CriticalDance Forum

Dinner with a Dancer
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Author:  ksneds [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 4:12 am ]
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Ah, but I never said 'press release'...I just said a response from the press office. And that's exactly what I would expect a press office to do - if there's a concern, you issue a statement addressing that concern. A letter from a single person might warrant a short, more individual response, but you are a website - a press entity - and thus a statement is an appropriate response.

Whatever the motivation, it is and will be forevermore, unethical to offer this type of contact with a dancer in exchange for money. That NYCB, ABT or anyone else does it odes not make it right.

That may be your opinion, but it does not make it fact. Each company and each dancer and each potential patron has the right to decide that on their own.

The NYCB dancers who take part in the AIDS Walk fundraiser do it on their own time and of their own volition. I would suggest that the receipients of the money raised - people living with AIDS who otherwise not get treatment or support - don't think that it's unethical.

And no, you don't really get 'free' tickets or drinks etc. In the US, the cost of any actual service or item provided is deducted from the tax deductible value of a donation, so you end up paying for tickets/drinks/food. It's the contact with the dancers that's free. Which is why most of the events for substantial donors include dancers - symposiums, intermission gatherings in the green room, the dancer arranged dinner gala (Dance with the Dancers), the receptions in patrons homes.

BTW, the difference in funding between SDT and Scottish Ballet Theatre is a function of size and productions. Scottish Ballet has what, 4 or 5 times as many dancers as SDT... And whilst SDT usually performs pieces choreographed by in-house choreographers with minimal sets - in part because of the small houses where they perform (great for modern dance to see it up close anyway) - Scottish Ballet has ballets with a lot more sets, must pay for the rights and the stagers of many ballets, has to pay for a full orchestra for most performances and has additional expenses like pointe shoes, a full costume shop etc. etc. Don't get me wrong - I think SDT is fabulous - but modern and ballet are two different 'beasts' and I don't think SDT will or ever intends to be on the scale of Scottish Ballet.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 4:26 am ]
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Michelle wrote:

Quote: is and will be forevermore, unethical to offer this type of contact with a dancer in exchange for money.

Why, exactly? And does that mean that inviting dancers to a Friends' drinks party is also unethical?

Author:  osiris661 [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:51 am ]
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This is a very complex topic and one that keeps coming up. In my own personal opinion, I find all of these new fund-raising tactics extremely disturbing and worrisome. Most dancers I know in the states loath having to go sit at a table with donors and BS during dinner or drinks after a performance. In a company situation if you want some brownie points then this is the type of activity you need to engage in, however, many dancers I know try to steer clear of having to deal with this activity unless it is mandatory.

Regarding sponsorship of a dancer the way ABT and many other companies are now engaging in I just don't understand it. For me I can't imagine why you would want to have your name listed underneath a dancer's name as "Benefactor" or "Sponsor" it just comes across to me as selfish and vain. Where were those "sponsor's/benefactor's" when the dancer was training or starving to try and make a life out of dancing professionally? Where will those "sponsor's/benefactor's" be when the dancer leaves the organization where they are sponsored? Dance as a profession goes far beyond money, it is a life choice and an artist who engages in this extremely difficult lifestyle accepts that with all the good and bad that goes along with it. It seems to me that these "sponsor's/benefactor's" are only interested in attaching their names and money to dancers who are actually employed with an organization they are a part of. I understand the arguments but in my opinion this is exploitation, plain and simple. If someone is truly interested in financially sponsoring or being a benefactor to a dancer then they should actually do it directly with the dancer and without the company involvement. Make a commitment to that dancer for the life of their career and artistic exploration and then I would say they have an argument to have their names listed in a program as "sponsor/benefactor".

More importantly, it is a very bad sign of the times when a company resorts to these types of fund raising tactics. You have to wonder about a board of directors who would allow such a thing. Does traditional fund raising really not work anymore? There are plenty of examples that prove it works just fine if you have people who know what they are doing. When this topic comes up in conversation with fellow dancers, and it does quite often, I always tell dancers that you must ask yourself if you REALLY want to be working for an organization that would engage in these practices. If a dance organization is willing to compromise the respect and dignity of their artists then all is truly lost within that organization.

As for Scottish Ballet, maybe if they would return to the days of doing more story ballets and not so much of what the SAC wants then they might have better ticket sales, support, and following.

Just my opinion folks.

Author:  salzberg [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:11 am ]
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My queasiness comes from my discomfort with society's obsession with celebrity. I've never understood what people think they gain by merely being in the same room as an artist or athlete.

Couple that with the symbolism of a person's selling his/her presence for money....

It's creepy.

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:49 am ]
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My queasiness comes from my discomfort with society's obsession with celebrity. I've never understood what people think they gain by merely being in the same room as an artist or athlete.

I'll second that, though most of the people that qualify as 'celebrities' here in the UK don't exactly square with my definition of the word.

