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Choreographing Change with Data
Episode 127

Choreographing Change with Data

CI to Eye with Dance Data Project

This episode is hosted by Dan Titmuss.

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In This Episode

Across a variety of artistic genres, we see persistent gender imbalances among the creatives and leaders who make the art possible. That’s especially true for dance, where women continue to hold fewer artistic director positions and receive fewer choreographic opportunities than men despite making up a significant majority of the dance workforce overall.

As full-blown data nerds here at CI, we believe you can’t change what you don’t measure. So we sat down with the team at Dance Data Project® to discuss the latest industry stats and consider how to carve a path forward for gender equity in dance.

CI to Eye with Dance Data Project

Dance Data Project® promotes gender equity in the dance industry through metrics-based analysis. In this interview, they overview their latest research, programming, and advocacy work to showcase and uplift women across the dance industry—from artistic and executive leaders, to lighting designers and commissioned composers.

Karen McConarty: Like practicing the violin or tenderly restoring a painting, we nurture what we love. And Capacity Interactive’s Boot Camp is the best way to nurture our collective love for the arts. Join us at the Times Center in New York City, October 24th and 25th, for the only event where arts, marketing, connection and innovation collide. Save your spot at See you there.

Dan Titmuss: Hello everyone! Dan here. As full-blown data nerds here at CI, we believe you can’t change what you do not measure. So we sat down with the team at Dance Data Project, an organization that promotes gender equity in the dance industry with metrics-based analysis. Through their research, programming, and advocacy, DDP showcases and uplifts women across the dance industry—from artistic and executive leaders, to lighting designers and commissioned composers. In this episode, their team illuminates the latest industry stats and shares observations that can help us carve a path forward for gender equity in dance. And if you are as numbers-obsessed as we are, you’ll want to turn up the volume for this one. Let’s dive in, shall we? So today I’m joined by three team members from Dance Data Project, an organization dedicated to promoting gender equity in the dance world. And they speak our love language, which is data. Thank you all so much for being here.

Elizabeth Yntema: Thank you so much for having us.

Dan Titmuss: So before we get started, let’s just do a quick round robin and introduce ourselves so the listeners get to know your voices. If you could introduce your name, your role at DDP, and maybe what interests you in dance—what got you into dance in the first place?

Elizabeth Yntema: I’m Liza Yntema. I am the President and Founder of Dance Data Project. I started dancing around my kitchen at three and my mom, who quite unusually for the time, had a full-time job, I think just wanted to park me someplace. I was a ball of energy, so they started me on dance classes, which I continued until I was about 13. But I’ve never lost the love for performing arts generally, and dance in particular.

Isabelle Ramey: Hi, I’m Isabelle Ramey. I’m the Chief External Affairs Officer for Dance Data Project. I’ve been with the company for almost three years now and I’ve been dancing since I was in the womb. My mom talks about having to leave concerts because I was kicking so much and I really never stopped. I am a professional ballet dancer right now. I went to college for dance and mathematics and it’s a part of my identity.

Jenna Magrath: Hi, I’m Jenna Magrath. I am the Research Lead for Dance Data Project. I also have been dancing my whole life, from four years old up until now. And I’m currently a contemporary dancer with a small company located in northern British Columbia, Canada.

Dan Titmuss: Amazing. So dance has always been with you all. We have a lot of podcast listeners who work for dance companies, but there are also plenty who work in other artistic genres. So just to set the scene, what is unique about gender equity conversations in dance?

Jenna Magrath: Yeah, so about 75 to 85% of the dance workforce is made up of women. But once you start to look at the leadership roles and choreographers, there are significantly more men in these positions than women. There are many, many, many women who are eager and well-equipped and more than capable to take on these greater roles and step into leadership roles or into the role of the choreographer and utilize their experience and knowledge in new ways. But unfortunately, many aren’t afforded the opportunity to, as they often go to men instead.

