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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The Importance of Mentors in the Performing Arts

mentorYou can’t make it in this world alone, and the more mentors, supporters, and trustworthy people by your side the more success will follow. In every stage of my life I have had people to look up to and strive to be like. When your kid, those people are your parents (who will always be you biggest cheerleaders and mentors), but as you get older, develop interests, those role models become people in your field.

In undergraduate school I had so many teachers that I could look to in the dance world for guidance, but there was one professor that stood out, Bill Evans. He wasn’t only an internationally known choreographer, dancer, and teacher, but he was someone who truly believed in his students, worked with them on their weakness, pushed them to be better whether it was technique or rep classes or even performances. He taught his students to dig deeper, be more then what people saw on stage, and to never put bounders on yourself. He believed that I could make it in the dance world and was there to support me when I decided I wanted to go to graduate school.

Another mentor I had was the person who gave me my first real job after college, Natalie Rogers-Cropper. You may recall me talking about her in my post ‘My First Job at a Dance Company.’ Natalie was the best mentor a recent dancer graduate could have since she was a graduate of Juilliard, dance professionally all over the world, and was/ is the Assistant Rehearsal Director and the Director of Garth Fagan Dance School. When she hired me she took a strong interest in my life and job goals. At the time, I wanted to start my own dance company so she helped provide me with the tools to connect me closer with the Company by working with the development and marketing departments, as well as allowed me to take classes at the school for free during the year and during the intensive summer program. She helped me strive at the company, pushed me to new levels, and when I was ready to move to my next level by going to graduate school she supported that as well by providing recommendations.

Being out of the dance world for the last few years (besides teaching ballet) showed me that I still need to be apart of it in someway. Now that my dreams have grown, and my interests have led me towards artist relations and tour organization and management, I have spent the last three years understanding how working with multiple types of artists at various career levels, as well as with various programming departments.  It is important to have a team that can be trustworthy and have your back. So, how do you find these people and know they are the right fit for you? I think it is about intuition. When I went to college, I did research and looked at the instructors. When I applied for an internship at Garth Fagan Dance I had my own reasons and goals for applying.  In both cases getting accepted into college and getting hired as an employee the organization had their reason for taking me on as a challenge.  Knowing where you stand with people and where they stand with you is important with any kind of relationship if there is going to be trust.  With that trust, a bond is form, and those kind of people become the most important people in your life because they help to pave a path for you to succeed.

Interested in finding out more about Natalie Rogers-Cropper or Bill Evans?  Click on the name links!

My First Job at a Dance Company

We all have jitters when we get our first big person job right out of college.  I graduated from College at Brockport in 2008 which seems like ages ago now.  We all have those negative thoughts that nobody is going to hire us, and just hoping that someone will take a chance on a youngin and give you a job.  A company based in Rochester, New York took a chance on a young twenty-one year old girl with big dreams of starting her own dance company; me.  Granted those dreams have grown and changed, but I’ll never forget the people that took a chance on me.

Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Director of the Garth Fagan Dance School hired me as the her assistant.  It was a part-time job, but it was a starting point on getting my foot in the door to understanding the running of a dance company.  As her assistant, I organized and collected payments from students, managed scholarships, helped with grant writing, and had my hand in the three week summer program, where I worked with Natalie to layout the schedule for a three week intensive.  It was the best first big girl job I could have had because I had mentor who not only was a talented dancer, but was in the business world of dance too.

I moved up the ladder pretty quickly in the Company.  After spending eleven months as a part-time assistant I became the full-time Advancement Assistant while still working with Natalie in the School.  As an advancement assistant I got to work with marketing and development, assisting with press releases, writing grants and final reports, as well as helping with program layouts for events.  From there, I become Assistant Company Manager where I got to work directly with the Artistic Director and Executive Director on touring contracts, tour programming layouts, assist with marketing plans and marketing designs, as well as organize and manage our self-program performances and events.

Working for Garth Fagan Dance and getting involved with so many parts of the Company helped me to develop my own direction of where I wanted to go in life.  Even though I no longer work there, I am a big supporter of the Company and follow them online to see what they continue to accomplish.  The Company is going on its forty-fifth anniversary year.  What a landmark for a choreographer who has collaborated with so many musical and visual artists, and brought to life some serious pieces of work such as Griot, New York, Mudan 175/39, and Two Pieces, One Green (a personal favorite).

Garth Fagan Dance isn’t only a dance company, but an eternal apart of the Rochester community.  They work with underprivileged youth through community outreach, as well as provides scholarships for students to study with professional dancers of the company throughout the year.  One of the things I loved about the Company is how intertwined it is with the Garth Fagan Dance School, from the instructors to the students and families involved at school who volunteer at shows.  It is like a family pushing towards a success of a common goal.  It all goes back to the motto of Mr. Fagan – “Discipline is Freedom.”  With hard-work, drive, and a family behind you, the possiblities are endless.

If you live in the Rochester area you should check out the gala event that will be happening at the end of April.  You can purchase tickets here.