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NEA Study Finds a Drop in Arts Attendance

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vipa   

I answered the same survey. The thing that is always hard to know in these surveys is that the statistics are from people who were willing to answer a 10 - 15 minute survey. I have a strong interest in the arts and, I admit, a certain loyalty to NYCB. I'm not sure how the public at large feels about the arts.

 

As an aside. It is amazing to know that arts in America were part of the discussion during the Kennedy administration. 

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9 hours ago, vipa said:

It is amazing to know that arts in America were part of the discussion during the Kennedy administration. 

Jackie, of course, had a lot to do with that, but she wasn't alone. There was also a major study by the Rockefeller Foundation of the need for Federal support of the arts and humanities in the early sixties. This led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1964 and the renaming of the National Cultural Center as the Kennedy Center. All this was wonderfully bipartisan, by the way. And we shouldn't forget the leadership Eleanor Roosevelt showed in the 1930s with the Works Project Administration which put artists on the Federal payroll.

A wonderful history of this era: https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/nea-history-1965-2008.pdf

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sandik   

Thanks for the link to the NEA history.  What they don't necessarily cover is that many of the state and local arts agencies that we depend on today were also founded at the same time, so that there's an interlinked quality to many of the programs they first developed.  The Dance Touring Program, one of the first NEA initiatives, worked closely with local agencies and presenters, which meant that the community service part of the project had some really profound affects on dance groups across the country. 

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41 minutes ago, sandik said:

 What they don't necessarily cover is that many of the state and local arts agencies that we depend on today were also founded at the same time, so that there's an interlinked quality to many of the programs they first developed. 

If you word search "state arts" there are quite a few references to the state arts councils. New York was the only one that pre-dated the NEA itself. With financial incentives from NEA, all the states (and territories) eventually established them. Nancy Hanks was a great promoter of the importance of state and local arts agencies.

 

(So sad to see the picture of the Old Post Office on the cover of that report -- such a wonderful historic building, beautifully restored, re-opened in 1981 as the home of both Endowments, and named in honor of Nancy Hanks.)

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elena   

I think technology/YT/live broadcasts are helping, though some may think the opposite. 

 

I live in Puerto Rico so we don't have many ballet performances in theaters (and when I do attend performances some, frankly, aren't up to par - while others are.) 

 

The Bolshoi Ballet live broadcasts are always soldout here, and increasingly I see more young people attending. Being able to find out about events, dancers, etc. online made me shell out quite a bit of money last year to go watch ballet in the theater in NYC, because a video can never replace that experience. I have taken "non-ballet fans" to the broadcasts or sent them links to videos online and it has sparked an interest in them for ballet - some have decided to attend the theater when travelling, which they wouldn't have ordinarily. 

 

I also think that the "arts fandom" could be more disperse now than some decades ago, where many of the fans were concentrated in more 'cultured' cities (no offense meant, I just mean that the people in those areas were the ones exposed to these performances, and now people all over the world have exposure, while those that can actually attend because they are close don't make - or want to make it- it for various reasons). There is also something about taking for granted what you have regular access to, plus the arts competing with a plethora of other options/activities. 

 

On a sidenote - the arts are seen as "feminine" (at least where I'm from), and I think that also plays a role in the cultural support it gets on various levels. Again, no offense meant. 

 

Edited by elena

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I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet in this thread, but I also wonder if some of the drop in attendance could be due to the fact that the large companies no longer tour smaller communities as they did up until around, perhaps, 1965. They may send out occasional small performances with younger members of their companies, but large-scale tours are now, I know, prohibitively expensive. I live in a mid-size city in a large northeastern state in the US. It has a well-known Ivy league university, and a highly educated, culturally aware population with a relatively high income level. But we never get a touring ballet company here. We may get small, second tier modern dance/jazz/ethnic companies about once a year (true!!), but NO ballet. There is a "high-school dance company", but for a true ballet lover this does not suffice on any level. Also, those who might have been exposed to excellent ballet in the past, and developed a life-long love of it, no longer do. For me to see a good ballet company requires a five-hour bus trip there and five hours back again--another expense in addition to tickets, plus perhaps the price of a hotel in NYC if wanting to stay overnight. This is not possible more than once in a blue moon for me. 

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sandik   

The economics of touring a large ballet company are pretty dire -- I took an hour last night and did a thoroughly unscientific survey of websites, and it looks like the bigger the company, the less likely they are to pick up and go somewhere.

 

Houston went to Germany last spring.

Boston, San Francisco, Colorado, Ballet West don't seem to have gone anywhere.

Joffrey's website claims that the company has the "largest touring schedule in the country," but they only had three events on their posted schedule (of course, that could get filled in later)

Nashville went to the Kennedy Center last spring, and is going to Charleston this coming spring

Miami City Ballet shuttles between venues

Eugene Ballet (Eugene, OR) is touring a children's show to several venues in the west this year.

 

But the "winner" right now is Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, who has trips to Tennesee, Indiana, British Columbia, and Louisiana on their schedule.  They are essentially a small contemporary ballet company, and since they already shuttle between their two homes, their repertory is chosen to travel well.  That likely is a factor in their mobility.

 

I didn't compare schedules of the companies that have been to the Kennedy Center recently for their Ballet Across America program, or to the Joyce for their ballet festivals, but it would only make sense that if a company with limited resources (that is to say, all of them) might have to make a choice between a trip to a prestigious festival like those or a more individual touring schedule.

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Helene   

Very few ballet companies tour.   It's a tricky thing for the bigger companies with orchestras to negotiate with the home orchestras to leave them home, and touring with them is a huge travel expense.  National Ballet of Canada usually goes to Ottawa, where Federal money comes from, and, every few years, makes a foray west of Quebec/Ontario, recently with only part of the company.  Ballet BC gets one of the western companies to bring a Nutcracker, a win-win since it's added to their subscription season.