Isabelle Ramey: I think it’s so interesting because ballet is sort of built on the backs of women. Women have always been there and they’ve always been in the pointe shoes ready to go. We’re advocating really for a majority of this workforce population that’s been egregiously underfunded, underrepresented, and underpaid, and willing to take unpaying positions because they love it so much and because they’re sort of dangled this opportunity that if they just stick with it a couple more years and work at the restaurant to make do, that they’ll get these opportunities. And it doesn’t always happen.

Dan Titmuss: So Liza, Dance Data Project or DDP started as an independent research project at your kitchen table. What inspired you to start this project originally?

Elizabeth Yntema: So I had one of those a-ha moments. I was sitting in the Auditorium Theater in Chicago—by the way, DDP is partnered with the Auditorium Theater. And I had one of those lightning bolt moments where I sat upright in my seat and then I actually stood up and I looked around the auditorium theater. And then I looked at the book and I realized that not only for that season, but also I had never seen a company run by a woman or a classical dance work by a woman. Now I need to point out that I’m talking mostly ballet. And I said, this doesn’t make any sense. And I started asking questions and the answers that came back got more and more ridiculous. And I thought what’s really missing here is data.

Dan Titmuss: Before we dive into the data, let’s take a moment just to lay the groundwork for our listeners. Would you mind sharing DDP’s research methodology and some of your key operational definitions?

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, I can speak to this, Dan. So we’re providing a national and international ranking of dance companies, and that’s based on financial and programming data that’s available. And we are kind of just the messengers. All of this information is out there for grabs, and taxpayers and consumers just need to know that what’s happening with these nonprofits is they have the right to understand this information. On the financial reporting side, which results in our ranking of dance companies and it gives us a groundwork for the overall size and scope of the industry financially, as well as the compensation for artistic and executive leadership, we use a proprietary software to process the e-filings from the IRS website. So that’s directly from the IRS website. We’ll cross-reference those results against previous reports and other third-party databases to ensure the accuracy of the software results. There is a double and triple checking process with our research team to verify that no human error has occurred and to ensure a proper statistical analysis has been done.

And then we even go a step further. We don’t need to do this, but we do, and we reach out directly to the dance companies to make sure that what they filed with the IRS is entirely correct. What we have on file for them is correct. Just to continue that conversation with them and make sure they’re given every opportunity to ensure what we have for them is correct. Because as we’ve seen recently, our numbers truly do make a difference. And boards of directors look for them. Grant officers look for them. People are looking to this data and they want to be accurately represented. In terms of reporting on season programming, that’s done by examining company websites, press releases, and also reaching out directly to companies. So it’s very communicative and it’s developing and refining over the years for sure.

Dan Titmuss: Wow, that’s impressively thorough going through and double checking everything. Does that thoroughness come from also the pressure and how important this is to get this data right?

Elizabeth Yntema: Pressure? What pressure? Ha ha! Yeah, we don’t publish it—talk about pressure—we don’t publish it until it’s a hundred percent correct. And if we make a mistake, we say we’ve made a mistake. We try and be as transparent as possible about it, because as Isabelle said, we are refining this all the time. And we added one more layer, which is our WWL documents— sort of like timeouts in surgery. Like, “Timeout, hands off the body. Are we all making sure that we’re operating on Mrs. Carruther’s left leg today, not Mr. Smith’s right ventricle?” It’s a good idea in hospital administration, and it’s a great idea in research. “Everybody take a beat, take a pause. What did we learn? What can we do better? What questions remain unanswered?”

Dan Titmuss: Yeah, there’s very much a culture of, especially in tech, move fast and break things. And I don’t think that’s always the best thing to do, especially when it comes to research. Having a time where you do have that “Hands off, let’s all take a break” is… I think more people should consider that.

Elizabeth Yntema: Yeah, I mean you’ll definitely see our research calendar, which we do post online. Things sort of slide out, and that’s because I give all my new people a do’s and don’ts and number one or number two is good enough is not good enough, and that may mean something is delayed a little bit.

