David Mack is L.A.’s 1st dance company executive director who is gay, black

David Mack is Los Angeles’ first gay black executive director of a dance company.

He’s the top administrator at the Invertigo Dance Theatre, whose latest production is “Formulae & Fairy Tales.” It explores the life of Alan Turing, a gay British citizen, who is renowned as the father of artificial intelligence. His mathematics and code breaking skills for the Allies during World War II were paramount in beating the Nazis.

“Formulae & Fairy Tales” will be performed today and Saturday at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center. Tickets range from $49 to $79 plus service fees.

Life of gay history icon Alan Turing through dance in ‘Formulae & Fairy Tales’

Laura Karlin, artistic director and founder of Invertigo Dance Theatre, is the director of “Formulae & Fairy Tales.”

After World War II, England tormented and punished Turing for being gay. Shortly after a 1952 conviction for “gross indecency,” Turing underwent chemical castration.

He died two years later after eating a cyanide flavored apple. 

In an interview with Q Voice News, Mack, 36, talks his appreciation for Turing and his work, the lack of queer people-of-color in high level jobs in the Los Angeles art scene, and income inequality in the arts field.

Here are some excerpts.

David Mack Alan Turing

David Mack is the first gay black executive director of a dance company in Los Angeles. He’s the top administrator at the Invertigo Dance Theatre. Photo: Dana Ross.

Alan Turing

“I’m not a math wizard. I don’t enjoy that,” Mack says. “But what Alan Turing has shown is how much of an influence math has on our everyday file, especially with social media and algorithms.

“A lot of the public has grown more accustomed to A.I. I love that we can express this in dance.”

Dance is not elitist

“Some people see dance as an elitist art form, but Laura seeks to break that down and reinforce that dance can be something accessible to people who have not been able to experience elite institutions or spaces,” Mack says.

“I hope what people draw from (‘Formulae & Fairy Tales’) is that it can be a learning lesson. We believe that dance is for everybody and every body,” he says. “So many people are vilified and their bodies attacked, like our immigrant communities.”

Dance is accessible

“I have heard from a lot of people, I love what you’re doing. It’s very pretty, but I had no idea what you were doing,” Mack says.

“The number one thing for people to walk away with is, Wow. I understood what was conveyed. Dance is accessible to me, and I can get something positive out of it. I didn’t know anything about Alan Turing or the queer community, but I enjoyed the piece.”

Gays, lesbians who served during World War II found freedom, were persecuted

Queer people-of-color absent

“We have a lot of queer artists and black artists in our community who are doing excellent work, but they don’t have the funding to hire a top level executive director. Elite organizations are not hiring queer, people of color into those executive director positions. That’s a shame,” Mack says.

“It’s a shame for it does not match the rhetoric I hear from leaders in our community, that the arts in Los Angeles are progressive and at the vanguard of society, and propelling society forward. We have a lot of work to do in the Los Angeles arts before we can live our values.”

Absent part 2

“Board members of elite institutions are not being asked, Why are you not hiring people like me in positions of power?,” Mack says.

“It’s tough because the systems are not built to be inclusive and culturally equitable. Change is seen as risk. Even if in your heart of hearts you want to change, the system is built to not change.”

Income inequality

“We don’t need to talk about why it should happen. We need the accountability of not changing,” Mack says. “It’s from a bygone era, where it’s OK for the head of an institution to make $1 million and someone working in that building is homeless. There is something profoundly wrong with that, especially when you brand yourself as a progressive institution.

“Once we change that, we will lift up so many marginalized people. There is so much income inequality in the arts in Los Angeles. That will take a lot of time to undo.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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