The Chicago Dance Mapping Project (CDMP) was conducted in 2002 over 18 months to capture a complete listing of dance activity in the greater Chicago metropolitan area defined as six counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will. The study employed both quantitative surveys and qualitative research throughout the dance community to define perceived needs and strengths. Below are highlights of the CDMP:
Mapping the Chicago Dance Community: A Benchmark Study 2002
A Study Conducted by Dance/USA
John Munger, author
Like any census, the intent of The Chicago Dance Mapping Project (hereafter “CDMP”) was to develop a complete listing of dance activity, not merely to survey a statistical sample.
The CDMP operated within certain defined boundaries. The greater Chicago area was defined as six counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will. The scope of the census included dance companies and related entities such as collaborations, soloists, and collectives. It also included individual choreographers, but did not attempt to develop a directory of individual dancers. It included presenters, commercial and non-profit dance studios or schools, and colleges with dance programs. It directed itself toward “concert” or “artistic” dance and therefore did not include social or recreational dance activities such as ballrooms, dance clubs, instruction in social dance forms, or dance therapy.
Within those limitations, however, the CDMP was as open as possible, seeking to include as many entities as wished to be included. There were no exclusionary criteria such as budget size, nor any question of whether certain cross-disciplinary forms could be construed as “dance” or not. Nor was the word “professional” used as a filter. See especially Chapter 2 for a detailed discussion of this issue.
This report is an introduction to guide the census data gathered by the CDMP. To access the data itself, interested parties should go to the website of the [Chicago Dance and Music Alliance].
Three characteristic of this project stand out.
The CDMP is unique and groundbreaking.
The idea for undertaking the CDMP emerged thanks to the vision and wisdom of Sarah Solotaroff at The Chicago Community Trust, with input and guidance from a group of dance community leaders called the “Dance Advisory Group.” The CDMP is unique because no other city has yet compiled a complete and comparable census of their artistic dance community including dance-makers, presenters or facilities and the range of sources for serious dance instruction. It is groundbreaking because individual aspects of the CDMP have already served as models for census and assessment projects either completed or proposed in several other cities. The project has taught everyone about how dance is woven into the tapestry of a metropolitan community and about how to seek information concerning dance in many forms.
The CDMP is a tool, not a final result.
The fact is that a census, taken by itself, doesn’t draw any conclusions. A census is simply raw data, a reference, like the Yellow Pages or like a dictionary. This is the case with the CDMP, and readers are strongly urged to spend some time with the data itself. (See box on page 1.) Two corollaries deserve notice.
One is that the data does not organize itself into a structure leading to one or two specific points or findings. It does not present a broad base of data that rises like a pyramid through narrowing analysis to a clear and focused point or conclusion. Instead, it is like a quilt, displaying many more or less equally valuable pieces of information. Users of this report and this data will bring their own agendas, however incredibly varied those may be, and will find raw material to support or inform their investigations.
The second is that the data does not explain its own causes and consequences. For example, ballet companies have much older median founding dates than modern companies (see Chapter 4, table 4-2) but there is nothing in the data to indicate why this is so nor anything to suggest what the implications might be. One person could use this data to say that modern companies are youthful and vigorous while another could use it to claim that modern companies lack stability and experience. In short, the data is without bias.
The CDMP is useful for many people in many ways.
As the project evolved, certain question arose repeatedly. Who can use this data? What can they use it for? How can they use it? Many people asking these questions were hoping for a concrete and simple answer, such as “dance companies can use this data to get more money by proving to foundations that they are unique among their peers in some particular way.”
The irony is that this report is precisely one of the answers to those questions, but the answer is much too limiting. There are dozens, even hundreds of applications for who know how many users of this data. The CDMP is a tool whose use is defined by the agenda a user brings to it.
In order to illustrate, the following list of potential users and possible applications is offered as an extended example. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the uses and applications of the CDMP are not limited to the list offered here.
The willingness of the Chicago dance community to provide information, the wisdom and volunteerism of the Dance Advisory Group, and the generosity of The Chicago Community Trust in supporting the CDMP are a testament to the vitality of dance in Chicago. The researchers and writers of this report are grateful to all concerned for their cooperation and support. Dance communities across the country have tried for too long to make strategic decisions and to visualize new possibilities in the absence of comprehensive information about the makeup of their own communities. We hope that the value and utility of the CDMP will inform extraordinary progress for the Chicago dance community and that other metropolitan areas will take not of Chicago’s example.