Five modern dance troupes have turned to modern marketing techniques in a combined effort to boost subscription sales for their traditionally money-losing New York seasons.
The five companies, including the well-known Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will offer themselves to potential subscribers as a package.
The research and testing for the cooperative venture among the traditionally jealous dance companies was underwritten by a grant from the Ford Foundation and two smaller New York foundations.
Ford Foundation Vice President Roger Kennedy said that the managements of the dance compnaies have had little "experience in hustling tickets."
All five companies -- Jose Limon Dance Company, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Murray Louis Dance Company, Nickolis Dance Theatre and Ailey -- will hold their 1979-80 season at the City Center.
The five separate seasons run from Nov. 1 through March 2, with Murray Louis opening for a 10-day run and Merce Cunningham closing with a 13-day season.
Rapp and Collins Inc., a direct marketing company, did a test run using five different direct-mail approaches this summer. Each of the test mailings tried different combinations of price incentives, seating placement and performances.
The company settled on an advertising approach that offered one performance by each of the five companies and did not emphasize the discount subscribers would receive by purchasing a package rather than buying tickets individually at the box office.
The dance troups will mail 250,000 offers to New York area subscribers next week.
Although each of the companies maintained their own lists of potential subscribers, advanced ticket sales have been small, according to Kennedy.
According to Russell Lapso of Rapp and Collins, figures supplied by one company showed that on opening night of the New York season last year the company had in the till revenues covering only 3.6 percent of the New York run.
He said that based on results from the test marketing which utilized lists from operas, ballets and museums as well as the dance companies' own lists -- indicate that the companies will have revenues that cover 54 percent of costs by opening night.
Since dance companies have huge production and rehearsal costs, before opening night, cash flow is a serious problem.
Charles Ziff, of the Ford Foundation, said the test marketing indicates that many patrons who did not attend or infrequently attended modern dance performances in the past responded well to the early summer solicitation.
He said the response from operagoers and several other arts partrons was higher than the average response to the lists maintained by the five companies.
Modern dance troups have guarded their individuality jealously, which has been an obstacle to the samplertype mailing that will be undertaken next week.
At least one troupe, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, has chosen not to combine with the other companies in the mailing.
Kennedy noted that because of the historical jealousy among dance troupes each mailing will contain five small pamphlets, each one describing an individual troupe.