Pentacle’s origin story is unique in that it didn’t come into existence at one particular time, or as one particular organization.
Its evolution began when four different contemporary dance companies, with four sets of artistic and managing directors, realized that by pooling their resources, they could accomplish much more than they could on their own. In 1974, this collective, which was known then as “cluster management,” organized itself to do business under Barbara Roan and Irene Feigenheimer’s 501(c)(3) DanceWorks, Inc. The other founding choreographers included: Kathryn Posin; James Cunningham; and Manuel Alum who brought to the collective their administrators: Peter Levitan; Bill Holcomb; Bob Marinaccio and Ivan Sygoda
In 1976, DanceWorks, Inc. became known as Pentacle Dance Management (later shortened to just Pentacle), named after the five-pointed star for its astrological and numerological auspiciousness (it was the 70s after all)! Two years later the organization moved out of the apartment of one of the founders and rented its first office on the Upper West Side. By then each manager used their area of expertise to serve each of the four companies in the group, which gave them a very high level of administrative support.
In 1979, Mara Greenberg, a dancer with an MBA fresh out of NYU Stern School of Business joined Ivan Sygoda to co-direct Pentacle. With an increased demand by other dance companies for the management services being provided, Ivan and Mara reformed Pentacle into a service organization. At that time the original administrative services of: Booking/Artist Representation; Fiscal Administration; and PR/Marketing, were opened up and made available to multiple dance companies. For the next 38 years, Pentacle would continue to evolve and change under their leadership.
The driving force for what was to follow has been guided by Pentacle’s mission: to enable performing artists to do what they do best – create art and engage audiences. To fulfill this pledge, Pentacle formed its core services, which today constitute our Artist Services including: Booking; Fiscal Services; and Administrative Support, and also began to launch a series of Special Projects and New Initiatives, which have allowed Pentacle to continuously to respond to the evolving needs of its constituents and adapt to changes in the performing arts landscape.
Pentacle’s first Booking Roster in 1979 included the four original companies along with Eiko & Koma, Margaret Beals in Concert, and Harry Streep’s Third Street Dance. Providing booking support to artists who could not procure attention from commercial agents, as well as the administrative support necessary for touring. The Roster has supported some of the most celebrated performing artists of our time such as: Eiko & Koma; Doug Varone and Dancers; Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion; Nrityagram Dance Ensemble; Streb Extreme Action Company; and Contra Tiempo to name a few.
Alongside booking, incorporated entities’ need for fiscal administration continued to expand and grow. In recognition of a shift away from incorporation in the early 80’s, Pentacle launched two fiscal sponsorship programs: Foundation for Independent Artists, Inc. (FIA) and Unique Projects, Inc. FIA remains the only comprehensive fiscal administration program offering the benefits of instant incorporation, being offered to our community today. Some prominent dance-makers who got their start in FIA include: Mark Morris; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar/Urban Bush Women; Nora Chipaumire; and David Rousseve. FIA continues to support today’s leading talents including Ephrat Asherie, Emily Johnson, and Kyle Marshall.
In 2018, Pentacle’s Gallery, which for many years gave emerging artists support and representation in the performing arts marketplace, evolved into the current Administrative Support Program (ASP) to provide infrastructure support through a flexible menu of services.
Over the years, in addition to its core services, Pentacle created Special Projects to address a specific need at a particular moment in time such as: The Pentacle Space (1985) a multi-use dance and performance space in Tribeca available at low, subsidized rates; and The National Choreography Project (1984), designed to encourage and support the creation of original works by talented contemporary dance choreographers for ballet companies. To address the needs of emerging and early-career artists for administrative services, Pentacle created Help Desk (1999-2006), which evolved into ARC - Advancement, Reinvention, Creativity (2007-2009), Help Desk LA (2009-2013), Back Office (2012-2013), and ART - Administrative Resource Team (2016-2019). These programs all included access to mentorship, well-trained administrative support personnel, and regrants.
Other Special Projects became ongoing programs. Our Education & Outreach Programs began in 1988 as a project designed to provide employment opportunities to our artists as teachers in NYC Public Schools. This program was reinvented in 2003 as “Behind the Scenes,” bringing career development opportunities to youth, while cultivating the next generation of arts administrators. In 2009, our education programs expanded into Career Development with “Cultivating Leadership in Dance”, our first Internship Program pairing college students and recent graduates with nonprofit arts organizations in a structured program. Most recently, Pentacle launched a High School Internship Program (2020-present); and an Arts Management Training Program (2019) that evolved into the AMT Fellowship in 2020 for young BIPOC arts administrators, aimed at cultivating the next generation of arts leaders who will steer the field towards increased equity and access.
Under the Education & Outreach umbrella, Pentacle started its first Community Program began in 2015 with a partnership with Groove with Me in East Harlem, a community dance center serving young women who hail from under-resourced communities in Harlem and the Bronx. Since then, we have expanded programming to partner with over five different community organizations, all in underserved communities in the boroughs of NYC, to offer free culturally specific dance classes and career development opportunities in the arts.
Pentacle’s New Initiatives have explored new venues for dance, including a Dance Series in collaboration with the Rubin Museum of Art from 2016-2019, and in 2020, an invitation to curate a series of performances at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens for Pentacle artists – providing them with alternative performance spaces and access to new audiences for dance.
In response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Roster helped artists and presenters devise virtual programs for their audiences, and spearheaded a partnership with three other arts service organizations to conduct a Virtual Engagement Research Project across the field. The Fiscal Services department expanded access to its Financial Urgent Care, offering artists free or highly subsidized financial consultations so that they would be poised to rebuild and be in a stronger financial position after COVID-19. The Administrative Support Program generated new virtual showcase opportunities for its artists and provided them with Zoom access for their administrative work; and in January 2021, Pentacle launched nextSteps, an online administrative platform, giving artists of any geographic location, budget size, and capacity, access to virtual, 24/7 administrative support just when they would need it the most.
In July 2021, Clarissa Soto Josephs became Executive Director of Pentacle, the first BIPOC woman and non-founder to assume the top position in the organization’s history. Long-time Director Mara Greenberg stepped down as head of the organization after a two-year planning process involving Pentacle’s Board of Directors and leadership staff. Mara continues to serve the organization in several capacities with the title of Director and President of the Board.
Over the years Pentacle has helped a great number of artists move from emergent to renown, as proven by the top recognition these artists consistently receive in the field including MacArthur awards, Doris Duke Artists, Herb Alpert Awards and Guggenheim Fellowships (see a full list of all of our artists here). Furthermore, Pentacle’s fiscal sponsorship programs have allowed hundreds of artists to expand their activities and receive major institutional support for their work from such esteemed private and public institutions as: Andrew W Mellon Foundation; New England Foundation for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation; The New York Women's Foundation; The Scherman Foundation; Arts, Equity and Education Fund; New York Community Trust; Emma Sheafer Charitable Trust; and the Howard Gilman Foundation.
In 2021, in recognition of its 45th anniversary, Pentacle formed the Pentacle Legacy Project, with the goal of continuing to tap into its rich legacy, preserving its archives, and drawing from its vast experience, to be able to continue to support artists far into the future.