 

Joffrey Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet used to be the companies that filled in the gap, travelling to smaller cities, with Joffrey visiting universities, I assume as part of their series.  Alberta Ballet (Edmonton and Calgary) and Los Angeles Ballet have regular seasons in multiple cities, like Miami City Ballet does.  Ballet Arizona has a free mixed program called Ballet under the Stars that they perform in about a half dozen parks in the Phoenix area in the Fall.

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Cut-backs in the NEA Dance Touring program haven't helped either.

 

This is also another reminder that the cut-backs in PBS programming (Dance in America and Live from Lincoln Center) are even more unfortunate.

 

DVDs and live-streaming help fill in the gaps, but note that we're mainly seeing European and Russian companies that way, not the American troupes. I have appreciated the live-streaming of some PNB events recently and wish other companies could figure out how to do that.

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Dance on film of any kind really doesn't compare, IMO, to live performance. A whole dimension (pun intended) is completely lost. When I was a child/teenager in Detroit, MI, I had the great good fortune (and good mother!)  to be able to see The Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, the (then) Kirov Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet. ABT. NYCB, The Eliot Feld Ballet, and I may be missing one or two, between the ages of 5-20, or 1956-1972. Some I saw more than once, and all in Detroit! A lost world, truly. Perhaps there is a connection between those opportunities that abounded then, and the "Ballet boom" shortly thereafter?

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sandik   
4 hours ago, Stage Right said:

Dance on film of any kind really doesn't compare, IMO, to live performance. A whole dimension (pun intended) is completely lost. When I was a child/teenager in Detroit, MI, I had the great good fortune (and good mother!)  to be able to see The Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, the (then) Kirov Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet. ABT. NYCB, The Eliot Feld Ballet, and I may be missing one or two, between the ages of 5-20, or 1956-1972. Some I saw more than once, and all in Detroit! A lost world, truly. Perhaps there is a connection between those opportunities that abounded then, and the "Ballet boom" shortly thereafter?

I agree the film is not a substitute for a live performance, but it is an artform on its own -- I'm pleased that it seems to be making some headway in cinema broadcast, especially as television dance programming gets slimmer and slimmer.

 

The Dance Boom was a product of multiple influences.  The post WWII cultural programming of the big international companies was certainly one element, but there were several others as well.

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Yes, Sandik, i realize that there were many influences on the "dance boom", but I do believe that the extensive tours by international ballet companies played an important part in the USA, beginning with the various iterations of the Ballet Russes. People in even small cities or towns were aware of ballet and the big name dancers in a way that I find just does not exist now outside the larger costal cities primarily: NYC, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, and others. Smaller cities, even such as mine, even where there is a highly educated population, will not recognize any of the names of dancers spoken of on this forum, or choreographers such as Wheeldon, Ratmansky, and certainly not any below that level. If you talked to many people here, I think they would be completely uninterested in ballet, and perhaps characterize it as a dying art for elites only. I think this is a problem for ballet going forward.

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sandik   
On 8/14/2017 at 5:09 PM, Stage Right said:

Yes, Sandik, i realize that there were many influences on the "dance boom", but I do believe that the extensive tours by international ballet companies played an important part in the USA, beginning with the various iterations of the Ballet Russes. People in even small cities or towns were aware of ballet and the big name dancers in a way that I find just does not exist now outside the larger costal cities primarily: NYC, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, and others. Smaller cities, even such as mine, even where there is a highly educated population, will not recognize any of the names of dancers spoken of on this forum, or choreographers such as Wheeldon, Ratmansky, and certainly not any below that level. If you talked to many people here, I think they would be completely uninterested in ballet, and perhaps characterize it as a dying art for elites only. I think this is a problem for ballet going forward.

 

I've been mulling this over, and I had a little epiphany about touring.  Back when the big companies were appearing all over, they weren't organizing these tours themselves.  There were organizations like Hurok and Columbia that were doing the heavy lifting -- making the connections, booking the theaters, doing the advance promotion.  Now, when a company like ABT does tour, I don't know that they have the same relationship with a promoter.  I'd have to do some homework, but my intuition is that there is much more direct contact between the company and the local institution.  Especially when it's an ongoing relationship, like the Segerstrom in California.  Now rather than a long tour with multiple appearances that requires a certain ongoing coordination, it's more like a series of run-outs -- fly here and go home, fly there and go home.

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Interesting, Sandik. I too, would have to mull that over, wondering what kind of effect that change might have had. And how and why it took place (economics, no doubt). I also wonder if ballet companies now assume that since we all seem more mobile than back in the days of Hurok, et al., that audiences can simply be expected to come to them, rather than vice versa. If there is that assumption, I wonder if it is working out as assumed.

 

(Just wanted to add a telling incident here in my small city.... I moved here several years ago, and decided to start a ballet class for adults (not liking 'retirement'), I told a new acquaintance about it. She is a very intelligent woman, a yoga teacher. She looked at me visibly startled, and said, "Ballet for adults? But ballet is just for children!).

Edited by Stage Right

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sandik   

As far as who does the traveling, I do know that several cities/arts agencies keep track of those numbers, and use them in civic discussions about arts support.  In Seattle (my home town) our local opera company has produced Wagner's Ring cycle on a fairly regular basis -- it's an extreme example of an art work that people will travel miles to see, but even leaving it out, the local arts agencies have said that arts tourism generates as much revenue for the city as sports tourism on a regular basis (and sometimes outstrips it).  So yes, there are people who are traveling to see dance, but that has a tendency to reinforce the idea that the arts are for those who can afford them -- not the policy I'd like to see supported.

 

I'd have to do some homework to find more concrete numbers.

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