New York, NY (2006)
The Census of New York City Dance-Makers was conducted between January and December of 2006 in the five boroughs of New York City on not-for-profit concert dance-making entities. The report captures the strength, influence, and needs of the New York City dance community. Below are some key findings from the Census of New York City Dance-Makers:
A Census of New York City Dance-Makers
John Munger, author
This report draws on data from 449 dance-making entities in the five boroughs of New York City. Data was collected during calendar year 2006 and represents a snapshot of New York City dance-makers at that time. This report uses the phrases “dance-making entity” and “dance-maker” because the word “company” is insufficient. Many alternatives to the well-known “company” structure exist, including soloists, collectives, collaborations and others.
Following this General Overview, a number of separate sections will address in greater detail the key variables and topics touched on by this census.
Total Number of Dance-Makers
The 449 dance-makers captured here almost certainly represent nearly all of the dance-making entities in New York City (hereafter “NYC”) with budgets over $25,000 per year. There are about 190 dance-makers in the over-$25,000 range. We qualify this number slightly because while most companies provided budget information, not quite all did so. There could be 195, or 187, but the figure “about 190” is reasonable.
The data also includes over 250 smaller entities with budgets under $25,000. Many of these are freelance individuals rather than stable ensembles, many are culturally specific groups or soloists and many are sacred/liturgical dance groups. In addition to the 250 captured in this study, we have documented the existence of 297 additional individuals and small groups from whom we were not able to gather detailed data. We also know that an undetermined number of culturally-specific groups and individuals exist “below the radar.” For a detailed discussion of how data was gathered and what data was less available, please see Appendix A.
The question, then, of how many dance-makers existed in NYC during the 2006 census year has to be answered with an educated approximation. We have detailed data from 449, we know of 297 more for a subtotal of 746, and we are certain that others exist. Various data, including findings from other communities, support an extrapolation to a conservative minimum of 1,000 dance-makers in total.
One other factor affects any census of dance-makers in NYC. It is clear from conversations with a number of organizations that maintain memberships, mailing lists, or similar connections to the field, that many individuals come to NYC, attempt to form an ensemble, but move on after a fairly short period of time. This means that an exact count and an exact list will always be in a state of flux. Therefore this report assumes that the number of dance-makers newly arriving in New York City and attempting to form a small ensemble roughly equals the number of dance-makers departing. New arrivals are likely to occur as frequently as the departure of those who tried and left. Thus, the estimated total number of dance-making ensembles is not grossly affected, even though small ensembles come and go.
To sum up, NYC can now document the fact that it is the largest dance community in the nation. The actual number of dance-making entities in NYC probably fluctuates from month to month somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200.
Of the 449 entities from which there is varying amounts of detailed data, 358 were ensembles or “companies” who provided their founding date. While it is clear that a correlation does exist between age and budget size, it is also clear that this correlation is not strong enough to suggest a compelling cause-and-effect relationship.
Ten of these ensembles or “companies” were founded earlier than 1960. Three of these ten have budgets under $50,000 and the other seven all have budgets over $1 million. It should also be noted that these ten companies include ballet, modern/contemporary, and culturally-specific forms.
The succeeding decades distribute as follows:
1960 – 1969: 6 entities founded
1970 – 1979: 39 entities founded
1980 – 1989: 53 entities founded
1990 – 1999: 122 entities founded
2000 – 2006: 128 entities founded
Dance is a young industry, both in America and in NYC. With 70 percent of current dance companies or ensembles founded within the past 16 years and only 16 companies over 36 years of age, it is not surprising that dance as a whole lacks much of the infrastructure, cultural memory, and broad acceptance that older fields and industries enjoy.
Note that 22 companies in this census were founded in 2005 or even in 2006, the year of the census itself. Notably, at least two of these very new entities have budgets over $100,000, though most of them are very small. Once again, a correlation exists, but there are too many exceptions to permit quick assumptions based solely on being new on the one hand or being long established on the other.
The census includes expense budget data for 370 of the total 449 entities. This means that some totals might need to be extrapolated to reach comprehensive estimates. It seems likely that at least three of the companies for which budget data has not been obtained have budgets over $100,000. Their current level of activity suggests strongly that this would be plausible. The rest, however, would be smaller entities and individuals.
With 15 entities at over $1 million and 18 entities between $500,000 and $999,999, NYC has larger dance companies than any other city in America, and by a considerable margin. San Francisco has five entities over $1 million and two between $500,000 and $999,999. Chicago is probably the third largest dance community in the nation with 258 companies overall of which two are over $1 million and three are between $500,000 and $999,999.
