Dance in the Big Apple

by Kelly Woodruff

New York City is widely recognized as the dance capital of the world. After “weather,” “ballet” is the first topic that appears on a Google search of “New York City.” After all, it has more dance companies, choreographers, and dancers than any other city, and it has been the center of inspiration for new approaches to creating movement for years. While looking for ways to combine two of my passions, dance and economics, I thought it would be interesting to look at the relationship between New York City’s economy and its dance culture.

Although there is limited research on this topic, the Dance/NYC branch of the organization Dance/USA conducted a study on the economic impacts of dance and published their findings in a report titled “The Economic Activity of Dance in New York City” in March 2004. Researchers gathered data for this study in 2002 and 2003, including financial and organizational information from over 40 dance companies based in NYC. The researchers also conducted surveys given to audience members at several dance performances in NYC. Interestingly, 84% of audience members at NYC dance performances have at least a college degree (compared to the city’s average of 33% for adults over 25 years of age), 68% are female (compared to 52%), and 86% are white (compared to 72%). Additionally, 63% of audience members were from NYC, while 11% were from the outside area and 26% were from the metropolitan region.

Based on the survey data, dance in NYC accounts for over $250 million of direct economic activity in NYC and almost $250 million in indirect impacts. During the six months of surveying, direct local spending by dance organizations totaled $121 million. These expenditures were primarily labor related. Spending by audience members totaled $135 million and was most concentrated in tickets and performance-related expenditures. Visitors to New York spent more than twice as much on performance-related expenditures as New York residents did.


A model for determining economic impact estimates that two additional jobs are created for every equivalent job in the dance sector (e.g. if there are X employees in New York’s dance industry, dance is responsible for creating 2X additional jobs in other industries such as manufacturing and food). This means dance activity in NYC is responsible for the creation of over 2,850 additional jobs and $182 million in labor income. The model used in the study also indicates that spending by dance organizations and audience members has a total impact of $415.7 million as it trickles through the local economy. Furthermore, the study estimated the impact of dance on tax revenues for the state of New York at $23 million ($4 million in audience spending and $19 million in indirect sales and income taxes from the increase in labor income).

Based on this study, Dance/NYC concluded that dance is an integral part of NYC’s economy. Beyond the statistics, dance also has several impacts on the culture and quality of life in New York which are more difficult to quantify. For those of you who are not particularly passionate about dance, I hope that this information has at least given you a reason to appreciate the role of dance in New York City, the dance capital of the world.

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