Creating a Dance Advance Team: DANCECleveland

Organization Name: DANCECleveland

City: Cleveland

Program Name: Creating your own Dance Advance Team: DAT DIY

Program Length: Six performances over the course of the 2013-2014 dance performance series

Goal: DANCECleveland created a network of individuals who serve as ambassadors and work collaboratively to investigate and discover new entry points for communicating to potential new dance audience members. This effort is aimed to finding new ways to communicating about dance to novices, engage a new set of audiences to attend a dance performance and to activate a group of individuals within the local dance community to serve as an extension of the DANCECleveland family and catalysts for future community initiatives.

Time of Year Offered: August 2013-April 2014

Program Description:

Who: The Dance Advance Team is a group of dancers, dance educators and choreographers who acted as ambassadors to explore new ways of communicating with dance novices about live performance, primarily for DANCECleveland’s 2013-2014 dance performance series. This group of individuals acted as co-creators and an invaluable brain trust for exploring these new entry points of communication to engage new dance audiences. The group enthusiastically joined this initiative, in part, to be able to use the lessons learned through this process to advance their own work and performances and to begin to explore ways of making information about dance and performances available and accessible to a broad range of individuals.

Recruitment: We began recruiting participants by contacting individuals who participated in DANCECleveland’s early childhood movement and literacy based educational outreach program called Read to Learn…Dance to Move. We also extended the invitation to dance community members outside of that group and asked for personal references from our contacts. We then held two initial informational sessions to introduce the program to interested individuals. This meeting was integral in introducing all aspects of the program including the requirements and expectation of participants for team members. From there, individuals who expressed interest joined the team. Each team member received a handbook, SEE DAT HANDBOOK ATTACHMENT. This was integral to laying out the goals and procedures of the program and most importantly to outline expectations and important dates prior to the onset of the program.

What did they do?
DAT members convene for monthly meetings which are scheduled generally 4-6 weeks prior to a DANCECleveland performance. At the meetings, DAT members and DANCECleveland staff explore facets of the upcoming performance including repertoire, company history, social media resources, previews, reviews and often times had exclusive opportunities to speak directly to executive and/or artistic staff from the company. Each member was given an individualized flyer to market the performance and give access to exclusive discounts offered to DAT guests. For each performance DAT members were given a free ticket to attend the performance in addition to a $15 discounted ticket offer for their potential guests/peers. DAT members were given all manner of information that they could share and use in talking about the upcoming performance.

Ticketing: In order to receive an exclusive discount as a friend of a DAT member, individuals were required to purchase tickets to a performance through the DANCECleveland office. This allowed staff to maintain a detailed database of individuals purchasing tickets, have one-on-one personal conversations and take the time to educate them about the DAT program, and other engagement programming offered at the performance. DANCECleveland had the capacity to administer ticketing in house. An important social element to the DAT experience is special seating. Each DAT member and their guests were seated next to or near each other and also near other DAT members with their guests.

Pre, during and post-performance engagement offerings:
Surrounding the performance, DAT members and their guests had insider access to invitation only engagement activities including pre-performance receptions, backstage tours and in some instances, have the ability to speak with executive and/or artistic staff of the company. DAT members acted as guides to their guests often times organizing informal social engagements, drinks or dinner, prior to the performance. DAT members helped navigate guests through the theatre, encouraged participation in engagement programming offered and creating welcoming and enjoyable social experience.

Evaluation and Assessment: After the performance, guests of DAT members were sent an online survey asking about their experience. SEE ONLINE POST-PERFORMANCE via ONLINE SURVEY DATABASE ENTRY. DAT members would re-convene after the performance to share their experiences at the performance, give insight to how their guests’ experiences were and talk about successes and challenges speaking to peers about the performance. This allowed DAT and DANCECleveland staff to collectively reflect on how we may adapt and potentially expand the entry points offered for future performances.

Number of Participants: How to DIY: Step to Creating Your Own Ambassador Program Step by Step 1. Identify and recruit team members 2. Survey team about general demographics and personal interests 3. Create clear expectations via member handbook 4. Equip them with insider information and experiences, ie insider videos not available to the public, personal conversation and specially planned interactions with artistic staff 5. Provide accessible entry points and mediums of communication to share with guests, ie videos, images, flyers, reviews etc. 6. Educate ambassadors on engagement programs and how to facilitate, ie Make Dance Stick With You volunteering at DANCECleveland table and or greeting guests as a representative of DANCECleveland 7. Establish ticketing procedures: online vs over the phone 8. Manage detailed database of guests for future communications 9. Assess and evaluate the experience of guests who attended a performance with a DAT member via online survey Time is critical when planning and executing an ambassador program. Below is a general timeline which outlines the steps taken leading up to a performance. 1. 6 Weeks: Generate Context and Materials 2. 4 Weeks: Pre-performance Convening 3. 3-2 Weeks: Inside Experiences and Engagement Programming w/Ambassadors 4. 2 Weeks: Majority of Ticketing 5. Performance 6. During Performance Engagement 7. Post-Performance Engagement 8. 2 Days After performance: Post-Performance Survey 9. 1-2 Weeks After Performance: Post-Performance Follow-Up w/ Ambassadors 10. 3 Weeks After Performance: Survey Analysis 11. Gearing Up for Next Performance

Target Audience: With the assumption that individuals who have a foundation and deepened understanding of the art form would be better poised to talk about dance, DANCECleveland targeted dancers, dance educators and choreographers to be a part of the team. These individuals ranged in ages from early 20’s through late 60’s. 80% of ambassadors were female and 20% were male. Of the 16 ambassadors 19% were African American, 6% were Asian and 75% were Caucasian.

