April 8, 2021
By Dallas Guill
What began simply as Zoom conversations between Texas Ballet Theater (TBT) staff and artists last May has grown to become a new digital tool to keep TBT connected with its supporters during the pandemic. TBT’s Cocktails & Conversation now serves as an instrumental piece in engaging with donors and offering them a direct line to our artists through thoughtful conversations and Q&A sessions that explore a variety of topics related to the arts and how TBT impacts the community as an educator, entertainer, and advocate for the arts.
“We created Cocktails & Conversation in spring 2020 after our traditional avenues for reaching TBT’s audience were no longer an option,” explains TBT’s Event Manager, Dakota Kerns. “In a time when isolation was at its peak, we created the series to steward and stay in touch with our donors and patrons, simultaneously giving them more content and a behind the scenes look at TBT.”
Additionally, the virtual events have managed to tap into new audiences during this difficult time as well. Kerns added, “I think it has benefitted TBT by allowing the organization to reach beyond our typical event attendee scope. We have had individuals join virtual events who would not otherwise be able to attend in-person.”
TBT’s first Cocktails & Conversation centered on the retirement of a Company Dancer and the series has since expanded further to explore TBT’s impactful role in the community. Recent guests have included executives from J.P. Morgan, one of TBT’s annual funding partners, and Lily Weiss, who serves as Executive Director of Dallas Arts District.
“These digital events have allowed TBT to give more insight into the final product: our performances,” Kerns said. “We have had very intentional conversations with Company Dancers, staff, and community leaders; their insight gives a deeper look at the art TBT creates.”
Event attendees have appreciated the new programming. Following each event, TBT distributes a survey to attendees, with recent viewers sharing comments such as these:
“The variety of panelists provided viewers with an array of perspectives and insight spanning decades of experience within the industry.”
“[I] Enjoyed hearing about how everyone had to stretch the imagination and what they discovered about themselves during the COVID time off.”
“I liked how Ben [Stevenson, O.B.E.] encouraged and challenged the company to each choreograph a number, [and] video and produce it. It inspired a couple to start their own production company. I was impressed.”
TBT’s next Cocktails & Conversation will be in April and focus on the impact of dance education on an individual’s personal life and professional career. The discussion will feature Texas Ballet Theater School administrators and include a performance by TBT’s Studio Training Company and Professional Training Division.
As the 2020-2021 season comes to a close, TBT will determine how the series will evolve in the coming months. Kerns adds, “I am optimistic we will continue Cocktails & Conversation until we are capable of safely engaging patrons and donors through our traditional events.”
If you would like to support Texas Ballet Theater and receive invitations to future Cocktails & Conversation events, please consider a donation – click here.