The Inner Workings of a Non-Profit Dance Comapny

There are two looks of a dance company. The dream-like state that the audience sees on stage, and then there is a reality to it. Being apart of the dance world since I was a child and understanding all aspects of the business side is important to running a dance company.

First you have the mission of the company. The message that the company is driven on. It should only be a few sentences long, and should be the basis of the company’s story. If a reader can’t figure out what your company is about based off the mission statement you need a new one. Next you have the artistic vision of the choreographer. There needs to be a way to present his/ her vision to not only to the general public through marketing, but to current and potential donors.

This brings me to the administrative offices. First you have the marketing team. The marketing team is what makes the company look good visually. For the marketing team you need photos shoots to happen at least once a year. This will allow new works to be photographed, new dancers to be highlighted, and old works that are coming out of retirement back into the current repertoire to be photographed with new casting. Next you have the development team. The development team writes the grants, researches foundations and government funding, does solicitations to individual donors, courts donors for major gifts, organizes and manages capital campaigns, and is the go to person for managing and maintaining relationships with the donors. A good development team is key to having a successful dance company because they are the ones bringing in the funds to keep the artistic product moving forward to new opportunities.

Since we are talking about money you need an excellent finance person who can be sure to monitor all areas of the company so overspending is not happening. Obviously, there is that old saying “it takes money to make money” but in a nonprofit it is vital to be breaking even. It becomes increasing difficult if the company gets into a financial hole to get out of it because not only can any one see your financial numbers if you are in the negative for multiple years, it will be difficult to convince a donor they are not giving to a black hole or that you are unable to handle your funding positively.

Finally, you have the management and executive staffing like the company manager. This person is equally important to artistic side as well as the administrative side because they are like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth playing the in-between to presenters, lawyers, publicists, dancers, teachers, travel companies, record and publishing labels, and of course the executive and artistic director to be sure that the company is on the same page. It is vital that this person can work well under pressure, multitask, and understand the importance of what is a priority.

The next time you go see a dance company remember that all the people that work behind the scenes are just as important as the choreographers and the dancers; and without them, the inner working of the company would fall apart.

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Careers in Dance – There is More to Dance then Being a Performer

11412211_10100594299141981_7579294585861180014_n (2)Recently at a baby shower, my college friends and I were reminiscing about the past, the choices we have made after college, and where the future is headed.  In life everyone makes choices and it is a rarity that everyone can have it all.  A college dance friend is currently seven months pregnant, another dance friend is getting married this fall, and I have aged one more year closer to thirty.  Do I believe that you can create your own destiny?  Absolutely, but anyone who is successful will explain the sacrifice they had to go through to get there, and as a performer there is a lot of sacrifice.  As a performer you could be struggling in a big city like Los Angeles or New York working from stipend to stipend or contract to contract.  Performers are also working multiple jobs like bartendering, serving, or being a hostess, but there is more potential in the dance field than just being a performer.

First you could become an instructor. At dance studios, a person with extensive dance training can command $15-$30 an hour depending on if you are living in a big city or a small town.  There are also opportunities to teach at high school and college levels, but teaching at either level requires you to have a masters in dance education as well as specific certification.  If you have an extensive performance background this might get over looked at certain colleges if you decide to teach at the college level.

Besides teaching, you could go the health route.  Get certified in Yoga, personal training, Pilates, or massage therapy.  These jobs will allow you to work and coach athletes such as dancers in their cross training endeavors to keep their bodies up to par during their performance years.  A few friends of mine are doing both, still performing as well as doing some health related job so they can make money and live in the expensive room that they are renting for $1200/ month in NYC.

Finally, there is arts administration. Granted you can get a masters degree in arts administration, which I have, but if this is a field that you want to get into there are ways around getting a masters degree. For example, I did an internship in communications and development at a small organization of two people called the Natasha Trifian’s Performance Group in NYC before I was hired at another company as the Assistant to the School Director.  From there I moved up in the organization and eventually moved to another organization when I stepped into a new city. With arts administration you can also go the for-profit/ commercial route working at talent agencies, booking agencies, publicists, and performing arts center presenters.

If you haven’t figured it out the possibilities are endless. Limiting yourself as only a performer can be career ending.  Think ahead, and know that with the right moves, a good head on your shoulders, and some drive you are already ahead of 80% of the general population.