Monday, June 30, 2008

Business Model Presentation

Have you ever wondered where the money in a dance organization comes from? Or where that money goes? Have you ever thought about how money and performance opportunities differ between companies?

At the Dance USA convention in Portland, Oregon in 2006, David Mallette an arts consultant based out of Texas put together the following power point presentation comparing a number of dance companies. A few of the comparisons were based on how the organizations served their audiences in a unique capacity. Later in the presentation the numbers appear to show how the organizations budgets differ.

I wish that I could have his witty and engaging critique with this power point. Mr. Mallette humorously refers to the infrastructure of an organization as the "sexy stuff". Please note also that the transfer of power point to blog space is still in it's infancy (to my knowledge) and some of the transitions in the presentation are missing.

BUSINESS MODEL - Upload a Document to Scribd

David Mallette
Management Consultants for the Arts

And of what importance is that to a dancer? The more that I know about how the money comes into the organization in which I work, the more connected I feel to it as an artist. All those people who also work 6 hours per day but aren't in the studio are integral to the opportunities that I have in the studio. All those earned income (audience) and contributed income (donor and board members) people have a particular importance and balance in the organization.
Read this document on Scribd: BUSINESS MODEL

Friday, June 27, 2008

Off season. Part II

This is the image I took from my phone while participating in a free yoga class last week in Bryant Park. The class meets on Tues. from 10 - 11 am and Thurs. from 6-7 pm. Yoga is a great way to maintain some physical function during a layoff. A setting like this can't be beat, and seeing that I am unemployed at the moment, the FREE really can't be beat. The quality of the class was very good; it is sponsored by Lululemon athletic wear and you don't even need to have your own mat.

Here some information about what's happening in Bryant Park.

Other cities offer similar programs. In Chicago bright and early on Saturday mornings, instructors from Lakeshore Athletic Club lead free yoga (8 AM) and Pilates (9 AM) classes on Millennium Park’s lush Great Lawn.

Check your local newspaper or yoga studio for regional offerings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Dance of Pain"!?

A Hartford, Connecticut paper writes about a dancers pain.

On a personal note, gyrotonic is mentioned in the article, and I have to agree that it is a great rehabilitative/ preventative exercise modality for dancers.

Health care. Part II

In 2002 I read an article siting that nearly 4 out of 10 dancers didn't have health insurance or were under insured. In the last five years, the cost of doctor visits and insurance premiums have skyrocketed. Here are a few more resources for non-insurance based health care programs:

The Harkness Center for Dance is part of the NYU Medical Center and Health System. They provide free consultations with an orthopedic doctor and follow up with a physical therapist who specializes in dance injury. Additionally they will provide clinics for dancers, teachers and other medical professionals to prevent common injuries.

Dance Clinic
240 East 18th Street (at 2nd Avenue)
Ste. 21

The Artist Access program is associated with the Woodhull hospital in Brooklyn, NY. They provide sliding scale fees or a trade of artistic services to patients for medical services.
AccessArtist - Upload a Document to Scribd

Springboard for the Arts in Minnesota offers discount community clinic with various services. They also offer a discount voucher to further defray costs.

Again the Actors Fund has a database of state by state offerings some of which are insurance based, and some of which are other programs.

I would love to hear how you address your health care needs and also what your company provides for you. Go to either:
facebook dancer forum- Dance USA
the performing dancers alliance on the google groups
and share your experience.
Read this document on Scribd: AccessArtist

Health care. Part I

Nearly one third of America's workers are self employed and thereby without company bases benefits. Health care is increasingly expensive, especially if you are self employed. It saddens me to hear story after story of dancers who cannot afford health insurance- after all, isn't the health of our bodies our number one asset?

One story in particular that is familiar to many people in the dance world is that of Homer Avila. I met Homer in 1997 at a festival in Nantucket, Massachusetts. At that point Homer was a beautiful dancer with great generosity for his audience and fellow dancers.

A few years later in a casual catch up email, I learned that he was getting his leg amputated. Homer didn't have health insurance and had procrastinated in getting a pain in his hip addressed for as long as he could. When the doctors finally discovered a large cancerous tumor in his leg, it was too late. (Here is an article he wrote pre-operation.)

Amazingly the loss of a leg did not keep Homer from dancing. About a year after the amputation, he reunited with dance taking an Alonzo King professional workshop. That in turn led to choreography being set on him byAlonzo King, William Forsythe and many more.

You can see Homer in action here:

In the end, the dance world lost Homer Avila. He will continue to inspire through his generous spirit and also the lesson of taking care of one's body. Health insurance is an important part of a commitment to health and fortunately there are resources out there to make it affordable for dancers and artists.

Here are a some great resources for health care:

Fractured Atlas
: This national arts service organization provides health care plans to member artists through a group policy plan. (It works much in the same way that unions provide health care plans.) It does require a membership to take advantage of their many offerings across the country, but if you are affiliated with Dance USA you receive a membership to Fractured Atlas for free! Additionally, Fractured Atlas will assist members with questions and problems encountered during treatment.

America's Health Insurance Resource Center: The Actors' Fund created this database in 1998; all services are offered to artists irrespective of genre. Many of the links are broken down geographically, but there is general information about hospitals, prescription services and managing medical debt as well.

The Freelancers Union
: Through free membership, The Freelancers Union provides insurance at group rates (similar to Fractured Atlas).

Insurance offerings are state-by-state through all of these programs. In my experience, insurance premiums New Jersey run nearly three times higher than in Minnesota for comparable programs. Interestingly, many of the New York City based programs are similar in cost, but with artist subsidization are made more affordable and not unlike other states offerings.

