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ArlingtonDance impresario honored by Community Foundation

Dance impresario honored by Community Foundation

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When she was 7 years old, Lucy Bowen’s mother agreed to let her join two friends and start taking ballet classes.

Two quick realities quickly reared their heads: Little Lucy didn’t like the pink tights, and really didn’t like her teacher.

(“I don’t think she liked me, either,” Bowen recalled.)

While that initial foray into the world of performing arts didn’t pan out, Bowen gave it a try in slightly different conditions just a few years later. “At 11, I fell in love with dance,” she recalled.


And thus began a love affair that provided Bowen with a professional career and, perhaps tangentially but by no means inconsequentially, ways to impact the lives of thousands of local residents.

For her efforts, Bowen was honored Nov. 18 with the William T. Newman Jr. Spirit of Community Award, the latest in a pantheon of community leaders stretching back nearly three decades.

For a quarter-century until this past September, Bowen was the artistic director of the Bowen McCauley Dance Company, a professional modern-dance troupe based in Arlington.

The organization went beyond public performances, however, working with groups from the very young to the much more seasoned to spread “the joy that arts can bring.”

“It’s so important to life,” Bowen said of the arts during remarks at the Spirit of Community Ceremony, held online for a second year in a row due to pandemic conditions.

She pointed to the impact on those who participate in the troupe’s Dance for Parkinson initiative, which provides specialized movement instruction for those with the neurological disorder and their caregivers.

“It does something to the brain as well as the body,” Bowen said of the instruction, which continued on Zoom during the pandemic, and now is back to in-person events, having been absorbed from Bowen McCauley Dance by the Kennedy Center and several other regional partners.

The dance troupe also worked with Arlington schools – “we influenced a lot of children who were not exposed to dance,” Bowen said – and its artistic director served as a conduit to connect the local arts community to the business world through service with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Arlington Economic Development Commission.

The Spirit of Community Award was inaugurated in 1993, the same year the Arlington Community Foundation bestowed its first grants. The inaugural recipient was civic leader Joan Cooper, who over the course of time has been followed by a virtual hall-of-fame of Arlington civic leadership.

The honorees have been the type of people who “have stepped up . . . to build lasting legacies that will benefit our community for generations to come,” said Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman Jr., who founded the Arlington Community Foundation. Several years ago, his name was added to the award to honor his lengthy community service, which before being elected by the General Assembly to the bench included several terms on the Arlington County Board.

Also honored during the online ceremony were Florence Ross, who received the Spirit of Advocacy Award, and Kay Nassetta, honored with the Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

And while the awards represented the event’s focalpoint, there also was a focus on how the foundation has worked to adapt its work in the pandemic era.

“Our organization is evolving and innovating,” said Jade Gong, who chairs the board of directors. She said the foundation – which over the past year awarded $15 million in grants and $600,000 in scholarships – promotes “the best and most promising ideas for tackling our most difficult problems.”

The pandemic has had as much an economic impact as a health one, foundation CEO Jennifer Owens said.

“We’ve seen an accelerating pace of displacement,” she noted, but remarked that the public has stepped up to support initiatives that try to blunt the impact of gentrification.

“Truly extraordinary things happen in our community,” Owens said.

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