Over the past few months I have read too many articles addressing the hard economic times dance organizations across the US are having. From ABT to PNB it is tough to find many ballet companies in a secure financial state. Each of these company’s press releases puts the blame on a few topics, but mostly the current economic state in the country. This then leads to the inevitable statement of “Poor ticket sales!” or “Bad marketing!”
I am going to go out on a limb here, and being a busy working designer in dance, it is going to be a pretty big limb. I think the blame in general is being placed in the wrong direction. Not once have I seen poor tickets sales being blamed on the artistic product, or the poor choice in ballets being performed. The blame seems to always go to those running the financial side of the ballet company, and very very rarely to the ones driving the artistic side.
The arts in general are at a crossroads, and in the ballet world, the crossroad is quickly turning into the end of the road for many companies. It is time to look more closely at the Artistic Directors and their role in the poor economic state of these companies. Any arts organization cannot make money if the product chosen by the Artistic Director is not what the audience wants to see. The ballet world (theatre world, classical music world) are still catering to the audience they had 20 years ago, an audience that is growing smaller each season.
I am not saying we should throw out the classics, what I am saying is that the Artistic Directors need to have a better understanding of how their audience wants to see dance. The blame should not be on the economic times, people are spending money on a multitude of different artistic things these days. The blame should be on how these seasons are picked, what shows are being performed, when and how these shows are being performed. Do YOUR audiences want to come see the Nutcracker each and every season? Is Halloween a good time to see a ballet? Yes this choreographer is hot on the “blah blah blah” coast, but do the people in Midwest care, or do they want to see a star from your company have a chance to choreograph?
It is time to, at least share the blame. The boards need to look more closely at the artistic side when a company is having money problems. They also must allow the artistic product be shaken up a bit. It is time to explore new avenues in the way dance (theatre, music, art) is being produced and presented. If not, the art form is going to only be available in a few big cities, and on tour, for 2 days over a busy weekend right after the holidays, or during the NFL playoffs, when nobody will want to come.
Trad A Burns