A Call For Opinions on Performance Spaces

On the front page of this site, you’ll find a sidebar that lists many of the performance spaces available to dancers and dance companies in the metropolitan Baltimore region.

These are sorted by size, but each of them has a page here on the site, and I’d like to provide some more meaningful information to dancers about these spaces from other dancers that are familiar with (have performed in…) these spaces.

So, as a general call to the Baltimore dance community, if you’d like to share a comment, or tip, or suggestion, or experience with any of the performance spaces, or if you know of one I’ve missed and should be included, please get in touch.

I’m happy to keep your comments anonymous if you prefer, or if you’d like a link to your or your company’s website included, I’m happy to do that as well.

I look forward to hearing from you soon…

Dance Issues as Revealed by the Baltimore Regional Dance Survey 2017

With this post, I’m wrapping up the first pass through the Baltimore Regional Dance Survey 2017 Edition. It’s far from formal (no footnotes! and I’m trying to keep a friendly, accessible tone), but this series of posts is something on the order of 9000 words (plus the thousand or so coming below) and over 160 charts (and these aren’t even the good charts!). So, there is much to discuss, and the floor (or at least the comment sections) are yours.

I’ve glossed over several things (services supplied, class space satisfaction) and skipped others almost entirely (class size, non-class expenses, geography of instruction venues, geography of performance venues). In time, I’ll come back to these with enough context to make them meaningful. Having said that, I hope this proves to be a meaningful and useful set of publicly-available data for participants in the Baltimore regional dance community to reference. It is a small sample, and I hope to improve on that in the future (your suggestions are welcome). It’s a biased sample, skewing heavily toward older instruction-oriented members of the community (there was apparently some confusion about the intent of the survey early in its deployment, and some people thought only “dance professionals” should participate). The survey instrument itself needs some work. The pool of respondents, to make this really meaningful, has to expand to include the beginners and outsiders, the casual and dedicated. It’s a start, and with your help, it may reach those goals.

Thanks to everyone that participated, and for those that got caught in the snags and hiccups along the way, I do apologize and appreciate your patience.

You are always welcome to comment here on the blog or reach out via this form or email. For those of you that I’ve worked with or will work with in the future, constructive comments, thoughts and criticism is always welcome, however you may find me. With that preamble, let’s take a look at that nagging question at the end.

As I teased at the beginning of these posts, the last question was entirely open-ended, “Please describe any other issues that affect dancers or dance development in Baltimore Area.” Describe them you did.

In no particular order, sliced up a bit to combine similar comments, and to fix little things, here are your issues:

Space

  • Affordable access to studios and a performance space with good floors. This is the main need to grow and support Baltimore’s dance community.
  • Finding affordable dance/performance space.
  • We should have more venues throughout the area.
  • Lack of space.
  • Theaters that can be afforded have poor lighting and sound.
  • I wont say we have a venue to properly perform a yearly showcase.
  • Rentable rehearsal space which is private (has a door), has a ceiling taller than 10′, and allows heels.
  • Performance venues with ceiling height taller than 10′, a small private dressing area separate from audience circulation, stage floor WITHOUT carpet.
  • When we first started teaching 28 years ago, line dance venues were abundant. Unfortunately, these venues have slowly dried up over the years. Just wish there were more venues in the area!
  • I’d love affordable space where I can rehearse my own work and a venue to showcase new works.
  • We need more collaborative spaces for dance in Baltimore.
  • It would be nice if a space could be defined with dance activities that would bring different dancers together in one venue.
  • Affordable and available performance space is a major concern, possibly a dance center-one location for a variety of dance activity.
  • There needs to be a venue/performance space that caters to dance as well as fostering a community.

Development (as dancers)

  • Finding professional level classes after graduating from college and dance companies in MD
  • There is also in my opinion not enough quality modern classes for dancers to take in an open class setting. I tend to travel to NYC or DC to take a modern class–one that is built on deepening knowledge of a technical and artistic foundation rather than improv or performance art.
  • Very few classes beyond beginning ballet are available for adult dancers.
  • We need more dance classes in Baltimore.
  • There are not enough quality dance classes for the advanced dancer in the city of Baltimore.
  • Classes and teachers geared toward aged 40 and and over dancers
  • I would like to see more open classes for adults/professionals without the commitment to a company.

