Snapshot of the Field

About the Snapshot of the Field

Dance/USA's Snapshot of the Field is an annual compilation of operational and financial information on tax-exempt dance ensembles based in the United States and required to file a tax form with the Internal Revenue Service. Derived from data contained in Dance/USA's new Directory of Not-for-Profit Dance Ensembles, it focuses on 501(c)(3) professional dance ensembles. For purposes of the Snapshot, "dance ensembles" and "ensembles" refers specifically to this group. 

Profile of the 501(c)(3) Dance Field

U.S. choreographers and dancers employ a diversity of organizational models to create and perform professional not-for-profit dance, including the 501(c)(3) model, working with a fiscal sponsor, and operating as an unincorporated and/or unregistered tax-exempt entity.

Professional not-for-profit dance is highly diverse in its artistic forms as well, covering such dance genres and styles as aerial, ballet, burlesque, capoeira, flamenco, hip hop, hula, jazz, kathak, liturgical, modern, physically integrated, and tap, in addition to fusions of these genres and styles and the incorporation of other artistic disciplines. Dance artists work with performing arts centers, businesses, park districts, community centers, schools, religious institutions, and many other groups to ensure this wealth of creative activity is widely accessible to the public.

The following statistics are excerpted from the 2017 Snapshot of the Field and focus on one element of the professional dance community - ensembles registered as 501(c)(3) organizations and listed in the Directory of Not-for-Profit Dance Ensembles.1

Geographic Distribution

These not-for-profit dance ensembles are located in 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. 

  • The majority are located in the Northeast (31%) or West (28%).
  • The states with the heaviest concentrations of these ensembles are New York, California, Illinois, Texas, and Florida.

Operations & Finances

In fiscal year (FY) 2014, 501(c)(3) ensembles employed over 15,900 individuals and were further supported by more than 22,800 volunteers.2

Annual (expense) budgets totaled $755.5 million.3 Ensembles that reported expenses for wages and benefits paid a total of $372.4 million, just over half (50.9%) of total aggregated expense for these ensembles in FY14.4

Professional not-for-profit dance is supported through a combination of earned income and public and private contributions (financial and in-kind). In FY14, total reported income for dance ensembles was $813.2 million. For ensembles that separately reported performance income, a third (33.5% or $242.7 million) of total income came from this earned income source.5 Other sources of earned income included school tuition and related educational programming, rental income, investment income, royalties from licenses of intellectual property, and merchandise sales.

Not-for-profit dance ensembles reporting contributed income in FY14 received more than $380.1 million in contributions, 47% of the total aggregated income of ensembles providing figures on this income source.6 Contributed income consists of federal, state, and local funding support, foundation grants, corporate sponsorship and contributions, and the financial donations of individuals.


The Directory of Not-for-Profit Dance Ensembles is a listing created and maintained by Dance/USA that tracks professional tax-exempt dance ensembles and fiscally sponsored dance artists based in the United States or a U.S. territory (the “Ensemble Directory”). The Ensemble Directory was created through review of the following: the tax forms of organizations identified as dance or cultural/ethnic-related by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”); dance-related literature and other written materials; listings of fiscally sponsored dance artists and projects shared by local arts service organizations and fiscal sponsors or contained on these organizations’ websites; discussions with dance makers; and through the self-identification of professional tax-exempt dance ensembles and fiscally sponsored dance artists to Dance/USA. While included in the Ensemble Directory, fiscally sponsored dance activity is not included in this Snapshot as these organizations are not independently registered with the IRS and are not required to make data regarding their financial and operational activities publicly available. The Ensemble Directory is updated on a continual basis; this Snapshot was prepared based on data contained in the Ensemble Directory as of 8/17/17.

This figure is likely much higher as only 277 ensembles reported their number of volunteers and at least 93 ensembles did not include trustees as volunteers.

3 All figures provided herein draw on publicly available information reported in IRS filings. Specific expense and income figures for this Snapshot were available for 750 and 745 ensembles, respectively, in FY14 (62% of the 1,208 who were registered with the IRS and/or filed a tax form in that fiscal year). In addition, 419 ensembles filed a Form 990-N postcard indicating that their gross receipts totaled $50,000 or less in FY14. Four hundred and eighty-nine ensembles (65% of ensembles filing a Form 990 or 990-EZ in FY14) reported the provision of wages and benefits in FY14. Contributed income was reported by 717 ensembles (96% of ensembles filing a Form 990 or 990-EZ) in FY14. Information on performance income was identifiable for 292 companies (39% filing a Form 990 or 990-EZ) in FY14. Percentages have been rounded. 

Percentages are based on the 489 ensembles reporting both wage/benefit expenses and total expenses for FY14.

Percentages are based on the 292 ensembles reporting both clearly delineated performance income and total income for FY14.

Percentages are based on the 717 ensembles reporting both contributed income and total income in FY14.


For more information about the professional dance field or to request a PDF copy of the complete Snapshot, please contact the director of research and information services.