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Subject: "Managing Dance - Book Review" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #671
Reading Topic #671
Lynette

27-04-00, 02:20 PM (GMT)
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"Managing Dance - Book Review"
 
   Managing Dance: Current Issues and Future Strategies

Edited by Linda Jasper & Jeanette Siddall

Itís interesting to have a quite different take on the dance world for a change, looking at it not from the view of the performer or spectator, but from the point of those managing and administering it. This collection of essays from several different authors provides many different perspectives on the dance world in the UK. The contributions are a very mixed bag in every sense. Some are much livelier and better written and than others. The best are based in personal and practical experience, for example Guy Coolsí contribution, which offers some pithy thoughts on the everyday problems and headaches of running a dance venue. Some of the contributors have obviously been subjected to the diagrams of the marketing consultants, with their triangles and arrows, and a few of those have crept in here. Readers who spend their working lives in a Babel of management-speak are probably all too horribly familiar with this: but there is some worthwhile information beyond the jargon.

There are four sections: dance artists, products, education and outreach, and policies. I have to confess that developing dance in schools and education projects isnít my particular interest, and I found this the least involving. But there is material here on both the general background and history of dance education projects, and a case study of developing dance in two schools. This is very much from the point of view of the administrator and teacher: thereís nothing from the pupils themselves, and this was one point where a consumerís view would have been interesting. The section on policies is also somewhat dry reading.

I found the sections on managing dance artists and products the most interesting and thought provoking. There is an honest and direct essay from Julia Carruthers about what the job of managing any dance company is like, which contains plenty of advice, all of which might be summarised as "It will all be your fault. You really have to want to do this". The dancers get the applause and the praise: nobody thanks the manager for sorting out the VAT.

The section on dance products includes a contribution from Anne Millman on marketing dance, which contains plenty of food for thought. It provides some statistics on the dance audience in the UK (albeit from 1996). 4% of the adult population claimed to have attended a contemporary dance event (the figure for ballet is 6.6%): but only one in five attendees went to more than one performance a year. Thereís an analysis of the characteristics of the core audience, but the basic, and rather bleak message is that supply of dance exceeds demand. This is backed up by another contribution by Linda Jasper on attendance at dance venues in West Sussex, Surrey and Berkshire - venues including Wokingís New Victoria theatre and Horsham Arts Centre. Itís obvious from the detailed figures provided here for attendance at four different venues for the 96/97 season how well Irish and flamenco dance sells, as do touring ballet companies (100% capacity for Vienna Festival Balletís Swan Lake, 87% for NBT) compared to some dance companies. Even established names like Rambert (70%) and Richard Alston (54%) donít do as well, and notable companies like Shobana Jayasingh and Mark Baldwin, who have substantial audiences in London, only sell less than 40%.

Unsurprisingly thereís plenty of material in these pieces on the need to develop the dance audience, and how to go about it. What I always find interesting here is how well understood the characteristics of the dance audience are. It is something subject to a great deal of analysis - Iíve lost count of the number of audience survey forms Iíve filled in at Sadlers and elsewhere. The questioners always want to know your age, sex, income bracket, what newspaper you read, and how many dance companies you see. What Iíve always found odd about these surveys, and which is echoed in this book, is the lack of feedback requested from the audience - the consumer - on the product itself. Those questionnaires never ask ĎWhat did you like or dislike about the production? Will you come to other performances by this company?í.

Anne Milmann provides an analysis of why people donít come to dance events - fears that Ďthere wonít be a story...the music, if there is any, will be modern, difficult or tapedí. She does suggest some general strategies about how to grow audiences, and examples. But it still seems to me that there is a step missing here that the management of any other consumer product would take - find out what your market wants, and offer it. This possibility isnít really explored: itís the audience that must adapt to what is available, not the other way round. And perhaps, in the arts, that is how it ought to be. However, in a publication which aims to take a managerial and strategic view, itís perhaps a shame that what the audience wants out of the dance experience isnít more fully explored.