Dan Titmuss: And how does your team verify the gender identities of choreographers and artistic or executive directors?

Jenna Magrath: So we collect all of this information from company websites, company press releases, social media. So we specifically look at biographies to determine pronouns in our research. We have a few categories that we put choreographers and artistic directors in. So we have men, we have women, we have gender expansive, which encompasses people who identify outside of the gender binary. And then we also have a mixed gender category, which is for teams of co-choreographers or co-artistic directors which are of differing genders.

Dan Titmuss: So fast forward to today, and DDP has compiled a wealth of data. How would you summarize the state of gender equity in dance today?

Jenna Magrath: Yeah, so we have no shortage of data really highlighting what the gender equity landscape looks like in ballet, primarily. We aren’t quite at a state of equity yet, and that’s not to knock anyone. There are a lot of really great organizations who are doing some amazing work to promote equity and highlight women and hire women. But overall, we are still working towards equity. So in the 2022–23 season, only 32% of the works presented within the largest 150 companies in the U.S. were choreographed by women. And this is only a slight increase from the season before where only 29% of works were by women. So when you consider the fact that about 85% of the dance field is women, that’s a pretty significantly low proportion. When you kind of further break this down into the types of works that women do get to present, they are a lot more likely to present mixed bill works, which are typically shorter in length, involve fewer dancers, and ultimately require fewer resources.

And over the past two seasons, women have choreographed 35% of these mixed bill works. When you look at full length works—and these are your Nutcrackers, your Swan Lakes, which are larger in scale, involve the full company, require more marketing, more company resources—women have historically received fewer opportunities. And last season women only choreographed 24% of these full length works among the largest 150. And something that we’ve kind of observed in our data is that the largest companies—so, ranked by expenditure from one to 50—they tend to program lower percentages of women-choreographed works compared to the additional 50, which is companies ranked 51 to a hundred, and the additional 50, which are companies ranked 101 to 150. So these companies that are smaller in scale and often have less resources are making greater efforts and greater advancements towards gender equity and providing these opportunities for women in the field.

Dan Titmuss: That’s so interesting. Isabelle, in January you released your first international study examining programming outside the U.S. That’s a huge milestone.

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, it was a huge milestone. And Jenna and the research team, it was a huge push for them, and us as an organization. And I think the emphasis in that is this was our first examination of company programming outside the U.S. We’re not new to the international space, but we definitely have dipped our toes in and we’re continuing to refine how we look at international work. The dance industry is inherently global. I mean, artistic director searches happen across the globe. Choreographers are commissioned across country lines. We even see dancers picking up and moving to perform in an entirely new time zone or on a new continent. I mean, we can’t talk about the United States solely without the context of what’s happening in the world around us. We just weren’t at the scale to do that yet. And now we are, and we’re learning how to do that by starting to look at companies that are primarily English speaking so that we don’t have things lost in translation. And our recent report looked at that global programming at English speaking companies. There were 33 well-known companies included, ranging from regions including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and South Africa. So we’re really taking a look everywhere.

Dan Titmuss: Wow, that’s very global.

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, everywhere. And what we found is really interesting. Of the works commissioned in the 2023–2024 season globally, with those companies in mind, just 23.6% of them were choreographed by women. And now that we took a look globally, we can look inward at the United States status. And to compare, our largest 10 U.S. ballet companies are respectively similarly sized and of similar influence in the international industry to the companies that were researched during this global report. And of those largest 10 companies, we saw just 14.9% of works choreographed by women. Now that’s for the most recent data collection we have for that population, which is the 22–23 season. So the season prior to our global report. But we see a similar number when we look at the largest 50 U.S. companies where 22.9% of works are choreographed by women. So now that we have this breadth of knowledge built up globally and we can continue to produce the research at a global scale, drawing the comparisons between how we’re doing on the state side will be really interesting going forward.

Dan Titmuss: I find that absolutely fascinating. What percentage of leadership positions are filled by women?

