Here’s where dance is different — vastly different. More than 70 percent of dance campaigns on Kickstarter succeed.
Suddenly, traditional funders and dance advocates are paying attention. This spring, the NEA responded to Strickler’s boast by bringing him to Washington to meet with its program directors. Two weeks ago, DanceNYC, a branch of the Dance/USA service organization, hosted a town hall meeting with several dozen dance artists and a Kickstarter staffer to glean moneymaking tips.
What’s driving cash-strapped dancers to the site is “the desire for immediate resources, which you can get through a Kickstarter campaign but you can’t get from applying for a grant,” says Lane Harwell, director of DanceNYC.
Why is dance having such success on the site? Theories abound. Dancers generally seek modest sums. (Oleson’s goal was $4,000. She raised $4,030.) Strickler thinks the success has to do with “how community-based they are. A dance troupe is going to have maybe a dozen members, so there’s a lot of support around them.” Cast, crew and designers can spread the word of a Kickstarter campaign, widening the pool of possible donors.
Of course, that pool has to possess a bit of Internet know-how to be useful here. Richard Daniels, 61, launched a successful $3,000 Kickstarter campaign for the third volume of his “Dances for an iPhone” app, a series of brief dance films specially choreographed for the palm-size screen.
“You might think, ‘Hordes of people we don’t know will be giving to us.’ But that’s not the case,” he says. What he realized is that what works best is “a very large social media engagement” and that ease with the Kickstarter format “may fall generationally.”
In other words, this may be largely a young person’s tool.
This is part of what’s fascinating about the Kickstarter phenomenon. Its appeal to the younger, independent self-promoter makes it a perfect funding mechanism for those choreographers who have no interest in the conventional career path taken by company directors such as Paul Taylor and Mark Morris. That path meant becoming an institution, taking on a board of directors, lots of financial responsibility and a good deal of pressure to produce.
The dance field is no longer heading this way. There are fewer full-time companies and more project-based artists, who hire dancers as they need them for specific works. These free-spirited experimenters are typically not incorporated and don’t have boards of directors —which means they don’t have the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status that would make them eligible for NEA funding.