Northfield, IL | November 14, 2022 | Dance Data Project® (DDP) today released its first Artistic Director/Executive Director Compensation Data Byte, which examines artistic and executive director compensation increases (or decreases) in relation to the overall budgets of the Largest 50 U.S. ballet & classically based dance companies. This Data Byte takes an initial dive into the fiscal interaction between company budget and company leadership compensation from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2020. DDP analyzes the relationship between artistic/executive director compensation and expenses by looking at historical changes in company budgets, yearly changes in artistic/executive director salaries, and ultimately, the ratio of director salaries to company expenses.

Among the largest 50 U.S. ballet & classically based companies, DDP has determined that the companies’ budgets, on average, increased by 4-5% from 2016 to 2019 and decreased by 9% in 2020. The median artistic director salary increased by nearly 3% yearly from FY 2016 – FY 2020 while the median executive director salary increased by 3.3% in FY 2017, 2.6% in FY 2018, 3.3% in FY 2019, and 1.5% in FY 2020.  FY 2021 was not included as there is a significant delay between the time a company submits their 990 and when the IRS makes it publicly available.  DDP used software automation to gather financial data. The use of software automation has accelerated DDP’s ability to collect and verify financial data, enabling a broader scope of companies to analyze. Dance Data Project® sourced the compensation information for this Data Byte directly from the IRS, which has enabled DDP to analyze data not yet available within third-party databases such as ProPublica, Guidestar, and Charity Navigator. Facts and figures were determined using Part VII of Form 990. Schedule J provides additional detail on the compensation in Part VII, including how that base compensation was determined and if there was any bonus, incentive, or non-taxable compensation.

DDP has found that the median artistic and executive director’s compensation comprises between 1.77% and 2.27% of the aggregate Largest 50 companies’ total budget. DDP also identified outliers, those artistic & executive directors, whose compensation was notably higher than average, both overall and in relation to the company budget.

DDP intends to further expand and refine the economic lens by which to analyze the financial status of companies through pre-pandemic times, during the pandemic, and the current recovery period by producing an annual analysis. “DDP believes that transparency is critical to promote best practices and good governance,” commented Rebecca Ferrell, DDP Research Lead. She continued, “We hope this report aids organizations that do not yet use Form 990 data, or cannot afford compensation consultation services, to apply these resources in establishing compensation that is both rewarding and equitable.”

DDP President & Founder Elizabeth “Liza” Yntema concluded: “DDP believes that oversight and critical analysis of the dance economy will create a more equitable and interesting art form. By offering this research to everyone, without paywall or subscription, stakeholders from journalists, to administrators, staff, and company dancers will be fully informed when negotiating compensation. It will be interesting to determine how the workforce in general fares after the impact of furloughs and salary reductions.”

To inquire about sources, operational definitions, or methodologies for this report, or to learn more about DDP’s research in general, please contact Research Lead Rebecca Ferrell at

The 2022 Artistic Director/Executive Director Compensation Data Byte is available on the Dance Data Project® Research Page or by download below.

OF NOTE: Over the coming months, follow Raising the Barre, a free curriculum developed by DDP to support the next generation of female leaders in the dance industry. Raising the Barre offers creative solutions to properly equip female dance leaders of the future with vital skills to strengthen their careers, releasing a full-length conversation with experts in the field and expert-crafted deliverables each month. Viewers can watch each episode and utilize the accompanying assets to compile a robust toolkit and build their careers.