Advance Audience Engagement Trip with Doug Varone, March 16-21, 2014

27 Mar

This coming April, Doug Varone and Dancers will be performing in the Budapest Dance Festival at the National Dance Theatre (Nemzeti Táncszínház) in Hungary.  They received support from several funding organizations including the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s USAI program, and conducted a very successful Kickstarter campaign for the remaining funds they needed – exceeding their goal.  It’s especially exciting because they met the festival presenters at ADR/NY 2012 and the April performance is the result of that connection!

A Little Context

American Dance Abroad believes there is a three-part model for success for U.S. artists working internationally:

1.  Connection.  International colleagues and partners need to see work live in order to fully engage with American dance!  Some U.S. artists have asked about “cold-calling” international presenters they don’t know, i.e. sending them emails with links to their work – this is a not a bad idea, but there always needs to be a personal connection for a successful collaboration to develop; there has to be the ability to contextualize work before it can be successfully presented.  Most artists know this; it is doubly true for working across countries and cultures.

To build connections, American Dance Abroad brings small delegations of U.S. artists, managers, and agents to international performing arts marketplaces and festivals; and we also bring international colleagues to the U.S. for 4-1/2 day introductions to the dance scene in a single city (such as events in New York and San Francisco).

2.  Availability.  U.S. artists may be invited to an international festival, or may be invited abroad for a performance or residency, but how many companies have cash reserves that allow them to quickly accept that invitation?  Especially with the short turnaround that often characterizes working abroad?  The U.S., unfortunately, does not enjoy a supportive governmental infrastructure that connects our artists with international colleagues – especially for young and emerging artists.  When invitations arrive, the biggest hurdle is finding the funds for transportation.  Paid flights are the tiny bit of “bootstrap funding” that’s needed.

To help with this biggest obstacle to getting American dance abroad, we launched a project called Rapid Response (which you can read about here), and we’re doing an Indiegogo campaign to keep it running.  Your donation can help the entire U.S. dance community!  But hurry, because there are only 30 days left.

3. Audience engagement.  If we expect international work to continue, it needs to be profitable and useful for both parties.  Companies need to feel that their work is appreciated and programmers need to sell tickets. Everybody knows there’s immense value in cross-cultural exchange, but there are so many obstacles for U.S. artists to getting out of the country – distance, often a language barrier, lack of cultural know-how, among other things, but finding dedicated and informed audiences is also paramount.

You can’t have a profitable engagement without an interested audience.  How do you build an audience abroad?  The same way we do here: community work, master classes, lecture-demos, and publicity and promotion, including press conferences, which are not so common for dance in the U.S.  All of which requires a little more funding and a little more work.

Doug Varone talks with students at the Hungarian Dance Academy after teaching.

Doug Varone talks with students at the Hungarian Dance Academy after teaching.


Which brings us back to Doug Varone.  American Dance Abroad supported an advance audience engagement trip this March.  For five days, Doug gave master classes to the students at the Hungarian Dance Academy and the Budapest Contemporary Dance Academy, provided interviews for members of the local press (25 interviews over 4 days!), sat for a press conference and met with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.  Although it was a short, no-frills trip, the response from the community was strong enough that the Festival and the Company have decided to add an extra day of master classes in April just prior to the company’s performances.

A little bit goes a long way.


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