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 Post subject: New York City Ballet: Deficits and Downsizing
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:02 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 14250
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
In the New York Times, Daniel Wakin reports on a significant deficit and reduction of 11 corps dancer positions:

NY Times

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:15 am 

Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3394
Location: Canada
I posted this up in the NYCB topic and though it might be worth posting here too:

Another brief point - besides the now 90 something dancers, the company can take on up to 10 apprentices at any one time. These apprentices can remain up to one year, longer if the time is interrupted by injury or illness. However, once they have danced in more than a specified number of different ballets (7?) they - by contract - automatically get a corps contract. Alternatively, once a year is up, they must be hired or have their contract terminated.

Which begs the question... is Martins partially laying off to open up spots for some promising apprentices. Will they change the apprentice contract? Or will they have to really curtail the use of apprentices if they can't afford to hire them? Do they risk losing big new talent if there isn't money for another contract?

The other thing that had occurred to me was ... what about ABT? ABT is currently performing on tour (they were in Canada, not sure where they are now...), but other than NYCB, it's the second largest company in the country. New and much wiser management appears to dramatically turned around the company's financial situation, but for a number of reasons, I could see ABT having a tougher time in this recession than NYCB.

So will we see ABT have to cut back too? Compared to NYCB, I would see several bigger pitfalls for ABT - 1) extensive touring, 2) dance sponsorship by individual persons, 3) international dancers and 4) frequent guest dancers.

Touring is expensive, and I suspect the government grants don't cover a good chunk of it. These days, also, theatres and tour promoters may have have less funds to hire guest companies, and may have to cut ticket prices to attract audiences.

For instance, London, where ABT is headed this month, is feeling the pinch as much as anywhere in the world. Even before the financial crunch, audiences for NYCB were noticeably curtailed by overly high ticket prices in London. And one has to remember that people (royalty excepted) who have big money and spend big money in London, tend to have gotten the money via the financial sector. A sector which is in utter shambles. A sign of the times is that Ellen Kent, who has promoted/organised tours for many dance & theatre companies in the UK - mostly Russian - has just announced the termination of her tour management company.

So it could be that a company as extensive and expensive as ABT may no longer be a viable option for many venues. NYCB itself is facing a much abbreviated Saratoga season, and that's probably not so costly (given that it's one fixed location accessible via road). Additionally, the big full length ballets that are ABT's staples are the most costly to tour and maintain - shipping/upkeep of sets/costumes, cost of hiring and training extras, plus the staff needed to deal with costumes/wigs/special effects. I wonder if ABT may be more inclined to tour triple bills or productions with simpler sets.

Secondly, whilst I'm sure many of ABT's sponsors are still quite financially comfortable, even with significant losses to their portfolios, how much does it cost to sponsor a dancer? And can they still afford that? And will it end up hurting ABT because they've publicized the sponsors, making it obvious when someone has to pull out? What if a sponsor - rightly or wrongly - gets associated with financial wrongdoings? (This could apply to any company). How does a company handle the possible PR fallout? And if a sponsor pulls out, do you cut everyone's salary or does that one dancer lose out? As a note, ABT's dancers have now become part of AGMA, I believe, so the management now has stricter union rules on salaries etc. to abide by. NYCB has had some awards or choreography funds named after supporters, so potential for issues there, but not individual dancers (so therefore presumably not a salary issue).

Another issue for ABT, which is shared by other companies, though not NYCB (where my guess is that all but a couple dancers are at least green card holders, if not US citizens), is the hiring of large numbers of non-US citizens. Many of the main company dancers (especially principal dancers), and ABT II dancers are by my best guess, in the US on work permits. And those cost big $$$$ with few exceptions.

And each time the company goes on tour, the company has to ensure that all the dancers have the needed visas to get into the countries they are touring and back into the US. ABT's website lists their immigrations attorney who is probably hardly cheap (I can attest for the expense of such lawyers!). But if the recession bites, can they afford those costs? What happens if the government raises visa fees to recoup other losses or puts more priority on classes of visas other than artists. I wonder what this portends about the ability of US companies to hire foreign dancers...and European companies to hire US dancers? Probably not impossible to hire foreign dancers, but directors are going to have to really make the case to their boards (or for national companies, to the government) for spending money on visas rather than using domestic (or EU in the EU) talent.

Finally, if NYCB can't afford corps contacts, can ABT afford to hire the likes of Roberto Bolle and Diana Vishneva as guests? I don't know. I guess the question is whether they can continue to draw enough people to the theatre - and whether than company can continue to draw enough high profile donors - to have enough income to afford them. My impression - which could be completely wrong - was that many of ABT's regulars fell into classes that would feel the recession.

The Japanese have always been big ballet fans - ABT, RDB and Royal Ballet have or will tour there - but the recession will undoubtedly hurt their ability to host touring companies and go abroad to see performances in the US and UK. (I was often astounded by the Japanese - mostly women married to successful businessman - who would fly to London or NYC, often more then one time per year - for weeks at a time to see the ballet. And they would buy some of the most expensive tickets. They were great for the ballet, and almost always well informed, knowledgeable ballet fans, but I don't think many will be able to afford those trips these days).

I don't mean to pick on ABT, but I think whilst companies like ABT and NYCB have the most financial cushion, they also have the most to lose in some sense when donors cut back.


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