On Ticketing and Planning Content

It is true that the 21st century has changed the way anyone really does anything. Whether you’re an engineer, a doctor, a chef, a teacher or an artist, chances are you are doing a lot of things very differently than those in your profession were doing even 30 years ago. The world is changing, and we need to change with it.

As artists, the fact that we are in a much more connected world allows us to meet with, discuss with and collaborate with artists around our own country and the rest of the world with a fair amount of ease. We use technology, we harness our tools, and, perhaps most importantly, we have access to our audiences in much more intimate ways. This allows us to asses the impact of what we create and the relevance of our art forms themselves with multiple perspectives. Not only are we able to engage with people during the creation of work, before and after a show, but we are also able to reach out to new audiences every time, across any demographic. In that way, performances extend far past the proscenium stage.

But with all this empowerment, comes a new set of challenges, new questions, new roles, new lines to tread and new frustrations. We, as a generation of artists, are branded as arrogant, manipulative and money-minded. We are called pushy and accused of being impatient, allegedly sacrificing the sanctity of our ancient dance forms by reducing it to a commercial enterprise, usually when an artist has insisted on a payment, is ticketing a show, or uses social media to reach audiences.

I have found these accusations so often lately, in newspaper interviews and articles, in panel discussions or even in social conversations. I’m not sure to what end, but I’d like to address two points, briefly, here:

I insist on ticketing my bigger shows and funding them through sponsorships (however small) because I believe that it is important. Not only because it helps cover the expenses of an endeavour and take care of the large number of artists involved, but because it helps to find out if there are people out there willing to invest in what I’m creating.

Yes, it is for the love of art. I love my art form. And I love it enough to take it more seriously than to expect my dad to foot the bill every time I perform.

If you’re interested, here’s my blog with some pointers on ticketing a show, based on my experiences.

Next, yes, I extensively use social media and I plan my content. Using social media is a skill - an incredibly powerful one - and we have to learn how to use it ourselves.

When I plan my content, it is a celebration of not only my own work but the work of every individual involved in a production. I introduce the artists and the extended team, I try to communicate the thoughts behind a show and the motivations to do it and I attempt to make my audience a part of a process very close to my heart. I believe that I do it as genuinely as I know how. I don’t say things I don’t mean and I don’t put things I don’t care about on stage. It isn’t simply content for content’s sake, but plays an important role in setting a context to the performance, and often can generate interest and help audience members understand what to expect.

Artists across the world, across disciplines and across ages are bypassing the blocks standing between them and their audiences by reaching them directly. Which is a great thing. I think it makes us more conscious of our work, its value and its impact on different kinds of people. It makes us aware of the holes in a system, and allows us to find ways to make our industry a sustainable one.

I am only an ordinary Odissi dancer - a speck in an ocean much older, deeper and wider than anything I will ever be. Personally, I think there’s something really beautiful about that; the feeling of being a part of something SO much bigger than me. And for what it’s worth, these are my principles. I’m willing to live with both the rewards and the consequences of those principles.

So when someone asks “Where is the dance?” my answer is “Right here.”