An American ballet company received a multi-year grant to experiment with creative ways to encourage audiences to attend performances of unfamiliar works. The organization’s artistic and marketing leadership tapped Slover Linett to explore how audiences perceive various kinds of repertoire and to develop a framework for understanding the complex attitudes that different audiences have toward risk, novelty, comfort, and exploration when deciding what to attend. We convened an innovative set of discussion & ideation groups to generate a set of experiential dimensions that distinguish how different people categorize and want to engage with dance. We then designed a survey which yielded a custom attitudinal segmentation model of the audience, organized around their proclivity for seeing unfamiliar works. The findings helped the team reframe their challenge as being less about nudging audiences toward more and more unfamiliar work over time, and more about bridging an “uncertainty gap”—inherent in unfamiliar work—that makes it hard for audiences to discern whether they’ll enjoy a particular production.

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