Part II will be non-insurance bases health care programs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Figures hot off the press.

I received a publication today from Dance USA that was a compilation of dialogues at Jacobs's Pillow. While the material is primarily geared to presenting organizations, there is some very valuable information for the artists. Whether a creator or an interpretor of dance, knowing the audiences' and presenters' interests can be helpful.

And what does a presenting organization mean to a dancer? If you are a member of a small company, it can be the impetus for creating a new work or performing opportunity. For a larger company that already has an existing season, it can mean another week of work or another performance. Usually it involves traveling or touring.

Here are a couple of budget charts from the publication "Presenting Dance" by Mindy Levine.

Small company figures:

And of course larger company figures:

My husband- a retired dancer- has a great phrase about the economics of dance. He speaks about dance performance as being an experience "produced and consumed at the same moment." It is a wonderfully poetic image, but one that presents difficulty in raising funds to support the creation of dance.

And what does this mean to a dancer? To me, it is inspiration that every performance needs to be better because it truly only exists once. Additionally, knowing the economics (to some degree) creates that opportunity for me to be an ambassador of my art and for the company in which I dance. To speak knowledgeably to donors and audience members about the need for support keeps my job vital.

We are the face of dance.

Another interesting set of figures- although not hot off the press!

As of September 2006, there are 76 dance companies in America with operating budgets of $1 million or more.
- 58 of these are ballet companies.
- 18 of these are modern/contemporary companies.
- 35 of these are currently members of Dance/USA.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Off season. Part I

Off season is one of the best and worst aspects of being a professional dancer in the United States. Aside from a few weeks here and there, layoffs typically occur during the beautiful summer months when the outdoors are pristine and community festivals abound.

The time lends itself to both a little rest, relaxation and reflection. It is also a time for professional development. Some dancers get "day jobs" in offices or retail to experience another kind of employment option. Often dancers take training courses in things such as yoga, pilates, and gyrotonic.

But where is the art in the summer? What about our culture makes us so fancy free and out-of-doors that we forget the pursuit of the thing we enjoy the most? Why can't we get those butts back in the seats when the summer hits?

Not to mention create the opportunity for dancers to be employed for a few more weeks per year? It is a disappointing realization that dancers in Europe get 13 months of employment whereas the average contract in the states is closer to 30 weeks (my own research based on companies of budgets over $750,000).

Fortunately there are summer dance opportunities popping up on the radar all the time. I recently learned of a company that tours the southern states based out of Alabama. There are summer festivals such as Jacobs Pillow and American Dance Festival that present concerts that keep established companies working for some time in the summer. Plus there are summer companies such as National Choreographers' Initiative, Chautaugua, and Terpsicorps. This is all just to mention a few, and more in the ballet genre of American dance.

More resources and observations as the off season unfolds, for now its off to a wedding. Oh yeah, many dancers choose to address "real life" events- like weddings- when they are off season because then friends won't have performing conflicts. Time to celebrate!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here is my agenda for the Dancer Council meeting at the recent National Performing Arts Conference, June 11-14th in Denver, CO.

I served as chair of the council. Well, I led the discussion between the 4 of us...out of 3,000 attendees at the conference. It was a lively discussion I must admit. However the elephant in the room (or rather heard of elephants) lies in artist representation. There won't be art without the artist, so we must educate, evolve and be enthusiastic about our own empowerment.

2008 Dancer Council Agenda

You are here and this is fun, but how to get the most out of DANCE USA as a dancer.

* What does Dance USA offer dancers?
- Discount tickets
- Panel discussions
- Lobbying for dance
- Research
- News, auditions, postings
- Memberships to affiliate organizations which provide:
° Discount health
° Fiscal agency

* What other needs could it address?

* How do we increase dancer involvement?

*What can we do to make this council vital?

*How can we recruit more members? Getting the word out/ dancer campaign.

WE are the face of dance.

This is by no means a complete discussion. Let's, at the barre or at the bar!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Few quick resources

Here's a resource for some of the "business of dance" from the industry organization Dance USA.

I have come to learn that not all dancers are aware that Dance USA exists. Personally I have taken on the mission of educating others of what tools exist to support dance artists. Our industry organization is a place to start (and by increased dancer involvement we can even improve it for ourselves!). I have personally found it very valuable to know what struggles the businesses face as we try to create art. I can make the case for pertinent business knowledge when, for example, I cannot be paid. It is not wholly someone else's problem. It is my responsibility to be an ambassador for the organization in which I work's as well as for the art form in general. Sometimes steps are just not enough.

I don't profess to know everything yet, but I am having fun learning. In some ways I hope that this blog connects the dots of what resources are already working for the artist. Additionally I invite anyone to get involved and send your problems and concerns about your "business of the artist".

To this end, I administer a facebook page for dancers affiliated with Dance USA companies. (I will post more on that later.)

I am also administering a listserv in conjunction with the facebook page and this blog. Stay tuned for that link.

Learning to Blog

The organization NJ Young Audiences just offered a seminar for artists and arts educators to learn the technological advances of today. The topics included power point presentations and also bolgging. It is a fabulous means to create materials to market oneslef as a dance business person. Amazingly many of the offerings are free of charge, including blogging on blogger!

It is becoming my mission to empower dancers, mainly through education and communication.

Stay tuned for my reflections on the recent National Performing Arts Conference in Denver, CO and my role as chair of the dancer council for Dance USA.