Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 1997.
Keep an eye out for milestones, celebrations, anniversaries – opportunities increase around these times for performing arts groups. This is especially true if your program includes cross-cultural elements that are compelling to audiences and sponsors in the country where you hope to travel.
When your own government is unable to support you, investigate the possibility of building sponsorships from the host country.
Beware of power outages! Never sit back and relax – as a director, you may need to be a crisis manager when you least expect it.
Be creative in building friendships – you will need advocates in any/all places and they might come from unexpected quarters (hotel managers!)
1997 was a milestone year for India – the 50th Anniversary of independence from Britain. The timing was perfect for a national tour of Songs of Tagore, the production Jonathan Hollander had choreographed in 1995 celebrating the poetry and music of India’s first Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.
It required slow and steady work (and lots of midnight calls) to build the support for this massive undertaking. However, each week something would happen that gave BDC encouragement and pushed them forward in my quest. At the end, the company had unwittingly cobbled together a two-month itinerary with performances in 17 cities in India and Sri Lanka.
The fact that an American choreographer had chosen to pay homage to Tagore, a revered figure in India, whose worldwide reputation had been at its height in the 1930’s but had since waned, proved powerful incentive for sponsorships and overall cooperation. Tagore was a Bengali and his work is of paramount importance in the State of Bengal. Bengali musicians Samir and Sanghamitra Chatterjee were part of our touring ensemble, another compelling factor. The centerpiece of the production was a solo role for an Indian classical dancer which had been created for Mallika Sarabhai. Mallika premiered the role in New York and was able to perform with BDC at several cities during the South Asian Tour. Sucheta Chapekar Bhide, Rajika Puri, Manjari Chandrasekhar and Luna Pan filled in when Mallika was unavailable, in Mumbai, Trivandrum, Chennai, Delhi, Lucknow and Calcutta respectively.
The sponsorship roster included international and domestic airfare from Air-India and Indian Airlines (the latter being the most significant since BDC were performing in 17 cities); donated hotel accommodations and ½ off on the cost of meals from Oberoi Hotel Group; donated public and media relations support from Ogilvy and local sponsorship in the form of donated theaters in each city that BDC visited.
The missing piece was, however, cash support. Battery Dance Company had a generous sponsorship from Citibank and smaller amounts from State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and a few others, but these didn’t equal the personnel and incidental expenses. As a result, the company lost money on the tour, an unfortunate pattern for BDC's international engagements.
Once again, like earlier tours in 1992, 94 and 95, BDC had failed to secure funding from their own country. The US Embassy had marshaled all of its own resources and those of American corporations with investments in India to pay for a tour by the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Taylor II that took place a month or two before BDC's. It was a bitter pill to swallow – to be overwhelmed by the prestige of the Taylor brand -- with nothing left over for the little guy. The rationale for extending support to ‘another’ American dance company was lost on Embassy officials.
In computing the pros and cons of the 1997 tour, it is important to consider its pivotal role in global recognition and relationship building-for Battery Dance Company. A follow-up national tour of India in 2001 could not have happened without the foundations laid in 1997 and before.