Amid all the stories of arts organizations closing and scaling back, I saw a piece about a dance company in Dallas that has seen their situation improve with virtual and live programming during and after the worst of the Covid shutdowns. Public radio station KERA posted a story about the steps Dallas Black Dance Theatre took that increased their exposure and reach.
While many arts organizations – particularly those that serve communities of color – shut down or lost revenue during the pandemic, Dallas Black Dance Theatre Executive Director Zenetta Drew said the organization made $100,000 in net ticket sales in 2020 from online programming.
Drew said the theatre’s programming has continued to net six figures each year and has also brought in new audiences from across the world. Since 2020, DBDT has reached 38 states and 35 countries outside the U.S. with paid virtual content.
While virtual and in-person arts programming have been viewed as alternatives, Drew said it doesn’t have to be either-or. Instead, she said virtual programming “gives you a chance to really whet the appetite of folks to want to have that in-person experience.”
The proof? Demand for the company’s touring engagements has quadrupled since 2019. Drew said the increased exposure to art markets across the country led to paid gigs in spaces they’d never been before, such as Yale University and Seattle.
I heard that many performing arts companies scaled back on virtual offerings once live performances were permitted again. Perhaps the dance company’s approach of using virtual and live to complement each other and the framework of their content has been beneficial to them. They may have also hit a sweet spot with audiences who wanted/were interested in seeing people like themselves in performance.