Alvin Toffler made an eloquent plea in 1967 for the construction of cultural statistics that would give artists, policy-makers and social scientists a reliable map of where the arts enterprises had been and where they seemed to be going. Only slow progress has been made since then.
To take the example that will concern us in this research note, how much solid information do we have concerning the “dance boom” that reportedly took place during the Sixties and Seventies? A “dance boom” can refer to many things. It can mean rapid growth in the size of the dance audience; in the number of dance companies; in the amount of amateur participation in the art; in the number of dance performances; and so on. These aspects of the art might not all show the same trends. For instance, the number of dance performances might have increased faster during the “boom” than the number of companies—or vice versa—suggesting two very different developments. Actually, the only firm documentation we possess concerning the boom in the amount of dance activity has to do with the size of the audience, and we have that only for the Seventies, not the Sixties. Surveys done by the Louis Harris polling organization put the percentage of Americans aged 18 years and older who attended at least one live dance performance in the years 1973, 1975 and 1980 at 9%, 16% and 25%.