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Engaging Dance Audiences

September 12, 201112 September 2011

Performing arts

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This American report, based on a survey of nearly 7,500 dance attendees in the summer of 2010, probes how dance audience members engage with dance presentations. While the survey respondents provide a good sample of attendees at performances put on by dance presenters and ballet companies, “the number of contemporary/modern companies [that distributed the survey] is quite limited”. In addition, because of sample self-selection bias, the results may over-represent the views of those with relatively strong loyalty toward dance. Indeed, a majority of audience members dance, either socially (38%) or via regular dance lessons, performing in front of live audiences or choreographing (another 18%). Women accounted for 73% of all survey respondents.

The report summary indicates that, “just as choreographers and dancers are fed by the creative process, so, too, are dance audiences when they see a live performance”. A majority of respondents (57%) indicated that an important motivation for attending is “to be inspired or uplifted”. A number of respondents expressed a desire to “see great works by the masters” (40%) and “to discover new choreographers and companies” (37%).

Based on both current and desired levels of involvement with dance, the researchers distilled five key factors in dance attendance:

  1. Mental stimulation (i.e., intellectual and creative stimulation)
  2. Nurturing (i.e., social and family fulfillment)
  3. Repertoire-driven motivations (e.g., see “great works”, new artists or new work)
  4. Emotional and spiritual motivations
  5. Social bridging and bonding motivations (e.g., to grow closer to one’s own culture or to learn about other cultures)

The report overview notes that a “long-term approach to audience development must take an ecological view that encompasses attendance, media-based consumption, and active participation”. The survey found that most audience members “want to engage a little bit more [before, during or after performances], but not a lot”. The survey also identified that “a major shift towards technological means of engagement is underway with younger audiences, but is slow in coming”.

The overview concludes that, by opening up the creative process, dance companies and presenters can “encourage audience members to build deeper connections with dance, the organizations, the individual artists, and one another”.

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