When Dance Waterloo was first formed, one of the major decisions we needed to make that had to do with funding … was figuring out the mechanics of profit from our performances.
How much did we need and where was it all going to come from? We want to do site-specific work, but how could we charge for tickets? Did we even want to charge for tickets? What’s our mission? How do we put our mission into practice?
All of these questions, plus many more, led to the creation of our four tenets (community, collaboration, education, and public space) and a pay-what-you-can model of profit operation for programs and performances.
Why? We wanted our art to be approachable, physically approachable. Quite literally. We want a passersby to come up and ask what we’re doing. We want to move and create with our eyes open to where we’re creating and for whom we’re creating. We want our audience to consist of those you might not see in a theater for a dance performance.
We want our art to be approachable to the family that has young kids that can’t sit still with proper theater etiquette for 2 hours, to the people wanting to try something new but who don’t have a disposable income, even to adults that don’t want to pay for a show they won’t be able to sit through because they are active and restless and want to move around.
As we have developed our programming, making sure it aligns with our mission every step of the way, it became clearer and clearer that our programming needed to be pay-what-you-can in order to bring dance to as many of the hands and feet of our Austin community as possible.
We want to meet our audience halfway. We bring the art, you determine the experience. Come late, leave early, talk, be silent, sit, stand, walk around, take a break, take a picture.
There can only be something to gain from a pay-what-you-can performance. People are more likely to try something new if they have nothing to lose, regardless of if they could afford it or not. We don’t want our audience to be weighing the options if this experience is “worth it” before they’ve tasted it, but instead we want the unique perspective to be reflected in the fact that each individual gets to choose a value for the event representing their encounter as well as their financial situation.
Through a pay-what-you-can model we have been able to experience for ourselves the generosity of our community in supporting the arts – and supporting others to see art no matter what hesitation they might have – to cultivate our ever growing, vibrantly weird Austin.
You can see our upcoming pay-what-you-can performance, Panorama Playground, on January 28 and 29th at Orly Genger’s public art installation, Hurlyburly or visit our calendar for information on our pay-what-you-can and free programming for families, for dancers, and for self.
By Rachael Hulse
December 26, 2016