What gets 20-somethings to dance performances? It's the million-dollar question on the minds of presenters, directors, dancers—basically anyone who has a stake in the future of our field.

Schoen Movement Company dancers at Brooklyn Brewery. PC Mary John Frank.

One possible answer? Turn your performance into a party.

Last week I went to a show at the Brooklyn Brewery put on by Keigwin + Company dancer Emily Schoen, who runs her own small troupe, Schoen Movement Company. For the price of a ticket, you also got a free beer and a free dance class the next day taught by the choreographers themselves.

Sure, lots of dance companies produce site-specific work. And others offer free beer after the show or during intermission. But here, the audience—almost entirely made up of millennials—sipped their drinks and ate food from a pop-up BBQ stand (yes, this is Brooklyn) as they followed the dancers around the space, kind of like an immersive show, but more informal. "Drink breaks" were built into the program. And, keeping costs down, instead of a paper program, you could look up info about the show on Schoen Movement Company's Instagram feed.

"Everyone's going to go out to eat and drink," Schoen said later, explaining her thinking. "This introduces people to dance in a less threatening way than asking them to sit in a theater."

She initially got the idea when she heard that tours for the kind of contemporary work she loves were decreasing. So she approached her go-to neighborhood hangout, Rockaway Brewery, and put together a program in their space featuring her company and a couple others (B.S. Movement and LoudHoundMovement). The event was so successful that when the nearby Brooklyn Brewery found out about it, they asked her to repeat it there, too.

The choreography took advantage of the brewery's space, including wooden barrels. PC Mary John Frank.

Schoen says both brewery shows turned a profit. The second nearly sold out, with about 34 percent of people buying general admission tickets (dancers could opt for an artist discount), which means a good chunk of the audience came from outside the dance world. And, judging by the amount of Snapchatting going on, they were very enthusiastic. The show created an "event"—something new to experience and immediately brag about on social media.

It was a true Brooklyn party, just with better dancing.

 

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