Managing Dance: Current Issues and Future Strategies (Northcote House, paperback , 214pp).


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Managing Dance - Book Review Bruce Madmin 30-04-00 1
     RE: Managing Dance - Book Review jonathan 01-05-00 2
         RE: Managing Dance - Book Review Bruce Madmin 01-05-00 3
             RE: Managing Dance - Book Review jonathan 01-05-00 4
  RE: Managing Dance - Book Review Lynette 02-05-00 5
     RE: Managing Dance - Book Review Stuart Sweeney 02-05-00 6

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Bruce Madmin

30-04-00, 06:28 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #0
 
   > But
>it still seems to me that
>there is a step missing here
>that the management of any other
>consumer product would take - find
>out what your market wants, and
>offer it.


A nice review and I particularly identify with the above statement. I also remember telling a room of people this (not very well it has to be said!) and getting quite short shrift for daring to question that creating new work is only about artistic freedom.

It strikes me that artistic freedom just delivered the Crucible which can hardly be said to have gladdened many critics hearts. Contrast this with the NBT Carmen which knew its audience and where people actively helped Diddy Veldman tell the story better than she would have probably been able to do just on her own. At its cruellest.. success versus failure. And its not like NBT did not take risk - not a pointe shoe in sight in Carmen.

I do think the state does need to help invest in new ideas. I don't want to see everybody doing the same things forever. But I equally think the state should withdraw support from those who consistently play to very low capacity audiences. It can't be right to continue to encourage those who can't attract an audience over a few years.

Subsidised dance is a long way behind the 'real world' where customers really do matter and ones commercial position is worried about and fully protected. Few commercial enterprises (ones that aim to survive anyway) would get themselves in the bind Schaufuss has been in of late. It's not like it is a one-off either.


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jonathan

01-05-00, 00:04 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #1
 
   I too am glad someone took the trouble to review this book, and with such alacrity.

I had two reactions - one, that my heart does not bleed for the manager whose VAT returns go unnoticed, because without those dancers, he'd have no job and no VAT to sort out. Amazing how many management manuals talk about those problematic "creative types", and yet somewhere in the accounts department, you've got someone who wants a bouquet for totting things up.

Secondly, I wonder just how much dance, or for that manner any art form, can be "managed" in the way that professional managers would like to manage it. You can manage a product line, you can commodify an artistic phenomenon until it obeys market principles, but that isn't necessarily art, and you have no guarantee that something else will overtake it.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Bruce, about the commercial aspects of funded theatre/dance. However, on one point I don't. The "bind" that Schaufuss has got himself into is not unusual in the horridly confusing area of musical copyright.

Every where you turn there's some muso whingeing for a royalty here, a publisher refusing permission there, an arranger demanding a fee, a record company wanting a "synchronization fee", a licensing organisation wanting a "performance right". It seems to me that three organisations stand to benefit from the performance of anything before the performer or composer see any return on their efforts.



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Bruce Madmin

01-05-00, 00:34 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #2
 
   >I too am glad someone took the
>trouble to review this book, and
>with such alacrity.
>I had two reactions - one, that
>my heart does not bleed for
>the manager whose VAT returns go
>unnoticed, because without those dancers, he'd
>have no job and no VAT
>to sort out. Amazing how many
>management manuals talk about those problematic
>"creative types", and yet somewhere in
>the accounts department, you've got someone
>who wants a bouquet for totting
>things up.
>Secondly, I wonder just how much dance,
>or for that manner any art
>form, can be "managed" in the
>way that professional managers would like
>to manage it. You can manage
>a product line, you can commodify
>an artistic phenomenon until it obeys
>market principles, but that isn't necessarily
>art, and you have no guarantee
>that something else will overtake it.
>

It needs managing sympathetically - which sounds appropriately New Labour and all things to all men!


