SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Dance Companies Navigate Rising Expenses and Shifts in Revenue Sources Post-Pandemic Shutdowns

  • Posted Apr 17, 2024

4-minute read

Amidst ongoing recovery efforts post-pandemic shutdowns, dance companies are learning how to navigate a landscape reshaped by fluctuating expenses and inflation as well as evolving revenue sources. National trends can help individual arts leaders put their own experiences into broader context and arm grantmakers and service organizations with information needed to support art makers. Drawing upon data from 129 dance organizations, SMU DataArts examined financial trends from 2019 to 2022 and shared those findings in a recent webinar hosted by Dance/USA. Spanning various communities across 12 states, these companies offer insights into challenges and triumphs seen during this transformative period.

First and foremost, thank you to the 129 dance organizations across the country who completed a Cultural Data Profile from 2019 to 2022, and are included in this analysis. These companies' budgets ranged from $9,500 to $33 million in 2022, with an average of $1.4 million and a median of $260,000. 29% of the organizations self-identify as part of a Black, Indigenous, or People of Color community or tradition, while 71% do not.1

While uncertainties continue to unfold, this analysis highlights the resilience demonstrated by dance companies as they adapt to the evolving needs of their audiences and navigate a transformed revenue landscape following pandemic shutdowns.


Image courtesy of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Local Profile, Dallas, TX. Photo by Cori Baker (2021). Image courtesy of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Local Profile, Dallas, TX. Photo by Cori Baker (2021).

Key Findings

Expenses increased due to re-opening 

  • Expenses in 2022 slightly exceeded pre-pandemic levels, though not in inflation adjusted terms. Total expenses were 2% higher in 2022 than in 2019, but their real buying power was 11% lower due to inflation.


Recovery in total and earned revenue did not keep pace with inflation 

  • In addition to a shift in its composition, there was nominal growth in total operating revenue but its buying power was 9% lower due to inflation.
  • Earned revenue rebounded robustly in 2022, nearly doubling from the previous year. Despite the uptick, this revenue source still lags behind pre-pandemic levels by 30% after adjusting for inflation.
  • Attendance, ticket revenue, and the smallest amount charged for tickets were all lower in 2022 – by double digits. Notably, single ticket revenue was 32% lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than pre-pandemic levels.


Contributed revenue saved organizations 

  • Total private support for organizations grew by 27% and exceeded inflation by 11%. This was especially pronounced for self-identified BIPOC organizations, for whom contributed revenue growth exceeded inflation by 38%.
  • The rise in contributed revenue was largely driven by exceptional federal government support. Government funding supported an increasing level of the average organization’s expenses over the past four years, rising from 5% in 2019 to 23% in 2022. 
  • Among the major private funding sources, none provided funding that kept pace with inflation. Corporate and non-trustee individual support were at a four-year low in 2022, even before adjusting for inflation. Individual support was a particularly important source of funding pre-pandemic that has not kept pace over the last few years - it constituted 40% of private support in 2019 but only 30% in 2022. Both individual and trustee support peaked in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
  • In a reversal from pre-pandemic trends, foundations now play a bigger role in supporting the dance organizations analyzed than do individuals. Foundation support made up 35% of private support in 2019 and 45% in 2022, and peaked in 2021. While foundation funding did rise 8% over the period, its impact was muted by cost pressures; after adjusting for inflation, foundation support fell 6%. Similarly, trustee giving grew 4% in nominal terms, but it was 9% lower in inflation-adjusted dollars. 


Organizations did a remarkable job of living within their means during the crisis, leading to increased working capital 

  • With government relief funding pouring in and doors closed, unrestricted current assets grew and current liabilities shrank. 
  • Fewer dance organizations ended 2022 (33%) with a deficit than in 2019 (30%). Only 17% ran a deficit in 2021, not surprisingly. Annually, the majority ended the year in the black.
  • However, further analysis finds that 11% more small organizations ran a deficit in 2022 than in 2019, whereas the same proportion of medium organizations ran deficits in both bookended years, and 18% fewer large organizations ran a deficit at the end of the period compared to the beginning. It is clear that large organizations benefitted more than smaller ones from sufficient levels of federal relief to keep them afloat.
  • Since the majority of companies ended each year with a surplus during this period, working capital grew for the average organization. The average months of working capital in 2019 was 1.7, contrasted with 8.5 months in 2022.

Discussion with the Field  

In March, SMU DataArts director Dr. Zannie Voss was invited to participate in Discussing Dance Data; Impact of the pandemic on the Financial Structures of Nonprofit Dance Organizations, a webinar hosted by Dance/USA. Sarah Morrison, Director of Research at Dance/USA, presented trend analysis based on 990 data from 708 companies across the country, while Dr. Voss provided a deep dive into the CDP participant data shared above. The two presentations provided complementary views of recent trends along with attendee discussion that supplied context about the experiences of dance leaders across the country. We encourage you to watch the recorded webinar for the full analysis and discussion.

1 This designation is determined based on questions within the CDP about organization mission and audience (Is your organization’s mission rooted in an explicitly identified ethnic, cultural, or other demographic voice? Does your organization primarily serve (or seek to serve) a specific audience?) These terms refer to organizations that self-select as primarily serving Black or Indigenous communities or people of Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Arab, or multiracial descent. In the following paragraphs we have chosen to use the terminology “BIPOC organizations” for brevity, with recognition that any attempt to speak of a variety of heritages and cultures as a group is fraught with imperfection.

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