THE BLOG
10/15/2014 04:30 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2014

Touring New York Arts and Culture

Michaa Krakowiak via Getty Images

It would be a mistake to view New York's arts and culture landscape in isolation, confined to geographic borders. Among the reasons -- there are many -- is that our artists and institutions tour both domestically and abroad, and in doing so act as ambassadors for our metropolitan area and participate in a critical flow of creativity and ideas. As a proud New Yorker and an internationalist, I advocate the continuous advancement of this flow.

The organization I run, Dance/NYC, publishes research on touring in nonprofit dance. Snapshot analyses, based on a Cultural Data Project sample of 87 local dance companies, show annual performances on tour at 1,380, a significant 45 percent of total performances. They also show the importance of touring as a source of growth capital, increasing as a share of companies' earned income as annual budget sizes increase, from 12 percent for the smallest companies up to 47 percent for those in $1-5 million range. Touring drops to 19 percent of earned income for those with budgets of more than $5 million, suggesting a need for developing new approaches focused on this segment.

Trend analyses over a two-year (2009-2011) period are worrying. Performances on tour declined 8 percent, and total income from touring fell 2 percent. These losses were felt unevenly across budget categories, and the smallest companies, with budgets of less than $100K, even saw a dramatic 163 percent increase in touring income. Midsize companies, in the $500-999K range, experienced the most sizable financial loss, at 32 percent.

As these data demonstrate touring need and opportunity along the continuums of organizational budget sizes and lives in dance, some, such as American Dance Abroad, are already developing solutions for New York. This new entity, cofounded by Carolelinda Dickey and Andrea Snyder three years ago, has launched Beyond Our Borders, a training and networking initiative to better prepare New York area dance companies for international exchange.

The effort complements existing American Dance Abroad projects, including Rapid Response, a quick-turnaround assistance program to support transit costs for dance artists, and American Dance Recon, a symposium for international presenters to reconnect with American dance and/or to use it as reconnaissance. This fall, Dance/NYC will for the third year cosponsor an American Dance Recon town hall, connecting New York artists to presenters participating in a local edition of this symposium.

The work of American Dance Abroad builds on Dance America: An International Strategy for American Dance, a report commissioned and published in 2010 by Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, with support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, a leader in promoting international arts engagement. The report is data driven, responding in part to survey findings from dance companies that prioritize three interconnected areas of needed service to support international exchange: access and opportunities, information and training, and financial support. The report aims to create value by taking a holistic approach, emphasizing tactics that are doable in a changeable political and economic environment, and encouraging partnerships among government agencies, institutions, and within the dance field.

I am using dance as my subject here, but am also sharing lessons that may be useful to New York arts and culture as a whole and the city's future as a cultural capital. Finally, in advocating touring and exchange, I am adding to my recent writing on cultural planning for the City of New York that any such planning could benefit from the inclusion of domestic and international strategy. Dance/NYC research and the work of American Dance Abroad offer helpful starting points.

Note: I began this blog at the 2014 Internationale Tanzmesse in Düsseldorf, Germany, a biennial marketplace and festival platform focused on contemporary dance. I was a part of the American Corner delegation, cosponsored by American Dance Abroad, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Dance/USA, a welcome example of collaboration and common messaging (Dance/NYC also works in alliance with Dance/USA).