Dance/USA and WolfBrown Release National Study of Dance Audiences

I might be a nerd (okay a shelf full of Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons on DVD and a Yeoman Rand Star Trek shirt in my closet might guarantee that I AM a nerd) but I’ve always found summer to be the best time to catch up on my reading and planning for the next season ahead.

The downtime is a perfect opportunity to take a look at our marketing and outreach programs, think about new audience engagement offerings and even test some ideas for the coming season. If this work can happen on a patio or roof deck all the better!

How perfect that Dance/USA and our friends at WolfBrown just released their National Survey of Dance Audiences.  Over 40 companies and dance presenters participated from across the US and in the end they gathered more than 7,400 responses.  Everyone from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York to Dominic Walsh Dance Theater in Houston, Texas and everyone in between!

The research aims to address the question, “How do dance audiences want to engage?” Here are just a few of their findings:

  • By far, the most desired engagement activity is attending open rehearsals, where participants can gain insight into the creative process
  • Demand is strong for more participatory dance opportunities (both social and educational)
  • Audience members seek more insight from artists, leading up to performances (both live and pre-recorded)
  • Nearly half of all audience members want to hear spoken introductions from the stage on a regular basis.
  • The greatest opportunity for engaging audience members after performances lies in encouraging and eliciting informal discussion about the program on the way home.

This is very interesting stuff and has also reinforced the dance specific results from our own Audience Engagement Survey from last spring.  You can read those results here.

It’s also got me thinking about my work with inDANCE and wondering how I’ll use the data to inform our Audience Engagement activities for our Harbourfront Centre season in April 2012.  Will I plan some open company rehearsals for our friends and donors?  Should I do up a series of post performance questions or discussion points for our patrons to mull over and discuss with their friends and family on the ride home?

So to all my dance peers out there, are any of you surprised by the results of this survey? Or do you pleasantly find the results reinforce what you already believed?  How many of you are thinking about your audience engagement programs differently for next season?  I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or over on our facebook page.  You could also swing by the office but you might just find I’m out doing my “planning” on the nearest patio!

Shana Hillman

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