The Dance of Arts Management

Karen Stupic '95 loved dancing as a child and a teenager, when ballet, tap, and jazz dance were part of her regular routine. "It really gave me the opportunity to express myself, as well as gain personal confidence in my abilities," she said.

In 1991 she entered Moravian, joined the Moravian College Dancers, and "also got hooked on theater." But during her four years on campus, as she demonstrated her devotion to the cause of artistic expression by performing, she also showed her skill as an organizer of on-campus events. Gradually, her managerial and administrative talents prevailed, and today she is executive director of the New York-based Pascal Rioult Dance Theater, a modern dance company that tours domestically and internationally and provides schoolchildren with dance experience and spectacle.

At Moravian, Stupic immersed herself in every available artistic/theatrical experience. As a member of the college theater company, she made her acting debut in Look Homeward, Angel. Increasingly active behind the scenes, she painted sets, wrote publicity materials, chaired the HUB art committee, curated the HUB Gallery (now the H. Paty Eiffe Gallery), and managed the theater group. She spent summers in New Haven, Connecticut, with Artspace, a multidisciplinary arts center where she helped organize monthly art exhibitions and rented space to theater and art groups.

Without knowing it, she was setting the stage for her performance as Pascal Rioult's executive director—a role in which she does everything from day-to-day operational activities to long-range fund-raising. She is the company's only full-time administrator; she has part-time assistance for its educational activities and in development, as well as a part-time bookkeeper. But Stupic is responsible for its $500,000 annual operating budget and a performing season that ranges from 30 to 40 weeks a year and may take the company around the world.

The Rioult company comprises 10 trained, professional dancers (including its co-artistic directors, Rioult and his wife, Joyce Herring). They range in age from 25 to 46 and hail from Mexico, Greece, France, and the United States. Recent tours have included stops in many of these countries, as well as performances in schools and concert halls across the U.S. from New Jersey to California and Tennessee to Texas.

Stupic credits her experience at Moravian with her decision to pursue a career in arts administration. "Inspiration and encouragement came from two of my mentors: Dr. Jack Ramsey of the English Department and Paty Eiffe, director of the HUB," she said. "Each of them gave me so many opportunities to spread my wings and achieve. My passion to work and work hard was always acknowledged and supported."

After graduation, she enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a master's degree in arts management. As a graduate fellow, she handled public relations for the university's Department of Performing Arts.

Stupic's first professional arts management job was as a development associate at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in New York for three years (1997-2000). There she became acquainted with Rioult and Herring, who both had been principal dancers with the Graham company for more than a decade. Rioult was just beginning to choreograph; his first two pieces were for the Graham company. Stupic also worked closely with Herring, then director of the Graham Center's school.

"When Pascal was seeking a new manager for his company, I leaped at the opportunity to work with them. I had come to love the Graham repertoire, and to work with Pascal gave me the chance to align myself with a company whose work I find very fulfilling," she said. Rioult had begun working with a group of his own dancers in 1991, but it had become a full-time endeavor only in 1994. Stupic became executive director on May 1, 2000.

"I love art," she said, "and I am so glad that my work helps art grow and live in our collective culture."

Karen Stupic '95 with members of the Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre.

Photo: Charles-Turner O'Neal