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Raising the Barre: Geographic, Financial and Economic Trends of Nonprofit Dance Companies

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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Based on three sources – NEA applications, a Unified Database of Arts Organizations and the economic census – this report paints a statistical portrait of the changing situation of American dance companies (not independent dancers) between 1987 and 1997. During this period, there was a 93% growth in the number of nonprofit dance companies, which “far outpaced population growth”. However, the rate of growth had decreased significantly by the late 1990s. The report also found that, with a strong concentration in the northeastern region of the U.S., dance companies were less evenly distributed than theatres and symphony orchestras.

Regarding financial developments, the report notes that, even adjusted for inflation, the average revenues and expenses of dance companies increased between 1989 and 1999. Revenue growth was clearly driven by a 76% increase in average earned revenues. Average unearned revenues increased by only 4.5%, due to limitations on funding from the NEA, other governments and businesses. On the other hand, individuals contributed a much greater share of revenues, through both ticket purchases and donations. The report calculates that, for every $1 in tickets sold, U.S. dance companies received about 14 cents in donations from individuals. This is one component of the report’s finding of a strong relationship between earned and unearned revenue in dance companies. The report also uses a regression model to examine the leveraging capacity of NEA grants to dance companies. In the late 1990s, the report notes that “every $1 in NEA grant funding leveraged about $3.50 in contributions from other sources”.

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