Although I appreciate the need to raise funds in ever more imaginative ways, it's the actual auctioning of dancers I don't like the sound of. It puts me in mind of the scene in Le Corsaire with the slave girls on the auctioning block surrounded by a bunch of leering old men.

Author:  ksneds [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:13 am ]
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In re: Scottish Ballet
The reasons for the change in company 'style' are in many ways unrelated to SAC. The company has gone more contemporary because there simply wasn't the funding to employ enough dancers/costumers/sets etc. at a high enough quality to make it worthwile. I didn't see the company before Ashley Page, but apparently the quality was absolutely horrific - I think Stuart might be able to provide more details there. So they've chosen to go more contemporary and have fewer dancers in order to keep the company at a size for which they can find good dancers and have a nice mixed repertory. Story ballets tend to take large casts and cost a lot in terms of costumes and sets. In addition, Edinburgh is really the only city in Scotland with a theatre than can comfortably accomodate a story ballet - Glasgow is very borderline and scary sometimes to watch the dancers try to fit it all in on that stage. So a mixed rep allows the company to tour - which is part of their mission.

We have to face facts up here that Scotland isn't everyone's cup of tea, and the really good dancers are never going to stay up here unless they have some attachment to the area beyond ballet or really like dancing for the current AD. Nor are we ever going to have huge amounts of money to spend on the arts. And some of the appetite for big ballet is satisfied through the Edinburgh Festival each summer and other companies touring up here. I think that Page's vision for the company is right on target, though I sometimes wish we'd see less of his choreography.
And the company does have to toe the SAC line because the vast majority of the funding comes from there. It's not like the US where there are many funding sources and huge private and corporate donations. Nor can Scottish companies charge the kind of tickets prices that one could get away with in big US cities.

As to ABT - I completely agree. I find the whole sponsorship thing very uncomfortable and borderline on the unethical. It really implies that a donor will only make donations if they are allowed to show favor on one dancer. If you are so rich and so into ballet, you should be able to make a general donation to the company - or at least designate the money for costumes or for a specific production. But whoever said people in NYC - especially the uber rich set - all have their priorities straight. Not to mention that ABT's management (not artistic, but financial) has not always been of the most balanced kind.

Myself, I am more comfortable with the large scale events - galas and such - where the dancers can mingle with donors, but are not put in uncomfortable one on one sessions. Or in pre-arranged talks to guild groups where the topic is set and intended to educate the audience. I think ABT is pushing it with the donor-hosted receptions. Dance, like other fields, is frequently dependant on donated money. And there's a 'price' to pay for that, so long as the time committment is not unreasonable and the dancers aren't placed in a compromising position. I think 'dancer contact' as such is more more worthwile on both ends when it comes in terms of an education experience - in Europe companies sometimes provide an opportunity to watch a company take class on tour or to ask questions of a dancer/AD/company manager about ballet, the pieces being performed etc. The RDB offers a series of free or very low cost educational sessions to their 18-35 year old audience members to teach them about ballet and encourage an interest in the younger generation. I think to allow a dancer to be part of the audience education process brings greater rewards on both sides and engenders respect for the dancer as a professional.

That said, dance is hardly the only profession where one must learn to BS and have to do it as a part of the job. In fact, there's hardly a profession out there that doesn't require one to learn to BS. In the academic world, besides doing good work, you've got to make sure the right people are aware of you - which can mean BSing over drinks at a conference etc. And currying favour from the people who might decide on your grant application or journal submission etc.

But in the end, I think this a lot of hullabaloo over nothing. It seems pretty clear that it's a chaperoned event that the dancers are quite willing to do. And auctions of 'people' are hardly uncommon as fundraisers - how many times have you seen 'dates' auctioned off or an auction of celebrity dates/services like the one mentioned in one of the above posts.


Author:  salzberg [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 9:14 am ]
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It puts me in mind of the scene in Le Corsaire

...Or certain crimson-illuminated districts of almost any major city.

(Or so I'

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Feb 14, 2007 2:16 pm ]
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As an artist who had to "work" events like this I admit to hating it. I was good at it, 'cause I'm really good a small talk, but I hated it. I also realized that it was necessary to "butter" up the donors so I could have a decent salary.

I did however have colleagues who LOVED doing this kind of stuff. It was like greeting the adoring fans on the red carpet to them. They loved haering from poeple how thier performances affected them and what they patron might like to see in the future. These people will probably have great careers after dancing in development or sales.

In the difficult fundraising climates we find ourselves in nowadays, I hate to begrudge any company a creative idea that may or may not work for them. If this isn't worthwhile for SB I doubt they'll try it again.

In the meantime, I withold any bad judgement on the company for attempting it. Their just trying to be creative and improve their situation which in turn improves the situation for their dancers as well.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:25 pm ]
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I find it ironic that all of the above talk resulted in a mere $170 each for the winning bids!


