The Story Behind Our Pay-What-You-Can Model

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.

Dance Waterloo premieres THEREFORE May 17-20, 2018. Photo: Heidi Walter

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.

Lizzi Wood, dancer, surveying the site during technical rehearsals for THEREFORE. Photo: Jessica Gray

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.

Dance Waterloo’s pay-what-you-can performance, Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly (2017). Photo: Brian Fitzsimmons

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.

Updated: You can see our upcoming pay-what-you-can performance, THEREFORE, May 17-20, 2018 at Epoch Coffee (Anderson) 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

Executive Director

Dance Waterloo

Posted: December 26, 2016

Updated: May 16, 2018


A Familiar Face: An Interview with Jessica Gray


National Water Dance Day, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Jessica Gray has been dancing with us for two years now. We are thrilled to create our second artistic work, Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly in just a few short weeks! We often refer to her as the Dance Waterloo “poster child”, as we have captured a ton of great photos of her throughout the past two years. Jess, originally from Rowlett, Texas, has been dancing for as long as she could walk. She attended The University of Texas at Austin where she received a BFA in Dance and is now pursuing a career in veterinary care and medicine. She plans to return to school in the near future to further her education and achieve another lifelong dream of working with animals. Jess has three older siblings, Jennifer, Chris and Edward, as well as two amazing, supportive parents, Jeannette and Brad. We asked Jessica a few questions to learn even more about this Dance Waterloo vet and her artistic mind.

What has been your favorite experience or memory with Dance Waterloo within the past two years? 

In my two years of working with Dance Waterloo, my favorite experiences has been the rehearsals. A rehearsal with Morgan or Rachael leaves me feeling enlightened, more aware, and often with a different perspective. They make dancing so much more than just movement. Their rehearsals are my playtime and my time to heal.

You’ve been in Austin for quite a while now! What made you choose to stay here post-grad? What do you love about dance in Austin?

I decided to stay in Austin post-grad because I wanted to stay in my home state of Texas, but also to be in a place that fosters an artistic point of view. Austin is a place where dreams are alive and thriving and creativity abounds – what’s not enticing about that?

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like to write, read kooky novels, and watch cult classic films and TV shows. I also love to rock climb, to go out with my friends, and play and cuddle with my dog, Bear. Bear is my world, and my only fur-baby when I’m not helping and caring for other people’s pets.

Who has been a big support to you as you have grown as an artist?

My best friends, Maggie, Hillary, and Jennifer, have always been a big support system for me when it comes to growth as an artist and as a human being. However, my parents have always been my biggest supporters on and off-stage. My dad’s favorite memory of me growing up is driving to dance competitions and playing The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy, to get hyped for the long day ahead. It always helped calm the jitters long enough to get ready for the solo competitions.

You are currently in rehearsals with Dance Waterloo for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly. What has this experience been like for you? What’s difficult? What’s exciting? 

Thus far, the rehearsal process for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly has been both exciting and unnerving all at the same time. It’s a good kind of unnerving, keeping us all hyper aware and ready for anything. The studio rehearsals were a breeze, but working at the site, on the painted, recycled lobster rope, holds many colorful obstacles to overcome. I don’t realize how challenging it is until I am there trying to work through movement, and once we are done it feels like a dream, having accomplished something that felt so difficult in the moment. And then being told afterwards by Morgan or Rachael that whatever I’m doing looks exceptional is sometimes surprising but so exciting. It is very fulfilling to beat the obstacles, to take on new challenges each time and come out on top – literally, standing on little Hurlyburly hills.


Rehearsals for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Why do you think people should come see Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly

This performance is going to be cathartic, reminiscent of easier times. The piece is beautifully free and chaotic. It’s one of the most physically demanding sites I’ve ever worked on and it will be so rewarding to take some time to play like a child with friends and family. Plus, as an audience member, you get the option to choose your own soundscape to experience the piece. WHAT? That’s crazy! I would love to be an audience member myself just to experience that portion of the project. I know this is going to be one hell of a performance!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jess! Dance Waterloo is blessed to know and have the privilege to work with such an amazing dancer and human. We hope our journey together continues! In the mean time, we will be at Hurlyburly, experimenting and crafting a one of a kind performance, Panorama Playground. You can now reserve your multi-channel headsets for this performance. We’ll see you there, December 3 & 4.


Rehearsals for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly, Dance Waterloo, 2016

Ally Wheeler

Communications Assistant

Dance Waterloo

October 31, 2016

New Girl On The Block: An Interview with Heidi Walter

Dance Waterloo is so excited for Panorama Playground, a site-specific performance on December 3rd and 4th at Orly Genger’s Hurlyburly along Ladybird Lake in Austin.  We are currently rehearsing for the performance every weekend as it is only a little over a month away!  This is Dance Waterloo’s second site specific performance and to spike everyone’s anticipation, we wanted to give you more insight on some of the dancers!  Heidi Walter is an ATX newbie and we are so thankful to work with her.  Originally from Hanover, Pennsylvania, Heidi just recently moved to Austin after living in New York for the past 4 years.  There she attended Hofstra University and received her degree in Dance Performance with minors in Biology and Public Relations.  Heidi is loving Austin and adapting to the not-so-New-York weather.  To really get to know Heidi, we asked her a few questions about dance, art, and her goals as an artist:

What is your favorite dance memory?

My favorite dance memory is from  my senior year Spring Dance Concert with the Hofstra Dance Program. I had the honor of performing an excerpt from Doug Varone’s Carrugi Suite and was even more honored to have a duet in the final section. On top of that, my duet partner was my best friend. Having that particular piece end my Hofstra Dance career could not have been sweeter. The dance was by far one of my favorites I have performed and being able to share that with my best friend was more special than I can put into words. Needless to say, I cried during our last bows.  

When did you first begin to consider yourself as a dance artist?

I have always considered myself an artist, and not just with dance. I like photography and have taken a few art classes here and there. Although the performing arts will always be my favorite, I appreciate and enjoy dabbling in other art forms.

What is your artistic philosophy?

My artist philosophy is that everyone is an artist. I think everyone comes into this world with a unique point of view and perspective.  Everyone has the ability to create; it is up to them how they interpret and execute that.

You just recently moved to Austin. What have you enjoyed most about your experience here so far?

Honestly, I have really just enjoyed experiencing a new city. For the past four years I’ve been in New York and in my mind, no city will ever compare.  But Austin is so unique and “weird” that I find I don’t compare it to New York, but simply appreciate it as it’s own unique entity.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future as a performer?  

I hope to perform until I physically can’t anymore, and then perform some more. Being on stage is the most magical experience and I don’t think I can live life without a little dose of the stage lights here and there, preferably more frequently!

You are currently in rehearsals for Panorama Playground at Hurlyburly with Dance Waterloo. What has this process been like for you so far?  

The process has been amazing.  Morgan and Rachel both have unique visions but concrete ideas of how to make those visions come to life.  Working with them and the other dancers has been a joy. I have made new friends who I can laugh with at rehearsals and will enjoy sharing the stage with. I hope to work with all of them again in the future!

And we hope to continue to work with you too, Heidi! We are so lucky to get to know, collaborate and work with such an inspirational and talented dancer. Thanks for sharing with us Heidi – Austin is happy to have you and so are we!

We hope to see you at Panorama Playground  at Hurlyburly in December. And don’t forget to stick around after the performance for an artist Q&A after the 5 PM shows to hear more about Dance Waterloo, our mission and our dancers!

By Ally Wheeler

Communications Assistant

Dance Waterloo

October 22, 2016



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