Jenna Magrath: Yeah, so within the largest 150, only 43% of artistic directors are women. And this gender distribution unfortunately hasn’t really changed much between 2018 and 2023. And again, when you consider how many women are in the field, this is significantly low. We do tend to see women lead our smaller companies rather than these larger companies. So this 43% is propped up by companies ranked from 51 to 150 as only about 24% of artistic directors within the largest 50 are women. To look a little bit more globally, we’re still seeing more men come into the role of artistic directors than women, but there is some great progress among executive directors, resident choreographers, and associate artistic directors with more women being appointed into these roles. So we’re seeing some positive improvements there, but nearly twice the amount of men becoming artistic directors than there are women.

Elizabeth Yntema: And Dan, I think it’s important to note that this can almost be a position for life. We’re seeing an extraordinary turnover in the industry. Just the sheer number of transitions in artistic director positions is, I would say, unprecedented. But it’s not like we’re going to see a crop like this again, which means the decisions being made now are going to have a generation’s worth of impact.

Dan Titmuss: One of the interesting things you said there was in the top 10, that number seemed even lower. Do you feel that the bigger an organization gets, the slower they are to update, the slower they are to move?

Elizabeth Yntema: Overall, there’s an inverse correlation between the size of a budget and the likelihood that they’ll program women, is what we’re telling you. Up until recently, they were less likely to be run by a woman. And I will say we are seeing some really exciting changes. When I started Dance Data Project, [among] the largest 10 ballet companies in the United States, only one was run by a woman. And typical glass cliff situation, it was Miami City Ballet, which was in real financial trouble. There are now four. But to reiterate what Isabelle was saying, across the board, we see fewer works by women and the company is less likely to be run by a woman the larger it gets. One of the things that we’re researching right now is, is there a relationship between companies founded by women and as they grow, the boards tend to bring in a man to signal success or competency? “We want to hire a rockstar.” You hear that all the time. In our conversations with consultants, with board members, et cetera, we’re really having to look at: is there an assumption that being a rockstar and being a draw is equal both on the artistic director and choreographer side with being male?

Dan Titmuss: It’s interesting what you said about wanting a rock star because I think that often comes with a lot of preconceived biases. I think a lot of the time men are allowed to be rock stars, whereas women have more emotional labor to have to keep everything organized and within the guidelines, within the bumpers.

Elizabeth Yntema: I think that’s absolutely fair and that is absolutely… We see that in the data. Because if you look at the executive director side—which is to keep the lights on, keep the donors happy, keep things running—first of all, there’s almost wage parity. One of the few places you’re going to see men and women making almost exactly the same amount of money. And there’s a lot more prevalence of women because they’re doing the high touch involvement, they’re dealing with unions, plumbers, security, et cetera, and very often doing a brilliant job. But yeah, being an executive director for the most part does not mean you’re a rockstar.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. When you have a study or a piece of data—some analysis that can be seen as criticism—how do people generally react to that?

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting because we’re working in the arts, which is so subjective. It’s weird to have this objective point of view now. And I think that’s been startling for a lot of organizations that weren’t used to being under this microscope before. So it’s kind of scary for some people. We always approach our collaborations with organizations and our research from a positive way. We want to celebrate and uplift organizations that are doing their part to elevate women in the industry, to hire equitably. We’re never trying to strike fear into their hearts. We want everyone to succeed. And I think there’s been this transition, and Liza and I speak about it all the time, from kind of: who are you? To: Why do we care? Why are we talking about women in dance? There are plenty of women in dance. To: You have no right to this information.

Meanwhile it’s all publicly available, and we know that and they know that, but there’s some conflict there. And then now, we’re hearing, “Please include us.” And we get requests all the time from organizations, small and large, national and international, that want to be a part of our research, that want to be featured by us in our newsletter, on our website, on our social media. It’s great to see now reporters coming to us for the statistics that can help elevate and contextualize the work that they’re doing. And same with companies who are looking to us to try and help better their ecosystems.

