Marketing to Millennials: Perform in a Brewery, With Free Beer and a Class
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.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.