That said, it should also be noted that NYC, San Francisco, and Chicago do not have an actual monopoly on million dollar companies. There are actually 77 companies with budgets over $1 million in America today, scattered across the entire breadth of the nation.
The 370 entities with budget numbers develop a sum of $178,180,200. Despite the fairly large number of entities for whom budget data is lacking, this figure would not expand significantly if all entities reported. The vast majority of those not in the $178 million figure are tiny and all but three of the entities over $100,000 have been included already.
Recent years have brought a great deal of attention to questions of gender equity in the dance world. Are men more likely to be appointed artistic directors than women? Are men more likely to lead large companies and women to lead smaller ones? What is the overall distribution of men to women in the field?
These are difficult questions and there is a significant amount of nuance in what the data has to offer. In general, however, the following points are clear:
346 out of the 449 entities reported on genders of dancers. As with the subject of founding dates, some of those not reporting are freelance, individual dance-makers not necessarily working with a stable group of dancers. They would not be necessarily inclined to answer this question. The 346 providing data showed a distribution of 65 percent females to 35 percent males. This is effectively the same in both Chicago and Washington, DC, where the gender distributions were 62 percent to 28 percent in Chicago and 63 percent to 27 percent in Washington, DC.
This would suggest that NYC is in step with the rest of the nation as regards gender distribution among dancers. Among artistic directors, however, there is just enough of a difference to be noticed. Among artistic directors of ensembles and companies in NYC, the split is 63 percent female to 37 percent male.
For detailed discussion of gender distribution issues, see the section entitled “Gender Distribution” later in this report.
Genres, Styles, or Forms
Participants in the census were asked to categorize themselves in whatever fashion they wished as regards the genre, style, or form of dance they practice. Many selected more than one. They were also disciplined, however, to supplement their statements with a choice among five broad and general groups: modern/contemporary, ballet, culturally specific, liturgical, and “other.” The latter served as a catch-all for any forms not captured by the first four choices. To illustrate, “other” ended up including tap, historical dance, hip-hop, and the recently emerging form called “aerial dance.”
The data is quite complete on this subject and includes information from 440 of the 449 entities in the database.
The distribution of genres is as follows:
Culturally specific: 14%
Note: the sum of these percentages exceeds 100 percent because many entities work in fusion or in more than one style and therefore checked more than one choice.
Based on comparison with censuses in Chicago and Washington DC, the “ballet percentage is not unusually low, and the “other” and “liturgical percentages are normal. “Modern/contemporary,” however, is unusually high and “culturally-specific” is unusually low. On the one hand it is likely, as discussed above in “Number of Entities,” that a fairly large number of culturally-specific companies remained outside detection. On the other hand, it should also be stated that these figures help to define NYC as a community leaning heavily toward modern/contemporary work.
Bear in mind that this database does capture very nearly all of the entities with budgets over $25,000. This means that among the strongest companies this distribution is very accurate. Second, there are only 17 modern/contemporary companies in America with budgets over $1 million, and nine of them are in NYC.
Not all dance-makers are companies or ensembles. Indeed, many are freelance individuals, some are collectives, some are not incorporated and some are divisions of larger institutions. In an effort to quantify some of this variety of structures, this census asked those entities that were not just freelance individuals to indicate which of several choices characterized their structures. Many respondents checked more than one, and this would be normal. For example, one might check both “Program or division of larger institution” and “Children’s’ or Student Group.”
Out of 394 entities responding to this question, only three identified themselves as “avocational or recreational.” In other words, this census primarily represents dance-makers that regard themselves as “professional.”
The most important point, however, is that only 200, or 45 percent of the respondents, identified themselves as 501(c)(3) corporations. This will be discussed in much greater detail in the section entitled “Professional…Or Not?” Suffice it for now to make the point that a great many dance-makers are not fully institutionalized in this as well as in other ways.
Does that mean that the 55 percent who have not yet gained 501(c)(3) status should simply be dismissed as below some kind of cut-off? Consider the following:
7 of those without 501(c)(3) status have budgets over $100,000
5 are over 30 years old
120 have toured in the USA
52 have toured internationally/overseas
193 report NYC audiences totaling 277,000 in one year (collectively)
The point is that, as a group, those without 501(c)(3) status cannot quickly or lightly be dismissed. Many, indeed, have inventively found alternative ways to structure themselves. These may include membership in umbrella organizations, outsourcing of administrative activity including receipt of donations through fiscal agency, and a variety of other strategies.