Elizabeth Yntema: We usually don’t focus on individual companies. We’re looking at trends. So if we’re citing individual companies, it’s because what our data shows is that they’re an outlier.

Dan Titmuss: I think people also, they want to know when they’re outliers as well. It reminds me of the nudge group in the U.K. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this concept, but there was a group put together which looked at data and basically told people when they were outliers. So one of the studies they did, there was the top 5% of doctors—so “GPs” in the U.K.—who were prescribing the most antibiotics. They just sent a letter out to them to tell them that, “Hey, you are an outlier.” And a lot of the time, I think I’m going to mess up the stats exactly here, but a lot of the doctors who were in that top 5% then dropped to the bottom 50% just because they knew they were outliers. So I think often when people understand that they’re outliers, they naturally adjust.

Jenna Magrath: Yeah, I think to just add to that, whether you’re an outlier because you are doing great work and you are programming or hiring more women than the average company, or less, then we can use this data to collaboratively work together to figure out what best practices are and how we can just overall make the industry better for everyone.

Dan Titmuss: Yeah. I think earlier, Liza, you mentioned profitability and how that can be kind of a harmful assumption. So many arts organizations are continuing to recover from financial effects of the pandemic. Have you noticed those revenue concerns stalling the movement towards equitable programming?

Elizabeth Yntema: I think [there’s] embedded unconscious bias here. Very often, the assumption—we just ran into this with a dance writer and I wanted to reach through the screen and grab him because he said, “Well, companies can only afford so much equity,” essentially if you boil down what he said. And I was like, huh? Because that assumption is, if you hire a woman or a person of color for your full length world premiere, nobody will show up. And that’s absolutely not the case. I would like to see the data on that because I don’t think it exists. I think that the reason there’s half as many people going to ballet performances now versus 20, 25 years ago is that we do need new stories and we do need new ways to tell them. So the answer is: Excellent question. Yes, there is that embedded assumption, and if people don’t figure something out soon, we’re going to be seeing Nutcracker ending in July and starting again in October. I mean, the sector has got to come up with something interesting.

Isabelle Ramey: I think you can get new people in the seats, [but] there has to be some creativity there. And I understand that budgets are small, but we need to try new things. We really do. We were in a conversation with the Artistic Director at Hubbard Street, Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, who’s fantastic, and she was just talking about all the new types of people who were coming to Hubbard Street’s performances. And it’s because they’ve been creative and they’ve brought in new voices. And I think to sustain this industry long-term, that’s exactly what we need to be doing and we need to figure it out now.

Dan Titmuss: I think that’s such a good point, Isabelle. And I think it also points to how it is so important for the artistic side and the marketing side to just talk more, just have more conversations, be linked more. Because as marketers, the more we can honestly represent what is on stage, the better connection we’ll have with our audience and the more people we’re going to bring in as well.

Isabelle Ramey: Exactly. How can we keep informing our audiences? How can we keep them excited and help them learn more and want to come to the show?

Dan Titmuss: Let’s talk about what happens after people interact with the data that you’ve provided. After an artist or leader reads one of your reports, how do you encourage them to follow up with the next steps?

Jenna Magrath: So to speak to the data side of things: I think referring to the reports and the data that we are presenting and then using that as a comparison to what the organization is doing internally in terms of hiring, just to compare and reflect on where things could be better, where improvements can be made, where things may be lacking, or just identifying where room for improvement is.

Dan Titmuss: I think it’s such valuable information. I know on the consultant side, one of the biggest questions is, “How are we doing in comparison with other people?” It’s such a useful thing to know.

Elizabeth Yntema: I also go on listening tours. I’ll let Isabelle talk a little bit more about our listening tours, but I think we’ve been to almost 30 companies.

