympics, Lincoln Theatre, Several Dancers Core, the Atlanta Dance Initiative, the Mark Taper Forum, the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger, Harrah’s Marina Hotel Casino as well as other numerous positions. In addition, she is a grant recipient of the Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Montgomery Arts Council, the St. Paul Companies, and numerous others. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in Arts Producing and Management, and a B.F.A. from Howard University in Theatre Arts Administration. Denise is the proud mother of Kellen, stepmom to Darrin, Jr., and happily married to Darrin, Sr.
Master of Fine Arts
University of California, Los Angeles
Bachelor of Fine Arts
Grant awarded by a Donor Advised Fund, MacKenzie Scott for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($3,000,000)
Grant awarded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation for Phase II of the Comprehensive Organizational Health Initiative, designed to strengthen the organizational health of small and mid-size arts institutions through comprehensive financial analysis and capacity building financial support. ($4,538,500)
Grant awarded by Maryland State Arts Council for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($22,502)
Grant awarded by the Harkness Foundation for Dance for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($10,000)
Grants awarded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts for the IABD Emergency Fund and General Operating Support. ($250,000)
Grant awarded by National Endowment for the Arts for the 2021 EVOLVE, regional dance summit. ($50,000)
Grant awarded by National Endowment for the Arts for the 2020 32nd Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance. ($40,000)
Grant awarded by the Council on Library and Information Resources for the establishment of the IABD Black Dance Archive project, “Preserving the Legacy of Black Dance in America.” ($53,000)
Grant awarded by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($85,000)
Grant awarded by Alternate Roots for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($20,000)
Grant awarded by the Harkness Foundation for Dance for General Operating Support of The International Association of Blacks in Dance ($5,000)
Producing a ballet extravaganza at the Kennedy Center was enthusiastically supported by diverse, multicultural audiences of all ages.
“Reframing the Narrative” took the history of Black ballet and compressed it into a week of workshops and performances. An on-screen scroll of 460 names called “Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MOB)” preceded staged performances. That list honored excellence from Black and brown ballet dancers, past and present.
“Reframing the Narrative” was designed to stimulate conversations about ballet, where darker hue dancers have been and are going. Curators for “Narrative” were Denise Saunders Thompson, president and CEO of the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and Theresa Ruth Howard, founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet.
BY EMMALY WIEDERHOLT
The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) was founded with the mission of preserving and promoting dance by people of African ancestry or origin and assisting and increasing opportunities for Black Artists through advocacy, audience development, education, funding, networking, performance, philosophical dialogue, and touring. President and CEO Denise Saunders Thompson shares why the association was started and how it’s grown, as well as some of the challenges facing Black Dance institutions.
Picture This Post (PTP) talks with Denise Saunders Thompson (DST), President and Chief Executive Officer of The International Association of Blacks in Dance. Recently, she completed 17 years of service at Howard University in both academia and administration. Thompson began her work with IABD as first a consultant, then Executive Director/Chairperson, and finally, was appointed IABD’s first President/CEO in 2017. As an international dance service organization, IABD reaches across continents with members from all over the world. The Annual International Conference and Festival of Blacks in Dance, organized by IABD, seeks to grow the audience for Black dancers. In January 2020, their Conference and Festival in Philadelphia filled the 1800-seat Merriam Theater each night. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and her organization’s campaign Can You Hear Me Now? — an open letter to the White American dance community.