But the troupe’s executive director, Jason Palmquist, jokes that the ad might as well read another way: “You’ll have the other 49 weeks to forget about us completely.”
Since his arrival at Hubbard Street in 2007, after nearly 15 years working in the District as a vice president at the Kennedy Center and executive director of the Washington Ballet, Palmquist has sought to expand the reach and influence of Hubbard Street’s art by rethinking the business strategy behind it.
Key among his moves was ditching the model under which the company performed only once a year for its home crowd. Now, it is doing major engagements four times a year at the Harris Theater near Chicago’s Millennium Park, an arrangement that has boosted the company’s local audience by 50 percent. And Hubbard Street’s performances this week at the Kennedy Center are part of a more selective approach to touring that focuses on major theaters, because the company was finding that its travel-heavy schedule was a drag on its balance sheet.
Palmquist has also launched initiatives that aim to grow revenue and to more deeply entwine Hubbard Street with its surrounding community, such as a summer intensive program for college-age dancers and a slate of 60 dance classes a week for children and families. The revenue this year from those two programs is projected to be on a par with the company’s ticket sales in Chicago.
Hubbard Street’s artists are also teaching dance and movement principles to a more unlikely cohort: Entrepreneurs at a Chicago start-up incubator who are looking to become more-creative thinkers and leaders.
These steps are part of an effort to build Hubbard Street into a contemporary dance troupe girded for today’s climate of lackluster economic growth, in which corporate philanthropy budgets are lean, consumers are cautious about opening their wallets, and businesses of all sorts are moving to become more nimble.
By diversifying its programs and taking dance outside the studio walls, Palmquist is hoping to build a broader audience for Hubbard Street’s performances and to pull down more dollars so its choreographers can better realize their artistic visions.
Working with entrepreneurs
Of all of Hubbard Street’s new endeavors, the most offbeat is its partnership with 1871, a Chicago facility that provides local entrepreneurs with access to work spaces, mentors and resources. (If the concept sounds familiar, that’s because it was the inspiration for 1776, Washington’s own co-
working center for start-ups that launched this year.)
The idea for the partnership was hatched when Hubbard Street was working with consulting firms ClearSpace and Strategos to identify ways in which it could bring dance into nontraditional settings.