Growing Pains: Building a Professional Company

I know we make it look easy, but it’s a lot harder to get a dance company off the ground and en pointe (pun 100% intended).  I know a lot of new dance companies sprouting up—which is amazing—but there are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles waiting for new troupes.  Here are just a few that Stretch Dance Co. has faced a new professional dance company—and how we’re overcoming them.

If you’re part of a new company, chime in on any difficulties your organization has come across!

Location, Location, Location

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This dance studio was dark and had huge poles in the middle of the dance floor. It also had a random cactus in the corner that I almost cartwheeled into!

Stretchers came from all over Southern California for rehearsal, so it can be hard to find a central, safe place to dance.  It took some time to find our perfect rehearsal space—especially because Lyndell has just as high expectations of her rehearsal spaces as she does her dancers.  Helping to search for a rehearsal space was one of my first jobs when I offered to help with some of the background work of Stretch, and Lyndell’s requirements mandated that a studio have sprung floors, restrooms on the premises, and free parking nearby. (Insert pics of past studios and mention why they didn’t work)

How we’re overcoming it: After a few starts in other studios, Lyndell found Studio A Dance.  It’s an awesome, warm space that meets all of requirements and then some.  My favorite part of the studio are the Christmas lights strung up outside!

I Have Lived a Thousand Years   a Fractured Atlas sponsored project
Fractured Atlas has been a huge help in spreading the word and coaching us through grant applications!

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The arts is always suffering for funding, and new professional dance companies find it even more difficult to make ends meet. You can read here to find out more.

How we’re overcoming it: We are working to make the company more stable through personal donations, handled through Fractured Atlas.  We’re also starting to apply for grants.  We managed to nab a grant from Disney in 2013, and hoping to add more this year!  Once our productions get underway, we’ll be able to generate income from ticket sales, but until then, every little bit from friends, family, and donors helps!

Who Are We Again?

Part of the problem with applying for grants, and sometimes even venues, is that new companies don’t have much stage or street cred.  Established companies like Alvin Ailey don’t need to explain who they are to many theaters or foundations because they’ve been around long enough to have built a name for themselves.  It’s even harder to for Stretch because theatrical dance isn’t a common dance form.

How we’re overcoming it: Stretch is lucky to have an awesome social media manager in Matt Lardner (thanks Matt!), and weekly blogs, posts, and videos help make a name for ourselves.  Lyndell also interviews with Variety City,  World Dance Awards, and the Shoah Foundation (and looks totally at home no matter what!) to help spread the word.

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And these are just a few!  Phew!  Something tells me I’m going to end up writing a follow up to this post.  Anyway, new ventures (whether it’s a professional dance company or otherwise), feel free to chime in in the comments on your experiences!

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