The Business Of Dance
by Lauren Warnecke, MS
I’ve had several conversations lately with small-scale choreographers and company directors who are frustrated by the dance press. The little guys have a hard time getting exposure among the big companies, who always seem to make it into the papers. Since I play both sides of the coin as a freelance choreographer and freelance dance writer, I am intimately acquainted with the dilemma of fighting for press over the heavy-hitting companies.
Commonly heard complaints:
“It’s not fair.”
“It’s always the same people getting reviews.”
“The big companies don’t even need the help from the press.”
“I don’t even bother to read reviews anymore because they just don’t get it.”
Trust me. I get it. But within these statements are a couple of grievous mistakes that aren’t helping your cause.
1. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Time spent researching your press list is well spent. Working your own press isn’t rocket science — it just takes time, persistence, and Google. Sending impersonal releases to firstname.lastname@example.org will get you nowhere fast. If you don’t have the time and the desire to seek out and form relationships with the individuals who are actually going to write about you, then hire someone.
2. You assume we get paid to write reviews. If you’d like to supplement your dance income with something other than waiting tables, I wouldn’t recommend writing. We don’t write for the money, but rather because we love it and want to serve and support the dance community. Like any other artistic endeavor, there just isn’t enough money or time to go around. Many, if not most, independent writers and bloggers are writing for free, making pennies per posts, or have to put sufficient time and effort behind selling advertisements and endorsements on their sites. Page views can also impact our income, which is one reason why it can be beneficial to write about the big companies. Page views to a writer are butts in seats to a choreographer. The network of readers outside the dance community is larger for the big companies, so the review is likely to have a greater impact. Yes, this is a backhanded excuse, but I would argue that small companies who do receive press could have the same impact by sharing copiously with their networks and engaging in the ongoing discussions on publications from which they want support.
3. Butts in seats are not necessarily directly correlated with press reviews. Reviews for dance shows don’t often promote the show reviewed. Let me explain: with the typical one-weekend, 2-3 show format, a review will likely have minimal impact on ticket sales because there isn’t enough time for it to land with readers. The point of getting reviews is not so much driving new audience members to this show, but rather the next one. That’s not to say you shouldn’t share reviews and leverage them to try and persuade people to come, but the real benefit of reviews is in your marketing materials and grant applications for future projects. If the goal is butts in seats now, you should seek previews rather than reviews, or run your show for two weekends and invite reviews to the first. Invite members of the press to view an open rehearsal or request an interview. Use previews in your e-blasts and supporting arguments for why people should come see your show next weekend.
Note: Press comps should be extended to preview-ers as well as potential reviewers. They may not bite (especially after seeing a rehearsal), but it’s good form to offer a comp as a courtesy. Recall #1: we don’t get paid very much and seeing free dance is sometimes our only source of income. And, p.s., I won’t review a show I had to pay for.
4. You may not believe this, but we don’t enjoy writing negative reviews. It’s not pleasant to criticize something that I know has taken a lot of time, effort, and passion to create, but I’m also not interested in lying. To pad a review with unnecessary or unwarranted compliments, in the end, does a disservice to the readers and to the company at hand. If your company has something they could do better, I’m going to say so, and I expect you to take it like a (wo)man. Here’s the thing: at the end of the day, anything a dance critic writes is the singular viewpoint of one person. As much as we try to dissuade our biases and opinions, a review is just that: an opinion. You can take it or leave it. You can put it on your website or not. To banter on about how horrible the press is, or to stop inviting a critic who wrote a negative review isn’t a fast track to success.
5. Big companies need press just as much as you do. Sure, they might have more money and a dedicated person hired or contracted to take care of media relations, but they are also tasked with filling massive houses, thousands of seats, often in multiple cities. The argument should not be to stop writing about them and start writing about you, but instead to bolster the dance writers so we can cover everybody.
Long story short, if you want better press for your company, here’s the bottom line (or two, actually):
Today we have Cameron Dieck with us from échauffe – a company started by dancers, for dancers. Specifically–legwarmers…something they realized there was a real need for in terms of quality product. Read more about how they wound up business owners…
How did the idea for échauffe get started?
Caitlin and I have always heard complaints about legwarmers during our collective years spent training and dancing in the ballet world. After hearing a colleague at New York City Ballet complain about their legwarmers about two years ago, I just said to myself, “I can do this better”. It just occurred to me, if I don’t do this, someone else will.
In creating our line, we drew inspiration from our surroundings in New York City. NYC is a fashion Mecca and the place where many fashion houses’ creative departments are located. We really drew on this for the creation of our line. It was also extremely important to us that along with producing in the USA (to support the American economy) that we created products that were sustainable as possible. Aside from choosing raw materials that are Eco friendly, our yarn and factory are towns apart in NJ. The close proximity of our factory and yarn distributor cuts down on emissions and wasted fossil fuels in production. Another sustainable aspect of our garments is that they are all produced in whole garment manufacturing. Each garment is one piece of yarn from top to bottom, there are no seems, which cuts down on waste in the manufacturing process. This is something that both échauffe and our customers can be really proud of!
Was it difficult to get all the pieces in place to have the legwarmers made once you had the idea?
It wasn’t easy, I will say that much! It took about six months to find people that I was comfortable working with and to sort out our production supply streams. The hardest part in finding suppliers is finding people who value quality and that are agreeable to working with you.