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah. Something that’s hard to get a sense of when you’re just looking at the numbers is sort of the culture at a company. And Liza’s been going to visit to meet with artistic staff, hear from the dancers, and just sort of be an open ear to hear about their experiences, learn more about what’s happening behind the scenes at the organizations, and then when her face is put with the work that we’re doing, and she can have these one-on-one conversations with artistic staff, there’s so much room for creativity and collaboration, and honestly just the sourcing of new names. Why do we keep—even though some companies are doing great and are commissioning female choreographers, sometimes they’re the same ones! We keep seeing the same ones. And there are a plethora of talented women who are flooding this industry that is, I think Jenna said, a 75 to 85% female-identifying workforce population. And so many are interested in choreography. There is so much creativity that we can be using to try and get more women in the door and on the stage so that audience members who are 70% female-identifying can see themselves represented.

Dan Titmuss: So Isabelle, here at CI, we love data. The more stats the better. But some people prefer to process information through anecdotes and stories. Do you have any resources that can help tell this story in a more emotional way?

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, this is what I spend a large portion of my day doing, so thank you for asking. And it’s funny because DDP existed to kind of shift us from anecdote to hard numbers, and now we also, we love a story and we love hearing from these actual people because when you put a face behind the work and behind the statistic, it’s a lot harder to dehumanize that. So we’re trying to make these connections. And we have so many resources on our website. Raising the Barre is our biggest programming initiative to accomplish this. It launched last fall. We’ve also had interviews and very candid conversations with mothers in the industry with our Moving Forces series. Our DDP Talks To interview series really spans written and verbal interviews. And our Global Conversation series was truly groundbreaking because it happened during the pandemic, and because we did 50 interviews in about 14 months, I want to say.

And we talked with people all over the world. They were lighting designers, they were in production, they were stage managers. We talked to a fight coordinator, and it was basically just to kind of hear what else can we do in this industry? We’re so used to knowing as dancers that our career maybe ends in our thirties if we’re lucky, maybe our forties, and we retire. And then you either teach or you go back to school and do something else. There are so many other creative avenues for staying in the industry that we love, and we see a disparity in who is pursuing those opportunities. And so just kind of putting them on a platter for people is how we like to structure our interview series and really connect audiences to those stories.

Dan Titmuss: Amazing. And can you tell us a little bit more about the leaderboard you created?

Elizabeth Yntema: Sure. So Dan, we’re very practical at DDP. We’re not just numbers. It’s see a problem, solve a problem. I was dealing with the perception that, quote, “there are no good female choreographers.” Or in looking for new leaders, “Oh, I don’t know any women.” And the answer is, “Well, here you go. Set, costume, lighting designers.” But the idea is if somebody wants to take that extra step, which I sure hope they do, and look for a female set, costume, lighting designer, back of house people, et cetera, there’s a listing of names. And Isabelle will correct me, but we’re moving towards 900 at this point.

Isabelle Ramey: Yeah, I actually will correct you because we’re moving towards a thousand now. We have 979 entries and it’s been steadily growing. And it’s just funny because the excuse that we don’t know women who we could hire for this position, don’t know of other female choreographers than this list of 10, is funny because we have the proof and it’s really easy to navigate. You can search by position, you can search by company, you can search by first or last name, you can download it as a CSV or an Excel or PDF. So it’s really interactive and very useful day to day.

Dan Titmuss: I love that it’s ‘see a problem, solve a problem’ but also ‘see an excuse, debunk an excuse’ as well. So conversations about gender equity stretch far beyond the dance world, obviously. For listeners who work at museums, theaters, presenting organizations, what’s one thing they can do today to push for gender equity at their own arts organizations?

Jenna Magrath: Yeah, I think this is why our data is so useful to track change across the industry. But then again, individually reflecting and using that data to compare how you measure up against other organizations or measure it up against the average and how can we use that data to push the average in a more favorable direction.

Dan Titmuss: Absolutely.

