The Million-Dollar Companies, Class of 2019

2020 changed everything, but before 2020, there was 2019, and in 2019, there were 116 non-profit dance companies in the United States spending more than $1 million that year.

This analysis is flawed. There are conflicts and gaps in the source data. Some of these are just dance performance companies, but many also operate dance schools, which is an important thing to do, but complicates the expense structure (and makes it hard to compare…). Some are part of conglomerate organizations that include a bunch of not-[directly]-dance operations (looking at you, Dayton Performing Arts Alliance). Fiscal years don’t align (I need some extra capacity to sort that out, but it’s possible… someday). I’m also not adjusting for inflation (for the record, it’s about 8% 2014-2019). This is a first-stab at the last “pre-pandemic” data that’s available – it’s not “correct.” Dance economics data is… messy.

Some observations….

Between 2014 and 2019 (an arbitrary 5-year window), 105 (90.5%) of these companies grew their budget, only 11 (9.5%) shrank, and none went out of business (though one of them, Odyssey Dance Theater would voluntarily shut down their performance operations in 2022, and RIOULT Dance NY would fold in 2021, just after opening their $6 million forever home). At least at the $1 million+ level, dance companies are surprisingly stable.

There’s an outlier (Ping Chong and Company), which had a suspiciously low 2014 reported one-year expenses of just ~$109,000 when their annual expenses were otherwise well above $500,000, but other than that, the company demonstrating the greatest growth (4.7x) from 2014 to 2019 is Charlottesville Ballet. Other companies that more than doubled their budget are Pureelements (3.3x), BalletX (2.8x), American Midwest Ballet (2.8x), Urbanity Dance (2.8x), Gibney Dance (2.7x), Step Afrika! (2.5x), Urban Bush Women (2.4x), Collage Dance Collective (2.3x), Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (2.2x), New Ballet Ensemble (2.2x), Newport Contemporary Dance (2.2x), Metropolitan Ballet Ensemble (2.1x), and Northwest Dance Project (2.1x).

The companies that shrunk didn’t actually shrink that much – Pilobolus (0.6x) took the biggest hit, Trisha Brown Dance Company (0.7x), Mystic Ballet (0.7x), California Ballet (0.8x), DIAVOLO (0.8x), Koresh Dance Company (0.9x), and Madison Ballet (0.9x). Boston Ballet, by far the largest company to shrink in this period, lost less than 5% of its budget, and STREB Extreme Action Company, Limon Dance Company, and Lone Star Ballet were all within 2% of their 2014 budgets in 2019, if on the short side.

Charlottesville Ballet was founded in 2007, and managed to get to $1 million by 2019 (or maybe 2018 – missing some data there). As impressive as that is, Dance Downtown LA (founded 2012), Urbanity Dance (founded 2011), and American Midwest Ballet (founded 2009) got there just a bit faster.

The total 2019 expenses for this group is $796 million, and the average is $6.9 million. 32 companies have budgets larger than this; 84 are smaller. These same 116 companies spent $668 million in 2014 (average $5.4 million). Averages aren’t really fair here at all, but a bit surprising, that – the average million+ dollar dance company grew by $1.5 million in 5 years? $300,000 per year? Did not see that coming…