Is the program for kids? No.

Private/Public Public

Nature of Audience Engagement: Pre-Performance: The ambassadors engage by participating in pre-show convening’s and events in person as well as remotely. • Attend meetings • Meet for breakfast with artistic and or executive staff of the dance companies being presented by DANCECleveland. • Converse informally with the artist and themselves • Read, watch and share information about the upcoming performance • Watch videos about artist being presented During the performances, ambassadors volunteer as representatives for DANCECleveland by working the table, welcoming guests and facilitating active engagement programming (See Make Dance Stick With You database entry) • Talk informally about performance, how to get more information about DANCECleveland and info about upcoming performances. • Welcome guests as soon as they walk into the theatre. • Facilitate informal conversations surrounding the Make Dance Stick With You engagement program. • Participate with online conversations and sharing information at the performance via social media. Post-Performance Participation: • Attend post-performance engagement activities including post Q&A, receptions and facilitate active engagement programming. • The ambassadors also participate in a post-performance wrap-up meeting. This particular element of participation allows space for 2-way communication about the performance, successes, and challenges a

Location: • DANCECleveland offices • Performance venues in North East Ohio • Private event locations • Online via social media platforms • Remotely via phone

How Many Staff: a. Project Director—coordinate with artists to incorporate additional participation engaging with DAT to provide insider experiences and opportunities to interact with artistic staff of the dance companies b. Project Manager—Manage and coordinate all aspects of recruitment, communication, coordination with outside partners, scheduling, recruitment of volunteers, assessment creation and distribution, analysis of assessments and co-creator of engagement programming. c. Marketing Manager—coordinate the creation of individualized flyers d. DANCECleveland Staff—ticket orders via phone

Program Cost: A total of approximately $43,000 over the course of six performances was spent to carry out this program. Major costs included project manager salary, ambassador stipends, ticket subsidies, social engagements and miscellaneous expenses.

Marketing for Program: We targeted individuals who had a strong foundation and understanding of dance with the assumption that they possessed an ability to communicate about dance. Participants were recruited through their participation with an existing DANCECleveland program in addition to personal references. Initial invitations were sent out via email and followed up by an orientation meeting. From there, our team self-selected. Note: People may fall off of the team organically due to the inability to fulfill participation expectations. It is very important to clearly articulate those expectations before the program launches.

Cost for Program Participants: Free. Ambassadors do offer time to participate in the program, received a stipend for attending monthly meetings and received a free ticket to each dance performance throughout the dance performance series.

Attendance To Date: 16

Past Iterations: DANCECleveland launched a truncated pilot project with a special innovation grant from The Cleveland Foundation during the 2012-2013 dance performance series. This allowed DANCECleveland to explore what potential impacts the project may have, how or if at all it would lend itself to the mission of DANCECleveland and how it may be integrated within the capacity of the organization.

What works? • Ability to create strong relationships with core group of ambassadors • Ability to deepen the understanding of DANCECleveland and what role we play within the northeast Ohio dance community • Ability to deepen connection to the local dance community • Access to new set of audience members to engage • Ability to fine tune methods of communicating with audiences through ambassadors efforts and feedback Fostering relationships takes time. Allocating that time within an organization’s current internal structure is necessary to integrate an ambassador team into existing day to day operations. In addition to time, an organization must be versatile in how they communicate to ambassadors. Those lines of communication may include social media, personal phone calls and even texting, rather than traditional emails. Creating and instituting new systematic procedures is also a necessity. Procedures such as creating a team handbook and ticketing may vary from existing practices. Those steps must be clearly articulated and organized.

What doesn't work? • Finding balance with participation expectations and time available to be offered by team • Finding the most effective and efficient way of communicating which each member of the team. Each person had their own preferred modes of communication. By nature, individuals within the dance community oftentimes maintain a varied and busy schedule. Through working with these individuals, scheduling was highly challenging. This challenge can be resolved by decreasing the amount of time ambassadors are expected to participate. Being cognizant of the amount of time your ambassador group is able to participate is key.

Performances Where Offered: The program was offered for all dance performances with the intention to engage this group of individuals with dance companies from all over the country.

Past Research on Program: No.

Continuing Program? At the end of the project DANCECleveland was able to bring the team together with a powerhouse group of prominent individuals from the national dance community over the course of two meetings. These meetings allowed DANCECleveland staff and the Dance Advance Team facilitated by John McCann, to unpack different community and audience engagement programs happening throughout the nation’s best of the best choreographers, dance companies and entrepreneurs. The team was able to have open discussion about what direction they would like to take the Dance Advance Team and how the team would shape its structure and goals. Due to the fiscal capacity, some elements will not be sustained in future iterations. The primary element of the project ending is the stipend provided to ambassadors. Much to our surprise, 100% of the ambassadors said they would be interested in participating in the future without receiving compensation.

Additional Comments:

As a part of the EDA project, DANCECleveland shared the Dance Advance Team model with two local dance companies. Each company took a different approach interpreting and structuring the model. Below are case study comparison charts depicting each of the organization’s approach and outcomes, including what types of engagement activities were executed, what types of entry points were provided and direct outcomes from the project. This information may be valuable when thinking about the way you can structure your own iteration of the project.

Company A: A mixed repertory modern dance company of six dancers that typically performs in three distinct time periods across a twelve month season and in three different venues.

Company B: A mixed repertory ballet company of 16 dancers that typically performs in indoor and outdoor venues across a 12-month season and has a heavy emphasis on educational outreach programming.

Resources & Links:

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Target Audiences General Audiences

Event Formats Forming Dance Affinity Groups, either adults or students [keep?]