Elizabeth Yntema: And information is power. I’m just going to come back to that. The more you know, the more you can advocate. Change is iterative and the more informed it is, the better. I think learning to read a tax return, as boring as it sounds, there’s a wealth of information in there. And I would also say that allyship with other organizations is super, super important. The other thing I would say is that if you are a donor… I mean, for $50 you may not get a seat at the table, although there’s no reason why a large group of $50 donors couldn’t get together to create change. I started a hashtag #AskBeforeYouGive. The minute before you turn over the check is the minute of your greatest power. On the other side, on the organization side, a friend of mine in the business who I respect a lot, she said, and I quote, “Performing arts philanthropy has not changed much in the last 40 years.” And I think that’s why we’re all in quite a bit of trouble. So let’s look for opportunities. For example, fund a daycare initiative. Or if you have the means to build a building, which most of us don’t, instead maybe think about funding opportunities within a community. Support the leaders of color and support the women. Find out what they need. Maybe they need daycare supplement, maybe they need… There’s a lot of ways to intervene, but it takes creativity. And I also think it takes perseverance.

Dan Titmuss: We always end our interviews with this question, the CI to Eye moment. If you could broadcast one message to the executive directors, leadership teams, staff and boards of a thousand arts organizations, what would that message be?

Isabelle Ramey: I’d say let’s look beyond what we’ve always done. I mean, we know that we need to break down some of these traditions that aren’t serving us anymore, especially in the ballet industry. If you have the same list of choreographers you always pull from for a mixed rep show, let’s shake it up and let’s take a chance because we’re in the arts, we’re trying to make change. This is exactly where change should start, but we’re lagging behind. So use some creativity. I really would say engage with your marketing department, engage with your community. Engagement is so important and education is how you create an audience that wants to come back. They’re not just going to come for a one-off show because you say that this world renowned choreographer is coming in from Europe.

What about this process, what about this new work, is revolutionary? And why should it matter to them? That’s how you get people in the door, and that’s how you get them to stay. And I don’t think we can continue to use the excuse that it’s too risky to take some of these chances because I don’t think we’ve tried enough yet. On the other hand, I love to think about what we as individuals in the audience can do, because I don’t have the money to be donating to a major ballet company, but I’m buying tickets. I love dance, so where am I buying a ticket to? Because the company’s going to look and see what sold out and what didn’t. And if you keep buying tickets to see Swan Lake… I know it’s beautiful. I love Swan Lake. I was in Swan Lake. It’s great. But can we also purchase tickets to support a new up-and-coming choreographer and her journey? That’s really something that’s tangible on our own level, and it matters. I think let’s look within and figure out what we can do on just a performance level as audience members.

Dan Titmuss: Awesome. I love that.

Jenna Magrath: I think just allowing numbers, using numbers and this data to best benefit your community, your organization, the whole industry. How can we make it a more equitable space? We love to say that as artists, that we’re change makers and that we want to change the world and make a better place, but if we don’t use this data and actually follow through on our practices, are we really able to say that? So I think just practicing what we preach and embodying that and taking that upon ourselves.

Dan Titmuss: Amazing.

Elizabeth Yntema: And I’ll go last. I’m going to put on a different hat, which is my donor hat sitting in board meetings. It is a reality that development directors sit in on programming meetings, and they can very often have an overweighted influence. Their job is to curate a small group of older, usually more conservative donors, and make sure they come through with big gifts. And I’ve seen it happen, and that really alters programming. And that’s across the board. It’s “Oh, I can’t sell that” or “I don’t know how Mrs. So-and-so is going to feel about that.” That really to me is a dereliction of duty, and that is an asymmetric use of power that I think most people outside of performing arts organizations or museums, et cetera—”I can’t sell.” That becomes the mantra. “I can sell this. I can’t sell that.” And the assumption is if it’s a piece done, made, curated, whatever, by a rock star filmmaker, choreographer, usually white and male, “Oh, I can sell that.”

