Stroking the Numbers

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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A recent survey quoted by the Independent newspaper on October 6th suggesting that audiences for contemporary dance have risen by 68% over the last ten years fails to mention some interesting points that paint a slightly less rosy picture for our beloved, addled art form.

Target Group Index (TGI), the company that compiles the statistics from a source of 24,000 respondents nationwide, have a slightly different take on the numbers printed in the Independent piece written by Lyndsey Winship.

James Powell at TGI who put the percentage increase at 65% not 68% told Article19 via email that;

"[The] thing to point out is although 65% (or 68%) may sound like a huge increase, it's worth bearing in mind the context that attendance at contemporary dance performances is a relatively niche market, so it only takes a small jump in absolute figures to create a big percentage change. In this case, the figures show in 1995 3.56% of adults in Britain said they ever went to a contemporary dance performance. The figure for latest data this year is 5.54%.

Similarly, but getting away from percentages, the overall weighted figure shows that in 1995 1.63 million adults in Britain ever went to a contemporary dance performance and the figure today is 2.62 million. The rise has been fairly steady over the ten year period and there haven't been any inexplicable sudden jumps in the data year on year."

It's important to emphasise that the figures represent those people who say they went to a contemporary dance performance at least once within a year meaning they may have attended a show more than once but there is also just as good a chance they only attended one performance in the entire year.

Placing the figures in context the Film Council reports that 72% of the UK population went to the cinema at least once during the year for 2004. So dance has some way to go in order to catch up.

The piece also credits The Place Prize as playing a part in the "raised profile" of dance using "initiative, leadership and good marketing" despite the fact the figures are for a ten year period and the Place Prize has run only once, last year, and takes place in the small-scale Robin Howard Theatre.

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