Mind the Gap: Artist Residencies and Dance

Alliance of Artists Communities

32 pages, Alliance of Artists Communities, 255 S Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02903-2910, (401) 351-4320, www.artistcommunities.org

This report examines the current landscape of support for dance through residency programs, identifies some of the barriers and challenges to participation, and offers a call to action for residency programs, funders, and others to develop greater resources in support of dancemakers. More than 600 dancemakers contributed to this research, as well as 200 artist residency programs. The Alliance's Dance Project is supported wholly by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Key Findings

Residiencies for Dance: Current Landscape

When the Alliance of Artists Communities began this study in early 2010, we knew of only 64 residency programs for dance. To-date we have identified 124 dance residencies in the US and Canada – in 36 states and 3 provinces – and estimate at least another 40 not yet confirmed. While the number of residencies for dance is encouraging, these 124 programs provided residencies to fewer than 900 dancemakers in 2009.

The vast majority of dance residencies are administered by nonprofit arts organizations, and while many are stand-alone residency programs others are associated with colleges and universities, presenting organizations, museums, and other institutions. There are dozens more outside North America and we look forward to conducting further research on international opportunities.

The good news is there is an abundance of residency opportunities around the world open to dance in general. The bad news is twofold: many of these opportunities are underutilized due to a lack of information, misperceptions about the support available, and limited funds to take advantage of what is offered; and there is a scarcity of residency programs with the capacity to fully support the specific needs of dance, particularly in the mid- and late stages of developing new work.

Dance Residencies At-A-Glance (North America)

There are approximately 500 residency programs in North America and greater than 30% offer support for dance – exclusively or in addition to support for visual arts, writing, music, film, and other disciplines. Dance residencies vary widely in their support for each stage of the dance-making process, as well as in location, size, and facilities. A dancemaker may participate in a rural retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia, for example, a creative incubator in a small Midwestern town, or an urban residency program in downtown Manhattan.

Total number of artist residency programs in North America:

  • 500 (estimate)
  • that support collaborative/group residencies: 91% of all residencies (455)
  • that offer support to dancemakers: 33% (164)
  • with dance studios: 14% (68)
  • that exclusively or predominantly support the development of new dance and other performance-based work: 10% (50)
Barriers to Participation in Dance Residencies

Awareness
While many dancemakers know residencies for dance exist, there is a lack of awareness about the breadth and diversity of opportunities available. Of the nearly 600 survey respondents, approximately 75% of dancemakers are aware of the existence of dance residencies, though most indicate only knowing of two or three different programs. Not surprisingly, dancemakers are most familiar with those residency programs that serve dance exclusively – MANCC, Jacob's Pillow, and The Yard, for example. Dancemakers find researching residencies to be challenging, particularly in comparing facilities, resources, and expectations, and say that despite "always searching," finding appropriate residencies that support their work remains difficult.

To this end, the Alliance is further developing its online database of residency programs to include more of those that offer support for dance and is creating dance-specific online resources so that dancemakers have a single go-to place for finding out about residency opportunities.

Perception
Only 46% of dancemakers surveyed have participated in a residency program. For the others, there are many perception (or misperception) barriers that keep dancemakers from even applying to residencies.

Some common misperceptions include:

  • A specific outcome (product, performance, etc.) is expected at the end of a residency
  • Residencies do not offer the flexibility to accommodate artists working across disciplines
  • Residencies only support visual artists or writers
  • Most residencies charge artists to attend
  • Residencies only accommodate a single artist working alone
  • Residencies are solitary and not engaged in the community

Accurate and accessible information is critical so that dancemakers can take advantage of the many opportunities available to them, and residency programs can improve their communications to address these common misperceptions. The Alliance, too, can address these barriers by providing more information tailored to the needs of dancemakers.

Cost of Participating
While all artistic disciplines are under-resourced, the dance community has been hit especially hard by the recent recession. According to Dance/USA's 2009 "Rough Waters Survey," 84% of dancemakers and dance presenting organizations have suffered a significant decrease in foundation support and 42% report that individual donations have significantly fallen short of expectations in recent years. For an already under-resourced field, this is particularly discouraging.

We cannot overstate the financial challenges faced by dancemakers. Taking a week, a month, or a year to focus on the development of new work is a costly endeavor for any artist. Few dancemakers who are given the opportunity to present their work are also provided with resources and an ample amount of time to develop that work with all the key players involved in production. Dancemakers in particular require a great deal of resources to bring new work to fruition: wages to dancers during all stages of development; payment to set, lighting, and video designers, directors, composers, and musicians; space rental; marketing; costumes; and more. Sixty-one percent of all artist residencies offer their programs at no cost to all participants and more than 25% offer stipends to artists-in-residence, though very few have sufficient funds to support the level of resources needed by dancemakers, particularly in the later stages of their development process. And while a single choreographer working in solitude might find a free residency or a modest stipend adequate, most dancemakers must take on significant personal expense paying fees to dancers and other collaborators or forgo residency opportunities altogether.

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