And I see that insidious tilting. Any not-for-profit exists to benefit the community. So we are answerable to our constituents, who are our taxpayers, or more specifically the communities around us. And I think we really do need a reorientation of thought that way. Nobody has to go to a performance anymore. There are so many more outlets out there that the competition is much fiercer, and instead of doubling down on retrograde, I think to Isabelle’s point, opening yourself up and doing the tough work of introducing yourself to audiences and people you didn’t know before, which is uncomfortable, but I think that’s where the obligation is.

Dan Titmuss: Amazing. What great points to end on. Liza, Isabelle, Jenna, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, so thank you so much for taking the time and joining with us.

Elizabeth Yntema: Thank you so much, Dan.

Dan Titmuss: Thank you for listening to CI to Eye. This episode was edited and produced by Karen McConarty and co-written by Karen McConarty and myself, Dan Titmuss. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all work together to create CI’s digital content. Our music is by whoisuzo. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please take a moment to rate us or leave a review. A nice comment goes a long way in helping other people discover CI to Eye and hear from experts in the arts and beyond. If you didn’t enjoy today’s episode, pass it on to all of your enemies. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube for regular content to help you market smarter. You can also sign up for our newsletter at capacity interactive dot com so you never miss an update. And if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, stay nerdy.

About Our Guests
Elizabeth Yntema
Elizabeth Yntema
President and Founder

Elizabeth Yntema is the President & Founder of the Dance Data Project®. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for WTTW/WFMT. Liza graduated from the University of Virginia in 1980 and is a 1984 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where she was awarded the Jane L. Mixer Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Social Justice. Ms. Yntema is a past member of numerous organizations in the Chicagoland area, including the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Women’s Bar Association, Trust for Public Land in Illinois, Winnetka Board of the Northwestern Settlement House, the Children’s Home and Aid Society, and the Junior League of Chicago, where she was named as Volunteer of the Year for her work advocating for homeless women and children.


Named to the final full year training cohort of The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) in 2018, Liza spent a year honing her skills as part of “the next generation of strategic philanthropists.” TPW is a global network of over 450 selected philanthropists, from 26 countries.

Liza and Dance Data Project® have been featured in the book Women and Leadership: Journey Toward Equity by Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Professor and Director of Leadership Studies at West Virginia University and Sherylle J. Tan, Ph. D. a developmental psychologist and Director of Internships and KLI Research at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College.  Ms. Yntema has also been awarded the inaugural Top Tier Feminist Giver Award by Philanthropy Women in March of 2021.

Ms. Yntema was recently selected for the first national cohort of Chief, a global network of women founders and C-Suite executives. In June 2022, she was also honored to be selected as a lifetime Honorary Member of Corps De Ballet.

DDP’s ground breaking work is featured in the book Turning Pointe: How A New Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet From Itself, published in May 2021.

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Isabelle Ramey
Isabelle Ramey
Chief External Affairs Officer

Isabelle Ramey, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, is a graduate of Butler University with a BFA in Dance Performance and BS in Mathematics. At Butler, Isabelle earned the Eileen Poston Dance Scholarship for outstanding performance, the Amos Carpenter Memorial Award for excellence in mathematics, and joined Phi Beta Kappa. Since graduation, Isabelle has danced professionally with Ballet Austin, Shana Simmons Dance, and Deos Contemporary Ballet, where she is currently both Company Dancer and Marketing Manager. Isabelle began working with Dance Data Project® in May of 2021.

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Jenna Magrath
Jenna Magrath
Research Lead

Jenna Magrath (she/her) is a dance researcher, artist, and educator. She holds a BA in Dance and a BKin (Hons) in Kinesiology from the University of Calgary. In addition to working with DDP, Jenna researches dance for health promotion amongst various populations and socio-cultural perspectives on dance-related pain and injury. Her research has received awards from the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and Healthy Dancer Canada. Jenna is also a company member with METHOD Dance Society; an organization that brings contemporary dance to Northern British Columbia, Canada. Jenna is passionate about advocating for and creating safe and equitable dancing spaces.

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