Study Highlights Growth in Chicagoland's Dance Sector Since 2002

Study Highlights Growth in Chicagoland's Dance Sector Since 2002

The dance field in the Chicagoland region grew significantly between 2002 and 2016, a report from Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar), Sustain Arts, and See Chicago Dance finds.

The report, Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland (38 pages, PDF), found that the number of dance studios and schools in six Illinois counties and one Indiana county increased 97 percent over the period, from the 216 included in a 2002 benchmark study by Dance/USA to 425, while the number of dance makers — dance companies, ensembles, soloists, and choreographers — rose 23 percent, from 258 to 318. The report found that a majority of dance studios, schools, and dance makers in the region were for-profit entities (59 percent), followed by nonprofits (33 percent), individual artists (10 percent), and fiscally sponsored projects (4 percent); that nearly two-thirds of the nonprofits surveyed had budgets below $100,000 in 2014, while more than half had budgets below $50,000; and that in 2010, more than half of the dancers and choreographers in the City of Chicago were African American, Latinx, or of mixed race, while nearly two-thirds earned less than $15,000 a year.

Funded by the Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as Abby O'Neil and Carroll Joynes, the study also found that between 2006 and 2015, institutional philanthropic funding for dance increased 46 percent (adjusted for inflation) despite a three-year decline from 2008 to 2011, likely due to the Great Recession; and that foundations and public charities awarded $16.3 million in support of dance in Chicagoland in 2015, with a median grant size of $5,000, dwarfing public funding from the National Endowment for the ArtsIllinois Arts Council Agency, and the City of Chicago, which together provided a total of $714,425. Top donors included the David Herro CharitableAlphawoodWestlake HealthIrving Harris, and MacArthur foundations, as well as the Chicago Community Trust.

Funding was concentrated among a handful of organizations, however, with the top three recipients — the Joffrey BalletMusic and Dance Theater Chicago, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago — receiving 56 percent of grant dollars and the top twenty entities receiving 86 percent. According to the report, 9 percent of dance grant dollars were directed to racial or ethnic groups or their dance traditions, while among a sample of eighty-seven nonprofit dance organizations 43 percent of total revenue came from earned income, with the rest coming from charitable contributions.

The report also notes that Chicagoland's demographic diversity — as of 2016, the seven-county region's population of 8.8 million was 51.8 percent white, 22.3 percent Latinx, 17.4 percent African American, and 6.5 percent Asian American — suggests opportunities for the dance sector to embrace diversity through its offerings and engagement strategies. A 2014 survey conducted by See Chicago Dance found that the top five factors influencing a member of the public's decision to attend a dance performance were reputation of the company or dancers, ticket price, desire to support a local company, good seats, and convenient location.

"It's not often that you use the words data and dance in the same sentence," said Lawrence T. McGill, vice president of knowledge services at Candid. "This is the first analysis in seventeen years to provide data-driven insights that allow us to assess the health and vitality of the Chicago area's dance sector."

"By compiling new data alongside other available analysis, we're able to see holistically the opportunities and vulnerabilities in the region's dance sector," said Heather Hartley, executive director of See Chicago Dance. "This report is just the starting point for conversations, questions, and ultimately changes needed to ensure that all dancers are fully and equitably supported [that] we continue to have a robust, diverse dance sector."

"First Data Analysis of the Chicagoland Dance Sector Since 2002 Reveals Growth and Challenges." Candid, Sustain Arts, and See Chicago Dance Press Release 03/20/2019. "Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland." Candid, Sustain Arts, and See Chicago Dance Report 03/20/2019.