Legwarmers have notoriously been considered by professionals and students alike to be poorly manufactured, leaving the ballet dancer with an often bulky and cumbersome product that just doesn’t cut it. We wanted to create a solid product that achieved the following…
- A new unibody seamless design. Through our research, we found that legwarmers fall apart along their seems. By constructing a garment that has no seems, a stronger more stable product has been achieved.
- A lightweight wear, which allows the wearer to see muscle definition. One of the largest complaints we have heard over the years is that legwarmers are bulky and thick, they get in the way of getting into fifth position. Our legwarmers are thin, yet warm!
- A 3/4 inch elastic band that eliminates slippage. You won’t have to pull up échauffe legwarmers up every two minutes.
- A moisture wicking design to keep the wearer dry.
All of this has been achieved while creating a beautiful design that is superior to other legwarmers made in the United States. Our mission is to design products that delight the spirit and enhance the dance performance of our clients.
How many different designs do you have?
We currently carry two designs, the Bambu™ Legwarmer and the Puma Stretch Calfwarmer. The Bambu™ Legwarmer is a full length legwarmer that incorporates our new unibody seamless design with a lightweight wear, which allows for wearer to see muscle definition. The Bambu™ Legwarmer comes in two styles, a striped and a solid, both boasts natural moisture wicking qualities due the use of 100% Bamboo yarn in its construction. Our Puma Stretch Calfwarmers helps to compress and warm the gastrocnemius muscle; like our Bambu™ Legwarmers, the Puma Stretch Calfwarmers are lightweight, allows their wearer to see muscle definition, and employs our new unibody seamless design.
What has been the most difficult part of running this business?
The most difficult part of running this business so far has been keeping up with the demand from our customers and finding the time to run a business while dancing with New York City Ballet and attending Fordham University. There have been many late nights in the process of founding and running échauffe Inc but I love the challenge. I find when one is passionate about what they are doing, they find the time to do whatever it is. Échauffe is a passion, so I make time!
What is next for the company?
Our ultimate goal for échauffe is to continue developing products that enhance the dancer’s experience and performance. In the near future, we will remain focused on warm-ups, more specifically knitwear. We are committed to making the best knitwear on the market for dancers!
We are also extremely excited to begin offering wholesale contracts in the near future. We have received an overwhelming number of requests from retail stores who are interested in carrying échauffe products and we will be rolling out that side of our business in the months to come!
Connect with échauffe:
by Lizzie Leopold
Balance seems like a potent metaphor for running a dance company. High on releve, eyes fixed on one still point, center held tight, arms strong, shoulders relaxed and just a little bit of luck…
Whether you are a one-man-show, wearing all the hats yourself, or an organization with a hundred employees, the balance of the artistic and administrative branches is a significant challenge. The priority to make new, exciting dances and the priority to run a solvent, growing business continually compete for top billing.
One of my favorite explanations of this divide comes from twentieth century German-born philosopher Theodor Adorno. He calls it culture vs. administration. Culture, the artistic branch, is the reflection of pure humanity without any regard for its functional relationships within society. It is defined by a spontaneity and is not concerned with expansion or preservation. One the other end, Adorno’s administration is the task done “looking down from on high,” that assembles, distributes, evaluates and organizes. Administration has the unavoidable tendency towards expansion, both quantitatively and qualitatively. These categories slip seamlessly and eerily onto the mold of the not-for-profit dance company.
The two branches are both completely opposed and yet completely dependent on one another. The challenge from the outset is a precarious balancing of artistic vision and commerce, a dance between art and money carefully choreographed by the artist and facilitated by the board of directors and administrative team.0
From time to time I like to do a little preview of things that will be coming up on 4dancers, and this week I have a lot to share! In addition to the new column we have “The Business of Dance” by Lizzie Leopold, we are also adding two new features in the upcoming weeks….
Join us for “Finis” – a new monthly column that will feature a dance photo at the end of the month, and “Music & Dance” – a column that will highlight a composer/producer’s take on the relationship between sound and movement. You’ll be meeting both of the new contributors soon in our “10 Questions With…” series. And good news for those of you who have enjoyed our SYTYCD contributor, Kimberly Peterson’s writing…she’ll be staying on to write more for 4dancers on other topics…
Also–look for more interviews (on Mondays) and dance music reviews (on Wednesdays) as we finish up the summer and settle into fall. I am going to be taking more time to work on this blog, so expect to see more content overall as we take 4dancers to the next level.
Let us know if there is something you’d like to hear more about, and in the meantime, we’d just like to thank you for taking the time to visit. If you haven’t yet taken the time to link up with us on Facebook and Twitter why not join us now? There’s going to be a lot going on!0
by Lizzie Leopold
If this were real life I would shake your hand, say “nice to meet you” and maybe we would exchange phone numbers. But here we are in the vast spaces of the internet. So, think of this blog as a virtual hand shake.
I’m Lizzie Leopold, choreographer, writer, scholar and social media enthusiast and these are my thoughts on the “Business of Making Dance.” The intersection of dance and business is busy, fast-paced and highly dangerous, so fasten your seat-belts.
This past week I attended the annual Dance/USA Conference in Chicago, the largest gathering of dance professionals in the country. I attended as student (as a PhD candidate at Northwestern University), as an Artistic Director and choreographer (Leopold Group), as a part of a dance service organization (Audience Architects), a social media manger (SeeChicagoDance) and as an all-around dance nerd. I left inspired, confused, clarified and exhausted.3