It’s common knowledge that dance artists are busy people. The census sought to gather quantified data on this subject by asking artists what role(s) they fill in the dance world. Two very clear caveats about this information need to be made up front. First, the census did NOT ask about jobs outside the field, such as waiting tables, doing freelance website design, selling real estate, or other clearly non-dance-related ways of earning a living. Second, this data is neither comprehensive nor scientifically random because the questions were asked only if the artistic director was immediately available during the survey. Consequently this sub-topic about artist roles is merely indicative rather than statistically rigorous.
Data from 319 individuals was collected. Of these, only 16 reported only ONE role, that of artistic director. The vast majority reported multiple roles. The average (and median as well) number of roles was four. Performer/dancer was the most common with 256 responses. Dance teacher came in at 250 and “freelance individual” at 237.
Dance-makers are very busy people.
Number of Dancers
A total of 346 entities provided data concerning numbers of dancers. Some simply reported “usual number” of dancers. Others, those with ensembles that fluctuate in size from project to project, chose a “high” number paired with a “low” number. Respondents were also asked to indicate “usual” numbers of male dancers and female dancers.
The sum of “usual” dancers was 2,700. The sum of “high number” dancers was 5,495 and the sum of “usual” male plus female dancers was 2,860.
Two things tend to make the numbers questionable. First, they are certainly low because they represent data from 346 out of about 1,000 to 1,200 dance-makers, or less than a third. Second, the numbers may be somewhat inflated. This is because among smaller companies, which make up the majority of the community, individual dancers often work with more than one choreographer or ensemble. As a result, they may be counted twice.
Still, the figures suggest that a reasonable estimate of total dancers in NYC is certainly more than 4,000 and possibly more than 5,000.
Out of 310 entities responding to questions about the nature of the compensation relationship with dancers, only 37 reported that dancers were salaried employees.
The most common answer was that dancers were paid “per performance,” with 226 entities reporting doing so. 111 reported other practices that varied widely, including just per diem or travel expenses while touring, in-kind arrangements, and indications that sometimes dancers were paid and sometimes not, according to circumstances.
“Dancer Not Paid At All” was selected by 43 entities. It is quite likely that among the entities and individuals from whom data was not forthcoming this number would increase significantly.
The majority of dance-making entities have no administrative staff or are understaffed. A total of 176 out of 303 respondents (or 58 percent) reported no paid staff at all. This painful number may be ameliorated a bit by either of two ways. One is to note a number of entities have attached themselves to support organizations such as Pentacle, Dance Theatre Workshop, The Field, and others. The result is that some, though surely not all, of the administrative burden is picked up in a way that does not appear as “paid staff.” A second is to exclude freelance individuals, who may arguably have less need for staff than, for example, a $75,000 six-member ensemble with a few weeks of touring in upstate New York. Many freelance individuals, however, would rightly disagree with such an exclusion. But if we look at just “ensembles,” 234 respondents report 115 (49 percent) with no paid staff at all.
And one last way of looking at the understaffing of dance in New York City is to note that among the 127 entities who do report some paid staff, the total number of people, whether “full-time” or “part-time,” is 766. That means that only 766 people are doing most of the work of supporting most of the dance produced by most of the bigger companies in New York.
Performances and Audiences
Despite the preponderance of smaller companies in NYC and the general lack of staff support, a large number of performances occur and so does a large amount of touring. A total of 314 entities reported 3,781 performances in New York City. Of those, 278 gave audience estimates totaling 1,317,700. On-tour audiences were reported by 201 entities for a total of 1,136,300. Those figures total 2,454,000 and the real total is surely higher if the 500 or more entities from which data was not returned are included. One might safely estimate a real total of over 3,000,000.
To put these numbers in context, the National Endowment for the Arts in its 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts developed a statistic that 20.1 million people in America attended one or more dance events in a one-year period around that time. If New York artists can reach a total of over 3 million people, then New York artists alone account for around 15 percent of the dance that America is seeing.
The subject of performances and audiences receives much more detailed discussion in the section entitled “Performance and Audiences.”
Who doesn’t know that real estate is scarce and expensive in NYC? In the course of the census it made sense to ask how many dance-makers rent space and what they pay for it. Three key facts emerged from the 294 dance-makers that addressed this question.
First, the majority are renters. 225 reported renting, with 124 reporting that they rent from more than one site. Second, only a fortunate 18 own their own space and another 17 hold leases.
Third, the average rental rates per hour came in at a “high rate” averaging $21 per hour and a “low” rate of $9 per hour. The range for all data was from a low of $5 to a high of $50 per hour.
Once again it should be noted that most of these topics are subject to nuance, ambiguity, and a new look when detail is examined. For a more detailed analysis of these matters, see the sections that follow this General Overview.