>I agree with you wholeheartedly, Bruce, about
>the commercial aspects of funded theatre/dance.
> However, on one point I
>don't. The "bind" that Schaufuss
>has got himself into is not
>unusual in the horridly confusing area
>of musical copyright.
>Every where you turn there's some muso
>whingeing for a royalty here, a
>publisher refusing permission there, an arranger
>demanding a fee, a record company
>wanting a "synchronization fee", a licensing
>organisation wanting a "performance right". It
>seems to me that three organisations
>stand to benefit from the performance
>of anything before the performer or
>composer see any return on their
>efforts.
>

There is some possibly wholly thinking here I think! If this is known to be a problem area then you have to invest time and effort to make sure you don't get caught out. I accept that custom, practice and commercial hangers on etc all make it horribly painful and it should not be this way. But that's the way it *actually* is and you have to protect yourself appropriately (while seeking to change things etc). This is a counsel of excellence and even the best run companies get it wrong from time to time of course...


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jonathan

01-05-00, 01:20 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #3
 
   >There is some possibly woolly thinking here
>I think! If this is
>known to be a problem area
>then you have to invest time
>and effort to make sure you
>don't get caught out... This is
>a counsel of excellence and even
>the best run companies get it
>wrong from time to time of
>course...

In some cases, you can only shrug your shoulders and say "serves you right" when you see how little research had been done, or how little professional knowledge/expertise was invested in something which is, as you say, known to be complex.

Nevertheless, the reason commercial companies wouldn't get themselves into this position is not least because they don't deal with dance. Copyright issues in dance are extraordinarily complex (there's a brilliant dissertation on the subject at http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/diss4.html#text6). Add music into the equation, and every new piece can end up as a test case for copyright law. Not "getting caught out" is far easier said than done - you can't always know who's going to jump out of the woodwork and shout "foul".

If an Elvis impersonator and memorabilia salesman has already won a case against the EPE (incidentally, he thought the EPE should be "bending over backwards to encourage this sort of production"), you might be forgiven for thinking that they wouldn't try and pull a ballet. In this, as in so many similar cases, it is difficult to see how the public interest or even that of the estate has been served.

More common forms such as TV, film and CD sales have simpler and clearer guidelines and methods of licensing and collection. It seems to me that in plain old music, cases of detrimental use/infringement fall through the net because it's so common that they are ignored or tolerated. Either that, or the money to be made makes it more sensible to ignore the moral highground.

The difference between the counsel of excellence and reality is money. I would not throw money at a dance company to spend on copyright lawyers to research a project which might have to be scrapped if they see a problem: it would be a rare lawyer that didn't find something to worry about, and a rare dance project that could be so assured of financial success that the legal work was worth it.

Given the financial restraints and the amount of "unforeseens" in this business, perhaps try-it-and-see is not just realistic (unless you avoid copyright altogether and do a plotless ballet to a Hummel quartet) but practical - I've heard more than one copyright specialist advise it.

New dance works often - in fact, nearly always - create precedents with the use of music. It's only when people like Schaufuss and The King test the boundaries, and perhaps push them out a bit, that the range of possibilities for the next choreographer is extended - or that warning signals ripple through the dance world if it's unsuccessful.

What I would like to see is the copyright and licensing organisations, publishers and bodies like the EPE and artists' estates being forced to form a joint advisory body which would provide accountable legal advice for small companies and be subject to government audit.


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Lynette

02-05-00, 05:24 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #0
 
   I forgot to add the following details to the final two lines of the review

Price (in pounds sterling) 19.95
Available in stock at Dance Books

(Bruce, I seem unable to edit the original posting)


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Stuart Sweeney

02-05-00, 08:14 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Managing Dance - Book Review"
In response to message #5
 
   Many thanks for the review Lynette. In fact, 'Managing Dance' costs a mere £14.99, as shown on the Dance Books website, if you search on the title.


http://www.dancebooks.co.uk/cgi-bin/search.asp#kw



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