Money money money

  • Availability of money.
  • Not having enough funds to pay dancers.
  • Lack of funding.
  • Many dancers have job commitments, no cars and lack of funds to attend to regular dance classes.
  • Finding affordable choreographic opportunities.
  • From my point of view, issues such as transportation, time and money affect dancers in the Baltimore area that I work with.

Work work work

  • We have no major dance companies that can support a dancer for full time work.
  • There is quite good training for dancers in Baltimore but then they must leave Baltimore if they are looking for professional work outside of teaching.
  • Finding professional level opportunities that are diverse/reputable and for which artists get paid.
  • Retention in local dance companies suffers from lack of dance opportunities/community.

Race and Segregation

  • Veteran Black Non-classical dancers/instructors do not get as many open doors or compensation, as their Caucasian counterparts.
  • The dance world is a collection of dance communities still segregated and “cliquish.”

Accessibility

  • Accessibility and facilities in compliance with ADA.
  • Lack of accessibility.

Models

  • Ongoing professional dance performance presentation (national companies appearing in the area regularly) would positively effect dance development in Baltimore–inspiring young dancers, demonstrating excellence, possibly creating opportunities, and more.
  • Respect for work

Safety

  • You have to travel in unsafe areas.

Support

  • In my field of Mexican Folk Dance I wont say we have enough exposure.
  • There is not enough of the art scene in general in Baltimore
  • Exposure to media to promote the arts.
  • There is not enough support.

So with that, and your issues on the table, I invite your feedback, comments, and suggestions. As I’ve said in a few places throughout these posts, I’m happy to address specific issues individually if you’d like to reach out. In the meantime, I’ll continue to do what I can to map (and eventually change) the landscape of dance in Baltimore for the better.

You have my support.

Baltimore Regional Dance Services Supply

Outside the Student-Performer-Teacher tracks within the survey, we also asked respondents if they also provide services to dancers. Given then relatively small sample size, I am a bit surprised that every service category provided was covered by someone in the survey. A reminder of those categories:

Performance recording
Performance broadcast
Co-working and meeting space
Costume services
Marketing services/assistance
Health and wellness
Accounting/Business services
Non-dance classes (e.g., Marketing, Audio production)
Physical therapy
Music creation and editing
Job placement/Career information
Financial assistance
Housing information/Referrals

Only 25 respondents completed this track through the survey. Here’s what that looks like:

2017 BRDS - Services Supplied

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Baltimore Regional Dance Services Demand

Divided into four sections, each with 13 defined categories and an open-ended “other,” the Baltimore Regional Dance Survey sought to understand the kinds of services demanded by respondents in the region. Services specified in the question were:

Performance recording
Performance broadcast
Co-working and meeting space
Costume services
Marketing services/assistance
Health and wellness
Accounting/Business services
Non-dance classes (e.g., Marketing, Audio production)
Physical therapy
Music creation and editing
Job placement/Career information
Financial assistance
Housing information/Referrals

For each dimension of a respondent’s dance career (Student, Instructor, Performer) respondents were asked to indicate which of these services they “are likely to use to advance your dance career.” 66 different respondents engaged this question in at least one dimension of their dance career. The response summary across all career dimensions looks like this:

2017 BRDS - Services Likely To Use, All Career Dimensions Combined

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Ideal Baltimore Dance Venue Capacity

Sticking with the performance dimension for a little while longer, respondents were asked “What is the ideal seating capacity needed for your performances?” 54 respondents provided responses ranging from 35 to 1000. There were no responses higher than 1000, which apparently makes spaces like the Hippodrome and Lyric less than ideal. This question is only about capacity, which keeps things fairly simple. There might be enough here to do some future commentary about capacity and capabilities… we’ll see.

