Duende consists of musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music and dancers from BalletX, the group performed in small unconventional spaces, produced a series of pop-up concerts to develop new funding models, commissioned new works by prominent young composers and put on two fully staged productions at the Performance Garage.
For our first season, we decided to build up to a large production over the fall and winter by putting on three small, invite only preview events. These were designed to generate interest in the project, introduce people we thought might be interested in the project to our product, and explore and develop our performance style itself.
The first event, imagined as our minimum viable product, consisted of a short, 20 minute performance featuring Gabriel Cabezas and Chloe Felesina, time for conversation and a small reception before and after, and was held at the Print Center for approximately 12 people.
For our second event, we tried out a new space, Made Studios in Old City, added a second dancer, BalletX's Edgar Anido, and presented two premieres, one of which involved live electronics. In addition, we experimented with using some of Made's equipment and furniture as staging material and props. About 15 people joined us for this event.
Our third performance featured a violinist, Emilie-Anne Gendron, as well as our three previous performers, in a program that was meant to hint at our evening length performance, which was to take place about a month and a half later. We held this event at the Performance Garage's Studio B, and featured two of the musical selections that were in our final program. Twenty people joined us for this performance, where we also presented a premiere and invited the audience onto the dance floor to sit nearer to the action.
Our evening length production debuted at the Performance Garage March 20 and 21, and featured an hour of music with one intermission. In addition to all of the above performers, we added a violist, Nadia Sirota, and presented a variety of solo, duo and trio works, including a premiere by Alyssa Weinberg. Our shows also featured a small bar for people to have a drink with the performance, giving us a suggested donation per beverage. Over the two nights, we had 87 audience members.
Brand development, promotion, and fundraising
Away from the stage, this year we were able to get a logo designed using 99designs.com, design a website using Wix, and create Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, with a combined following of 390 people. We started a hashtag, #liveduende, for people to share their experiences at our shows and connect with us online.
In addition to the support that the Corzo Center and the Curtis Institute gave us this year, we were able to exceed our budget with a few other fundraising streams. We received a Subito grant from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum, raised money using Indiegogo and from individual donors, and made $1225 from combined ticket and concession sales.
Evaluation and reflections
Our performances and fundraising were extremely successful, however for next year we need to be more aggressive with contact and start earlier to obtain successful PR connections, and will hire others or get an intern to help promote our shows to get higher ticket sales and reach beyond our current network.
Our survey responses show a connection to a varied audience using our format, which was an important part of our mission for this year. That being said, a good portion of this audience were people that had attended BalletX or Curtis related performances in the past. As we continue the project, we will explore further ways to engage an audience a degree farther removed from this immediate circle, while establishing an audience interested already in experimental music or dance.
Evaluations and comments
Taken from our anonymous post-performance survey, this sample proves our thesis that our performances, in addition to their appeal to other musicians and dancers, can engage a new audience regardless of artistic background. Sample:
- Age: 18-24
- Gender: Female
- Occupation: Student studying Geology (non musician, not a regular attendee of classical music or dance performances)
- Experience rating: “Absolutely loved it”
- Favorite aspect: “The blend of music and movement. The music was excellent, the dancing was beautiful. It was a nice twist on my generalized idea of how classical music should be presented…”
- Would you consider this to be a unique presentation of music and dance? Was this your first experience with this type of performance? “I have seen quite a bit of performance, but this was my first experience with classical/experimental music. I am happy I was able to see it.”
- Would you consider attending future performances: Yes
- Anything else you’d like to share: The performance was inspirational. Inspiration fuels creativity and happiness. It’s as simple as that.”
The Corzo grant we received was extremely helpful in allowing us to found our series by financially supporting our initial start-up expenses, and providing counseling by various mentors for assistance with our identity formation and practical organization and advertising strategies for our first year.
Now that we have successfully accomplished our first major production and have established ourselves within this first year, we need to create a long-term sustainable business model for our series. Our plans for our 2nd season include 6 small shows, similar in nature to our preview events of the past year, one residency/collaboration with the Curtis 20/21 ensemble, and another large scale production at the end of the season.
For its first season, Duende developed a large production over the fall and winter using three small, invite only preview events to create content, establish collaborative relations, develop performance style, and test the program on selected audiences.
The program was funded by the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy and the Curtis Institute of Music and made possible by the generous support of the Knight Foundation Challenge grant.