Performing Arts: Dance
January 7, 2011
Dance companies are perpetually looking at ways to attract more audience members. In a morning-long session organized by Dance/USA, the dance community was invited to respond to a new report entitled: National Survey of Dance Audiences: Preview Presentation. The report, funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation assessed the make-up of dance audiences and how they relate to dance activities.

Not surprisingly, a large percentage of the audience members were “active” or “serious” dancers—as much as 1 in 5. I suspect that number is higher for modern dance than it is for ballet, but the report did not breakdown the findings by dance “specialty.”

Something ballet companies have known for a long time is the general interest in seeing what goes on “under the dashboard.” Ballet companies frequently open-up rehearsals to supporters and potential “friends” of the company. In addition, the notion of soliciting funds for commissioned works has been long established not to mention donors underwriting individual dancer’s salaries.

Interestingly, the relatively young dance audiences (compared to other arts disciplines) attend because they seek “inspiration,” experience “great works by masters” and to “discover new choreographers and companies.”

Program notes, pre-performance discussions and informal post-performance chat sessions figure into ways that audience members feel they get closer to the artistic experience. Some creative options were voiced including a presenter who turned a local radio show into a talkback session for audience members stuck in parking-lot traffic jams and eager to make their opinions public.

Naturally the new social networking technology figured into the new methods of connecting audiences to dancers. And that raises a question about the future experience of electronic dance. Will it overshadow the real-life event?

Although the presenter, Alan Brown of WolfBrown, summed up the report by suggesting everyone dedicate time to getting more people dancing (in reference to the large margin of dance practitioners a dance concerts), a colleague rightly pointed out that it might be more germane to find ways to convert the non-dance audience into followers.

For the full report go to
By Celia Ipiotis

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