2017 BRDS - Ideal Venue Size

Average for all respondents is 270 seats. The most popular response (mode), with 11 respondents, is 200. Having said that, there are three ranges that look interesting – the 35-200 range (effectively 0 to 250), the 300 to 500 seat range (effectively 251 to 500), and the 1000 seat range (let’s call that 501 to 3 billion). Conveniently (because we made it that way), the size in each range doubles, so that’s nice and geometric. Those ranges are indicated in the charts with the pale separators.

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Satisfaction with Baltimore Dance Performance Spaces

Different dance forms make dramatically different demands of their performance space. Understanding that it is essentially impossible for any space to be all things to all dancers, the Baltimore Regional Dance Survey separated satisfaction questions about performance space into 10 different categories of technical or physical attributes:

Sprung floors
Floor surface specific to your dance form
Audio equipment
High ceilings
Open spaces without obstructions (e.g., columns)
Dressing rooms
Theatrical lighting
Motion capture equipment
Rigging
Projection

Respondents were asked to indicate their satisfaction in each category on a 5-step scale from “Extremely Satisfied” to “Extremely Dissatisfied.” This question has a known structural problem, because all respondents were asked to indicate their satisfaction in all categories, even if that category didn’t apply to that particular respondent – so that’s room for improvement in the future. I won’t be able to distinguish between “very satisfied because this doesn’t apply” and “very satisfied because it is critical to my performance and did everything I could possibly hope.” In many cases, it looks like many respondents simply picked “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” for categories that did not apply. 54 respondents engaged this question. Results follow:

About floors:

2017BRDS - Performer Satisfaction with Sprung Floors

In this category, the responses were amazingly similar in all categories – with a slight bias toward satisfaction.

2017 BRDS - Performer Satisfaction with Floor Surface

Fairly neutral responses when it comes to the floors in performance spaces.

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BRDS Opinions On Performance Space in Baltimore

In the section for performers, respondents were presented with a 4-part degree-of-agreement matrix. For each of these statements, they were asked to rank their agreement from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” (in 7 increments). The six statements:

Performance spaces are readily available in Baltimore
Performance spaces are affordable in Baltimore
Performance spaces are suitable (features) in Baltimore
There is a need for performance spaces in Baltimore

54 respondents made it to this question. Here’s the breakdown for each question (average marked by the big red bar):

2017 BRDS - Performance Spaces Are Readily Available in Baltimore

While the overall results are neutral (Average = 3.81 where 4.00 = “Neither Agree nor Disagree”. σ = 2.10), there is an immediate takeaway – out of 54 respondents (still a small sample), none of them Strongly Agree with the sentiment that performance space is readily available in Baltimore.

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Baltimore’s Dance Performance Spaces

After a bit of a break to actually make some dance performance stuff happen, it’s time to get back to the BRDS data. Having spent some time exploring learning and teaching, I finally get to dive into the performance dimension of dance in Baltimore.

We start with some simple questions… How often did you perform in 2016 and where?

61 Respondents submitted a number of performances for 2016 (some of them 0), adding up to a total of 553, or just about 9 (9.07) per respondent. That makes once every 40 days or so. Of course, this is not evenly distributed among the dancers of the region –

2017 BRDS - Number of Performances in 2016 by Respondent

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Baltimore Dance Instructors On Their Available Studios

Having completed the student-oriented portion of the BRDS, the instructors are next. First, the perpetual reminder that the respondent pool for this survey is biased toward instructors with significant experience.

Respondents that indicated they did teach dance classes were presented with a satisfaction matrix. “Please indicate your satisfaction with your current instruction venue for each of the following” and given a range of 5 options (Ranked 0 to 4 – Extremely dissatisfied, Somewhat dissatisfied, Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, Somewhat satisfied, Extremely satisfied). Five categories were presented:

Cost (e.g., Rental fees, Extra charges)
Availability (e.g., Operating hours, Scheduling conflicts)
Quality (e.g., Cleanliness, Staff, Facility)
Amenities (e.g., Sound system, Dressing area)
Access to services (e.g., Wellness, Food)

55 Respondents completed this question. Let’s bang these out in order:

2017 BRDS - Instructor Satisfaction with Studio Cost

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