Mapping Money and Equity in Chicago Dance

12% of #Chicago dancers, choreographers work w/o pay. 2/3 earn under $15K/year. New report on #dance community finds sector growing, philanthropic dollars increasing – but few organizations or artists benefit Tweet This

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In 2002, a groundbreaking study analyzed data on the Chicago region’s 258 dance-related organizations and companies. Since that time, the local dance community has grown to more than 300 dance-makers, while the number of studios and schools has nearly doubled.

But what else do we know about the state of Chicago dance today?

A new report, Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland, revisits that seminal study and synthesizes data about dance organizations, funding and participation.

Released by Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar), Sustain Arts and See Chicago Dance, the report was funded by the MacArthur Foundation, Abby O’Neil and Carroll Joynes in addition to The Chicago Community Trust.

Among the key findings:

  • The local nonprofit dance sector is composed of very small organizations. Nearly two-thirds have budgets below $100,000—twice the rate of the nonprofit sector as a whole, where nationally 30% have budgets below $100,000.
  • Dancers and choreographers are vulnerable to low wages or work without pay. In the City of Chicago, 12% of dancers and choreographers work without pay, and nearly two-thirds earn less than $15,000 annually. More than half are people of color.
  • Private philanthropic funding for dance grew 46% from 2006 to 2015, adjusted for inflation, despite a three-year decline from 2008 to 2011, during the economic recession.
  • However, funding tends to be directed to few organizations. In 2015, just four organizations received over 60% of philanthropic dollars; the top 20 recipients received 86%.
  • Of the top ten ZIP codes where dance organizations received the most funding, nine are majority-white communities. Even after a large, one-time contribution to a single organization elevated a primarily African-American community into the top ten, the top recipients of funding consistently remain white-led organizations in majority-white communities.


Ring chart showing Distribution of the City of Chicago's Dancers and Choreographers Across Sectors, 2010
A new report on the dance community in our region finds that 12% of dancers and choreographers in the city work without pay; of those who are paid, nearly two-thirds earn less than $15,000 per year.


The 2002 report provided the impetus for the Trust to establish its Dance Initiative of strategic, concentrated funding to the sector. That initiative led to the creation of See Chicago Dance—one of the organizations leading the 2019—as well as resource organizations like Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

In the years since then, the Trust’s SMART Growth grant program has continued to support and nurture small arts nonprofits to ensure their sustainability and resilience. See Chicago Dance/Audience Architects completed the multi-year SMART Growth program in 2018; Chicago Dancemakers is part of the current cohort.

“By compiling new data alongside other available analysis, we’re able to see holistically the opportunities and vulnerabilities in the region’s dance sector,” said Heather Hartley, executive director of See Chicago Dance. “This report is just the starting point for conversations, questions and ultimately changes needed to ensure that all dancers are fully and equitably supported and we continue to have a robust, diverse dance sector.”

Read and download the complete report.