If it's all right with you and the patrons we'll ramp up the humiliation on any organisation that chooses to follow this particularly sleazy path.


The above comments were a little over the top. The NBoC held a dinner/dance at $500 a pop, which sold out last year. I do believe the concept of a group event would attract more wealthy patrons. It places both dancer and adoring fan more at ease. If done right, I think it could be a good experience for everyone involved.

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 7:23 am ]
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The amount of money is irrelevant.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 9:53 am ]
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Dancers should be honored that fans are willing to pay money to spend a few hours with them at a dinner table. What’s the big deal? The fact is for most companies it costs twice the price on a ticket to actually produce a ballet and hence you need donations. Let’s say the average cost of a ticket is $100, that’s a lot of money for the average working person. I could see 10 movies or buy 6 DVDs for that kind of money.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:03 am ]
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I can understand Osiris's point about not enjoying such events and, as i said earlier some US practices make me uneasy. I'm pleased that the state funding system of the UK, around 30x higher per capita than the US, means that compulsion to participate in such events is, as far as I know, unknown here.

I also appreciate the question as to why people or organisations want individual sponsorship - all my donations to dance organisations are in the name of CriticalDance, where hopefully they do a little to raise our profile. But social prestige is important to some and that's that; it ain't illegal or immoral, as far as I can see.

Some dancers appear to enjoy meeting the public or at least do not dread it. For instance: each year the Ballet Association holds a dinner in London where dancers and officials from the RB voluntarily attend at the expense of the BA members and in that sense the members are paying for the privilige.

Here are the professional attendees from 2006:

Monica Mason, Jonathan and Maria Cope, Jay Jolley, Christopher Saunders, Wayne Eagling, Jeanetta Laurence, Anthony Russell-Roberts, Kevin O’Hare, Christopher Newton, Ursula Hageli, Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi, Johan Kobborg, Miyako Yoshida, Gary Avis, Elizabeth McGorian, Martin Harvey, Lauren Cuthbertson, Gemma Bond, Steven McRae, Ernst Meisner, Yuhui Choe, Zachary Faruque, Nathalie Harrison, Romany Pajdak and Jonathan Watkins.

Whether it be a free dinner, a desire to support a society that celebrates the art form or, is it possible, to bathe in a positive atmosphere of admiration with people knowledgable about the art form, I don't know, but they do.

Incidentally, the Ballet Association runs monthly meetings where a dancer or administrator is interviewed and the members pay for this privilige ie paying for the opportunity to meet a dancer, but on a many-to-one basis, with some 1-to1 conversationa afterwards. Is this also unethical?

On the original point, I still await an explanation why dancers voluntarily agreeing to take part in a sponsored drinks party or a 1-to1 dinner in a controlled environment is "forevermore, unethical". The statement does not come under the heading "we hold these truths to be self-evident."

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 1:33 pm ]
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dancers are employed by a company for their inherent skills as dancers (skills not easily acquired). Asking, contractually obliging or demanding that they engage in social contact, in this case in a one on one meeting over dinner on valentines day, is unethical because you are requesting that they use their physical appearance an nothing else to raise money for your company.

It is laughable to suggest that companies like Scottish Ballet would crumble if things like this did not take place. We could helpfully suggest they sack the person responsible for coming up with this which undoubtedly save them more than enough money to stop them humiliating their dancers.

Or perhaps the administration staff could provide this PG rated lap dances instead of the dancers.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 3:05 pm ]
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:roll: :?: :roll:

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Feb 17, 2007 3:09 pm ]
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Well, as far as I know, social contact requires more than physical appearance. Frankly, I care more about a person's ability to communicate and make interesting conversation than how they look. Dumb blondes are nothing more than dumb blondes. Beauty is more than skin deep.

I think it demeans the bidders even more to assume that they bid simply because they thought the dancer was good looking. Chances are they were interested in supporting the ballet and getting the chance to talk to Jarkko or the other dancer - quite possibly to learn about the ballet world. When I'm deciding which dancers to interview, it has to do with what they are dancing, how good an interview they would make and what they have to say that might interest other people. It doesn't matter what they look like.

I certainly couldn't interview an admin person about what's like to dance in ballet or live the life of a dancer or what a role meant to them. Nor would a 'dinner with an admin' offer the same chance to a potential donor.

As I said, much ado about nothing. The auctions ended up attracting very little attention, so I suspect Scottish Ballet will not try this particular fundraising method again. I'd go for a silent auction of items donated by dancers and/or outside donors - i.e. a weekend trip to a resort, a pair of sign pointe shoes, a pair of center tier tickets to an opening night with dinner before at a nice restaurant. A piece of custom jewelry from the jewlers that is sponsoring Eva Mutso. That kind of thing.


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