Performing Arts

Dance/USA Engaging Dance Audiences Program


Launched in 2008 with a DDCF grant of $1.5 million, the Dance/USA Engaging Dance Audiences program aims to encourage a transformation in the way dance organizations build and retain audiences. Now in its third round, EDA’s three components are designed to advance the dance field’s effectiveness in audience engagement through:

  • Support for projects and oeprating costs;
  • Technical assistance;
  • Creation of a learning community.

Grant Details

Engaging Dance Audiences will provide support for 23 projects that explore bold and innovative audience engagement practices. Grant amounts range between $16,370 and $58,160.

The program expands audience engagement beyond traditional notions of observation and performance attendance to create opportunities for audiences to interact more substantively with dance. Methods may be tied to specific performances, but also may occur independently.

Dance/USA updated its funding guidelines for Round Three of the program in 2014, expanding the program’s reach by inviting dance organizations that are not currently members to apply alongside members for a Letter of Inquiry. Applicants must have 501(c)3 status, paid administrative staff, at least three years of existence and an annual operating budget of at least $150,000.

The program uses a two-stage application process:

  • The first stage encourages dance organizations, both non-members and members of Dance/USA, to apply for a Letter of Inquiry. Two peer panels review the ideas and invite those that most fully address the program’s goals to submit full proposals.
  • During the second stage, the panel will review final proposals and select the grantees that will receive funding.

Grantee meetings will enable participants to share ideas and best practices. Research consultants will work with grantees to design assessment tools and provide guidance on ensuring high-quality data collection.

Findings will be shared with the broader dance field through a report on existing engagement practices (with data to be collected as part of the application process), case studies, data and interactive discussions online.

Background & Rationale

With support from DDCF, Dance/USA convened three focus groups in 2006 to discuss the state of the dance field (view report). The groups identified declining audiences as one of the field’s most pressing concerns. Participants noted that old marketing models were increasingly ineffective, but indicated that more effective means of growing audiences had yet to emerge as practice.

Dance/USA developed Engaging Dance Audiences to tackle these challenges. It is the first national funding program and related study of audience engagement practices focused specifically on the art form of dance.