Ballet Austin: Expanding Audiences for Unfamiliar Work


Editor’s note: Please join Dance/USA on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. ET for Expanding Audiences for Unfamiliar Work: Lessons from Ballet Austin, a FREE webinar on audience building featuring Cookie Ruiz, executive director of Ballet Austin, and Michelle Martin, associate artistic director of Ballet Austin. The webinar will present a discussion on developing audiences for new choreographic work and the use of market research to track effectiveness of new programs and learn more about what is and is not working. Register here today!

By Andrew Decker for The Wallace Foundation

Every December, Ballet Austin puts on The Nutcracker, choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Stephen Mills. Virtually all of the 14 performances at the 2,442-seat Long Center for the Performing Arts are filled to capacity. “We could sell out more shows,” says Cookie Ruiz, executive director of the Texas company, “but it would wear our dancers out.”

Packed houses are the case for other classics, too. But a different picture emerges for more abstract works, which don’t attract the crowds that flock to Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and the like. That reality is frustrating for the dance company — and not just because unsold tickets mean unrealized revenue. It also runs counter to Ballet Austin’s mission: to create new work and develop talent, thereby extending the ballet repertoire and advancing the art form. Ruiz sums up the problem with a simple question:

“How do we go about developing larger audiences for entirely new work?”

In 2015, Ballet Austin embarked on a six-year project to get some answers, spurred in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation. Hewing to principles of what’s loosely known as “continuous improvement,” the ballet company has been conducting research, developing initiatives informed by what the research suggests, examining the results — and then launching new marketing strategies and engagement offerings based on the findings. Less than a year and a half into the venture, coordinators of the work at Ballet Austin have often been surprised by what they have learned — especially by the way research can upend even long-held assumptions.

Find out how the company is using research to find new, effective ways to engage audiences with all forms of ballet. Read the full article on The Wallace Foundation website here.

Watch a video that takes you behind the scenes and describes the early work of some of the performing arts organizations in The Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative. 


This content originally appeared on The Wallace Foundation website. It is reprinted here with permission.

Photo credits
Photos by Amitava Sarkar, Ballet Austin

_______

Be part of the conversation! We welcome and encourage feedback on eJournal articles. You are encouraged to contribute any commentary designed to spark conversation, ask questions, and/or offer constructive criticism. Please note that comments will be reviewed by Dance/USA staff prior to appearing on the site. If necessary, comments may be edited or deleted to remove any inappropriate or highly inflammatory remarks.

We accept submissions on topics relevant to the field: advocacy, artistic issues, arts policy, community building, development, employment, engagement, touring, and other topics that deal with the business of dance. We cannot publish criticism, single-company season announcements, and single-company or single artist profiles. If you have a topic that you would like to see addressed, please contact journal@danceusa.org.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are the author's and do not reflect the opinions and views of Dance/USA.






Return to From the Green Room