How Do You Convince A Patron To Give Their Money To Dance?
Behind every virtuosic performance, there is a quiet group of champions. Private patrons are critical to the success of American dance companies. Most large troupes only generate about half of their operating budget from ticket sales, while smaller companies recoup only a fraction. In a country with minuscule government funds allocated to the arts, individual contributors play an indelible role in financing concert dance.
Why Would You Give Money to Dance?
Richard Kirschner support Elisa Monte Dance because he believes having a wide variety of artists makes our communities richer. Here with director Tiffany Rea-Fisher. Photo by Leslie Hanson, courtesy EMD
Who are these vital donors, and why have they chosen to support dance? For most patrons, their love of the art form is integral to who they are as a person. Many support organizations to join a vibrant community, and make connections to others with a shared sense of impact. Getting to know the dancers is another key motivator; these direct interactions make the donor experience rewarding.
Some have a personal connection to dance. "I'm a lifelong ballet student, and continue taking adult ballet classes three times a week," says Laura Chapman, a Boston Ballet patron for nearly 25 years. "I give to dance because the arts are critically important and they always need support. Ballet truly enriches lives."
Other donors want to help build the kind of community they want to live in. Richard Kirschner, Elisa Monte Dance's longest-standing board member, says he feels a responsibility to support smaller companies like EMD because he believes a wide variety of artists is an integral part of our nation's cultural enrichment.
In What Other Ways Are Patrons Helpful?
Board members often have experience in the for-profit sector that can be invaluable to dance companies. Photo via Thinkstock.
As equally important as donating funds, many patrons volunteer countless hours to dance companies. Most board members have for-profit professional backgrounds, and this experience can provide companies with insight into sustainable business models, and bring skills that artists might not have. Kirschner, for example, worked as a pro-bono lawyer for the arts when he was a practicing attorney, and filed the initial 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for EMD in 1981.
As a former commercial banker, Chapman says her skill set comes in handy when raising money for Boston Ballet: "I'm used to asking people for money—I don't find it hard to do, especially when it's a project I believe in!" She helped raise $3 million for Boston Ballet School's newly constructed Newton location by organizing fundraising events and recruiting other adult students to donate.
How Can I Inspire Donors to Fund My Project?
Patron Laura Chapman financed and edited former Boston Ballet dancer Laura Young's memoir. Photo courtesy Chapman.
One anonymous board member of several West Coast companies tells us that she looks for an artist's full commitment to their work before she makes a financial donation. Do they have the work ethic to warrant outside support? What is the reputation of the choreographer and their dancers? Who else is supporting the project? Is the work innovative and pushing the art form forward? Through the years, she has developed her own eye, but she does read reviews and says critics definitely have the ability to sway opinions in an art form that is often hard for viewers to understand.
Chapman prefers targeted giving towards special projects and to specific dancers or students. She funded a portion of an online archival project for BB's 50th anniversary, and worked directly with the company's marketing team to create a photographic timeline. She also sponsored second soloist Lauren Herfindahl while she was in the corps, and often gives towards rising stars within the school. Over the years, she developed a personal relationship with her teacher and one of BB's founding ballerinas, Laura Young, so she financed and edited Young's recently published memoir, Boston Ballerina: A Dancer, a Company, an Era. "I'm interested in preserving the memories of dancers, who often feel forgotten once they leave the stage," says Chapman.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: