Last year CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work,
a contemporary dance festival in the Seattle
area run by Eva Stone, ran into a severe funding issue. After seven years of grants from a
local arts organization, a bureaucratic snafu
disquali;ed the event from receiving the
money Stone had planned on. At the last minute, Stone launched a Kickstarter campaign.
“The bottom line message was, Pitch in or we
are dead,” Stone says. “I asked for $8,000 and
we made it. But I felt like it was a one-shot
deal. I knew if I did it again, it wouldn’t be as
It’s no surprise that crowdfunding through
sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has
changed the way dance companies fundraise.
The idea of raising money online through small
contributions from a large number of people
came onto the dance scene at the height of the
great recession, right when big, reliable donors
and corporate philanthropy programs had less
money to allocate. Since Kickstarter’s launch in
2009—which brought the techie idea into the
mainstream—more than 1,800 dance projects
have been funded through the site, the bulk of
them raising between $1,000 and $10,000.
But the golden-ticket model of crowd-
funding is beginning to lose its veneer. Many
choreographers and directors, frustrated with
the limits of crowdfunding, are now ;nding
their way back to more traditional fundrais-
ing practices, ;nding that the best approach to
sustainability is a combination of analog and
digital, in person and on screen.
“For individual artists with smaller bud-
Are We Done
gets, crowdfunding is a lot more work than
they think,” cautions Shawn René Graham,
artist services manager at The Field, a nonpro;t
organization in New York City that offers
services and support for performing artists.;“If
you start a campaign, you must engage in
constant follow-up and announcements to meet
your goal. A crowdfunding campaign does not
mean that people you don’t know will just ;nd
it and decide to donate. You have to engage
them.;You need a target audience before you
start.” Claire Baum, artist services and commu-
nications associate at The Field, insists the same
skills are required as in traditional develop-
ment: You have to be a strong writer, create
compelling visuals and be prepared to do the
ask. “Those are skills that choreographers are
not necessarily trained to have,” she says, “but
crowdfunding is not a shortcut.”
Often the only people who see your
campaign are those in your social media net-
work, which can put you at risk of exhausting
their funds and patience. For the past three
years, Jennifer McQuiston Lott and Brent
Whitney, co-founders of Traverse City Dance
Why dance companies have started
looking beyond Kickstarter.
BY CANDICE THOMPSON
Did You Know?
• One of the highest-paid directors, New
York City Ballet’s Peter
Martins, had a salary of
$733,333, plus royalties
for his choreography, in
• San Francisco Ballet
spent $277,918 on
dance medicine in 2012.
• Pennsylvania Ballet
ticket sales in 2012.
• Alexei Ratmansky’s
salary as American
Ballet Theatre artist
in residence was
$219,750 in 2013.
• Pacific Northwest
Ballet spent $269,634 on
costumes in 2012.
• San Francisco Ballet
principal Yuan Yuan Tan’s
salary was $175,893 in
Traverse City Dance Project, here
in Jodie Gates’ Delicate Balance, is
trying new fundraising tactics.
Yuan Yuan Tan