Managing Dance Management 
by Indira Jayakrishnan, Chennai 
Photos Courtesy Visiting Arts, UK 
February 27, 2004   

Indira Jayakrishnan (extreme right) with other participants
How does a young, ambitious artist stay local yet grow global?  

What homework do you do as the presenter of an arts festival?  

Do you know your budget plans before touring Europe?  

How far are you willing to pitch for your sponsorships? 

An intensive Dance Management Workshop organised recently at Whitefield (off Bangalore) from February 2 – 7, 2004 by The British Council and Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore, in collaboration with Visiting Arts, UK, addressed these questions and many others faced by arts managers in India and abroad. 

Despite the best efforts of the organisers, the dance community failed to show up in adequate numbers and lost out on a wonderful opportunity to brush up skills and look afresh at building career goals. 

The Course Conductors were an impressive/highly motivated panel who took turns to present their insights on a variety of subjects such as Arts Marketing, Managing Money, Getting and keeping Audiences, Adequate Media Coverage…they covered it all. 

The Facilitators & Participants
A Project Scenario - Tutorial Group in Session
Each day’s agenda was packed tight with group sessions and smaller tutorial sessions where participants worked on three preferred project scenarios:  
  • How to help an emerging Artist set up a Company
  • Conducting a national arts festival
  • Setting up and managing a tour of Europe
While the larger picture was always kept in focus, it was in the hands-on finer details that the workshop proved most useful and interesting. Making an effective business proposal, a SWOT Analysis of an organisation, analysing customer base for tickets to sell, targeting your publicity effectively… 

Heather Maitland, the marketing enthusiast and experienced Course Leader tightly controlled the 5-day session. A freelance consultant and teacher at the University of Warwick, UK, she ensured timetables were adhered to and discussions did not meander out of control. (Marketing is: Talking to the right people, About the right things, In the right way, At the right time)  

Jeanette Siddall, the soft-spoken but incisive Director of Dance, Arts Council England, offered generous insights into the functioning of the Arts Council and the ways and means to effective collaborations. (Stage 1: SELF AWARENESS: What do I need?, Stage 2: ALERT: What do others need?, Stage 3: IMAGINE: What can we do together?, Stage 4: SPACE: Have I left room for others?, Stage 5: CATALYST: 1+1=2 + + +) 

Nelson Fernandez, the Head of Performing Arts & Training at Visiting Arts, UK, spoke at length on forming partnerships (the four stages for any business relationship are a bit like a love affair – FORMING, STORMING, NORMING & PERFORMING!) and the elaborate logistics of a European tour. His career as a dance artist and experience as manager/producer also helped bring sensitive insights into the workshop discussions. 

Emma Gladstone, the young and dynamic face to the table, offered brilliant insights into arts management, culling from her experience as producer/presenter/programmer and her current role as Co-Director of a UK production company. An out-of-the-box approach reflected in her presentations that included memorable video clips (“Oogly Boogly” with 7 – 10 month old babies and dancers “performing” together, won hands down!) and highlighted efforts to create good art that people can enjoy with their family. 

David John Popple, another wry-humoured facilitator, offered tested strategies to effective arts communication, getting and keeping audiences and his perspectives as an independent producer. (NEVER try to email your work to prospective presenters abroad – all attachments are suspect for virus and dumped immediately!) 

In addition to the main team, Lara Riley, who took close care of the daily logistics for the workshop, contributed her views as a Training Programmes Manager, Visiting Arts, UK, on the formal and informal ways to facilitate networks (and don’t forget the importance of an after-work drink or dinner parties!) and the need for thorough research. Ginnie Wollaston, a participant in the workshop and independent arts producer shared her experience as an enthusiastic but unfamiliar presenter of Indian work in UK (she plunged headlong into touring the Daksha Seth Company in UK) and the elaborate homework to be done before undertaking such an enterprise. 

The Indian side to the panel came from Sanjoy Roy (Teamwork Films, Delhi) who offered brisk and concise presentations on the joys and travails of working in the arts (ALWAYS dream a dream!) and his vast experience at setting up a European tour (Networks take time, money, motivation and money to build).   

Astad Deboo shared his lone struggles as a dancer and his fund-raising nightmare when he toured India with 12 American hearing-impaired students as part of an exchange program (I had to raise 75 lakhs in 12 months and had to be in the US as well to teach/train!). 

Lynne Fernandez (Nityagram, Bangalore) took precious time out from the frenetic pre-Vasantahabba preparations to share Nityagram’s vision after Protima and how the festival is being effectively marketed each year (re-inventing without compromising on festival mission). 

Tanushree Shankar (Ananda Shankar Centre for Performing Arts, Kolkata) offered several nuggets on training with American choreographers at her school and a maiden India tour she did with one of these collaborations (Dance is NOT instant coffee!)  

Divya Bhatia (Joint Festival Director, Prithvi Theatre) made a quick round up on Prithvi and its approach as an arts festival that is 50 years old. 

After-dinner talks/presentations was another highlight, where participants themselves shared notes of experience, viewed videos and brainstormed project scenarios –  
Question: While touring a Kathakali troupe in Europe, what marketing strategies will help bring in an uninformed audience and still won’t compromise on artistic integrity? 

Question: Does my emerging artist Sandra from Bandra, need to set up her own  company or present her first solo or do a huge outdoor spectacle?  

Question: “OUR FESTIVAL” celebrating the artist of today, tomorrow and TOMORROW - is a “do and watch” event – can it work the year-round or should it be within a time frame? 

The workshop made every one work hard. The mantra that made every one work: 
A - ttention 
I -  nterest 
D - esire 
A – ction.  

Indira Jayakrishnan is the Communications Manager for Arangham Trust and works from Chennai. 
She manages and coordinates THE OTHER FESTIVAL as well.