by RICKLEN NOBIS
The best part of the job of booking Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) on tour is the opportunity to develop long-standing relationships with wonderful and enlightened community arts presenters all over the country. The job of community arts presenters in turn is a true balancing act: how to present a season of local performances to their respective audiences that offers a full and diverse palette of artistic experience? How—for example—does an RDT performance fit in with a concert by the Side-Strutter 6 Dixieland Band?
As RDT’s “sales agent,” my job is made easier by the ability to propose multi-day residencies in which a full spectrum of intense, community and in-school activities (movement classes, lecture demonstrations, shows especially for kids, etc.) culminates in a spectacular public performance. In addition to being talented, athletic and beautiful artists, RDT’s eight professional dancers are also extremely gifted teachers, able to meaningfully respond to virtually any circumstance and level of ability.
For the most part, initial contact with a potential presenter is made at the one or two booking conferences I attend each year (Arts Northwest, Arts Midwest, etc.). These conferences are essentially “trade shows,” where prospective “buyers” roam the aisles, looking over the display booths of us “sellers” though instead of selling plumbing fixtures, say, at a building contractor’s convention, we are selling ART to community presenters. (Often the booking conference experience reminds me of the three years I spent long ago as a game operator—a “carney”—on carnival midways all over America.) Generally it takes about three years of constant communication for such an initial meeting to come to fruition in the form of an RDT residency in the community.
Another very important source of first contact is through word-of-mouth. RDT has a stellar reputation, and presenters talk among themselves all the time. RDT’s reputation based on over 50 years of touring also comes in handy when making specific “cold” calls and mailings.
The artistic fee for an RDT residency (including the public performance) is negotiated separately with each presenter. Presenting organizations vary in size—from those representing smaller communities (and with smaller budgets) to those serving larger audiences, colleges and universities. When on tour RDT travels with eight dancers, a technical director and an artistic associate, and presenters often provide housing during the run of a multi-day residency (“four doubles, two singles”) for RDT, a not insubstantial expense.
Generally it takes about three years of constant communication for such an initial meeting to come to fruition in the form of an RDT residency in the community.
Once an organization has made the commitment to present RDT, the job becomes more like assembling a jig-saw puzzle, as we review, revise and constantly juggle possible dates so that more than one community in an area can be served during a given time-period, creating a more economical “block-book” routing, as opposed to a series of expensive, one-time-only “run-outs.”
An example of an RDT block-booking would be the Company’s upcoming tour to Washington State’s Puget Sound area in March, 2018: Port Angeles (Juan De Fuca Foundation for the Arts); Whidbey Island (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley); and Orcas Island (Orcas Center in Eastsound).
More often than not, I also wear a grant writer’s hat, working with presenters as we develop applications for funding from various sources that help subsidize an RDT residency in their communities.
Finally, if there is one aspect to the job of Booking Director that is essential, it is that of developing and nurturing relationships, and on many occasions these relationships have grown into long-time friendships as well.
Keyboardist and composer, Ricklen Nobis is Repertory Dance Theatre’s booking director. You can visit RDT’s Touring page here.