Moving Dance Forward: NEFA’s National Dance Project at 20 & Critical Field Trends

(BOSTON, MA) The New England Foundation for the Arts released a comprehensive evaluation of the National Dance Project and new research about current needs of the dance field. 

NEFA commissioned Metris Arts Consulting to complete the report, entitled Moving Dance Forward: NEFA’s National Dance Project at 20 & Critical Field Trends, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the program. In addition to an evaluation of NDP’s grantmaking data, Metris conducted surveys, interviews, focus groups, a literature review, and analysis of secondary data sources.

Over the past 20 years, the National Dance Project has grown into an essential part of the artistic landscape in the U.S. In its 20-year history, NDP has invested more than $33 million in funding to artists and organizations to support new work and bring dance into communities across the U.S. To date, NDP has supported 342 unique artists/companies and 619 unique dance works that have toured to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reaching over 2.7 million audience members.

Major findings and trends of significance to the field include: 

  • NDP’s intertwined support for creation and touring has provided robust and sustained support in an environment of increasing resource scarcity and rising costs; investing in artists to make work is regarded as the highest priority for the program. 
  • Dance presenters credit NDP support with improving their reputation locally, their knowledge of dance, and enabling them to take risks by introducing new artists to their audiences. 
  • Data reveals NDP has consistently supported artists of color, but focus group findings speak to continued systemic inequities that exclude some artists and ways NEFA and other grantmakers can further equitable and inclusive grant-making.
  • Artists tour to an average of six communities for each five-year period of NDP’s grantmaking from 1996-2016, revealing that tour subsidies are a high-impact bulwark to a field-wide decline in touring opportunities over the past two decades. 
  • Touring is no longer motivated by economic considerations; instead, artists are primarily motivated to tour to connect with new audiences, and organizations cite mission-based commitments and dance’s ability to connect audiences to diverse cultures and ideas.
  • Artists and organizations value community engagement as an important component of touring and foresee deepening this practice over the next five to ten years.

The full report may be found online at  

Said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards, “NEFA has a well-earned reputation as a leader in supporting dance artists and the cultural organizations that present dance to communities across the country. Moving Dance Forward will guide NEFA’s program delivery in the coming five years, and is a resource that we hope will be useful to other stakeholders in the dance sector.”

NEFA's National Dance Project is generously supported with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with funding for special initiatives from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the French American Cultural Exchange, The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

About NEFA 
The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in the arts to enrich communities in New England and beyond. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to each other and their audiences; and analyzing their economic contributions. NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. Learn more at


CONTACT: Ann Wicks | 617.951.0010 x534