CriticalDance Forum

Dinner with a Dancer
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Author:  kurinuku [ Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:57 am ]
Post subject:  Dinner with a Dancer

Dancers sell dinner dates
in the Edinburgh Evening News
published: Februray 8, 2007

Scottish Ballet is running two charity auctions for people to bid for a dinner date with one of the company's internationally-acclaimed dancers.

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:25 pm ]
Post subject: 

is it just us that finds this practice slightly disturbing?

If you really want to give money to the arts just give them the cash and be done with it. Dancers should not, under any circumstance, be offered up as a benefit or perk of giving money. ... r_sale.php


Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Feb 12, 2007 3:50 pm ]
Post subject: 

It happens in opera all the time without any sordidness involved.

It's free dinner for the dancer and a fun get to know you for the fans.

Author:  Lucy [ Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

Who put up the auction? The dancers themselves or the company?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:34 am ]
Post subject: 

Here is the press release from the Scottish Ballet website: ... article=93

So, it is a company initiative, Lucy.

Not a lot of activity to date for these offers on ebay:

but, my own experience as an ebay user (antique porcelain), there could well be a flurry of last minute snipe bids.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:35 am ]
Post subject: 

Note: I originally headed this as a press release; Scottish Ballet has clarified that it is a response and not a "press release".

Here is the Scottish Ballet response to the Article19 editorial:

Scottish Ballet stands by its current promotional and fundraising activity on
Ebay to bid for the opportunity to win a dinner date with a dancer.

Scottish Ballet is a registered charity and supported by the Scottish Arts
Council. Every year, Scottish Ballet aims to bring audiences award-winning dance of the highest quality, and access to dance for thousands of people in Scotland and beyond. Like many arts organisations, the cost of producing this standard of work cannot be financed through income generated by tickets sales alone. By bidding for this unique experience, participants will be providing invaluable support for the future of Scotland's national dance company.

Scottish Ballet is further committed to maintaining the Company and dancers' professional integrity at all times, and can confirm that the winning dinner date will be managed in an ordered structure, and be fully chaperoned by a member of Scottish Ballet staff.

Jarkko Lehmus, one of two dancers involved in the auctions said:

"If this auction helps raise both awareness and funding in support of Scottish Ballet, then of course, I am more than delighted to be able to get involved with this fun opportunity for one lucky fan to have this unique insight."

Anita Clark, Head of Dance at the Scottish Arts Council further commented: 'The dancers involved in Scottish Ballet's charity auction have volunteered to take part in a structured, chaperoned evening in the context of a fundraising initiative.

'Whilst dancers regularly take part in social events with other artists,
supporters of, sponsors and the media, this charity auction will provide a
unique opportunity for a true ballet fan to learn more about the role and
lifestyle of one of Scottish Ballet's internationally acclaimed dancers.'

Indeed Scottish Ballet is following the precedent set by other charity auctions, including opportunities advertised to support Comic Relief in bids for the chance to win afternoon tea with Elaine Paige, a weekend with Chris Evans and Ray Mears, a cruise with Gary Rhodes and drinks and dinner with Sarah Kennedy. Ebay is also currently auctioning the opportunity to spend a day on a film set with Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra and to play chess with Garry Kasparov.

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 12:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

It is curious that the canned responses from both the dancer and SAC or almost exactly the same. If that is their response to our piece I find it curious that they didn't send it to us and we can't find it on their website.

This is nothing more than the work of press flacks.

That such things happen, have happened or continue to happen in other art forms does not excuse the reprehensible ethics of marketing out your dancers as a fund raising tool;

as we have already stated;

"Dancers should not, under any circumstance, be offered up as a benefit or perk of giving money"

Just so you know, all of us at Article19 are either current or former professional dancers.

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 12:56 pm ]
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I completely disagree with you.

Most artists in most arts realize that in order to do their art they must do a little fundraising. In a small dance company it is a requirement that you be available to patrons for some face time and small talk. It is one of the most effective fundraising tools available to the arts: access to the artist for a fee.

It is the price of doing art. Period.

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:10 pm ]
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it may be your price of doing art but it's not ours nor is it the price the many dozens of artists we know are willing to pay, many of whom are extraordinarily talented.

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.


Author:  salzberg [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 2:23 pm ]
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The word "sleazy" may be too strong, but it certainly strikes me as a little creepy.

After the opening night performane of a play I did last month, potential donors were treated to a dinner. The artists were told that if we wanted to attend, it would cost us $38.

I have no idea how many went; I rarely attend opening night parties even when they're free; I certainly won't pay for one.

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 3:02 pm ]
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It's hardly unusual...

NYCB dancers do exactly the same thing as a fundraiser for their AIDS Walk Team every year. They usually get quite a few bids and raise a lot of money for the various charities involved. No one's ever commented or raised any issues, nor would I think anyone would ever think it odd.

I think, however, Scottish Ballet may have overestimated the market for such things in Scotland. There are many opportunities to meet the dancers here without bidding for a meal - in NYC the dancers are more celebrity-esque, and you've generally got to donate quite a bit to go to any of the meet n' greet type events.

I'm sure the dancers involved are doing it voluntarily and/or it's within the bounds of their contract.

As to being a do you think the US companies reward their big donors? The fancy dinners and meet n' greets with the dancers are the major perks for the big donors for most of the major companies in the US. Donate $1000 and get to go to an intimate dinner with dancers... $400 will get you to a dinner at board member's house with a private performance. Basically in the US, you gotta pay to meet the dancers - which is why I like the much more relaxed atmosphere in Europe. Much healthier for the dancers and the donors.

ABT is the worst, I think, of the US companies. Individual dancers are sponsored by particularly donors, with names in the program. And they do all sorts of events at big donor's houses - look at for pictures. There was an article at one point in the NY Times about the propriety (sp?) or not, of direct dancer sponsoring. Many of these donors are older women, and the article pointed out the creepiness of having a young male dancer sponsored (and therefore expected to have some sort of contact with the donor) by an older women with lots of money and time on her hands. ABT and the dancers seemed to claim it was all just fine, but one wonders if the dancers would respond differently in private. But it's done and not many eyebrows are raised.

That said, I think Scottish Ballet's auction is all in good fun, and heck, I think Jarkko would make one heck of a dinner partner. His blog is very entertaining and he's certainly had a wide range of life experience. According to his blog, he's recently been battling the NHS to try and get on the list for surgery for his hernia. He can't do much until it's fixed, but he was having no success getting the NHS to realize that his livelihood depends on the surgery. Which suggests that if Scottish Ballet can't afford to have some supplemental private insurance for it's dancers, that it needs every penny that such an auction would provide.

BTW, I would hardly expect the dancers to respond personally. It's a Scottish Ballet activity, run through the company and publicized through the press office. And the dancers' contracts undoubtedly require them to communicate via the press office regarding any official Scottish Ballet matters - remember what not going through the press office did to Simone Clarke...


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:46 pm ]
Post subject: 

it may be your price of doing art but it's not ours nor is it the price the many dozens of artists we know are willing to pay, many of whom are extraordinarily talented.

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.


I've stayed out of taking sides in this debate, to date. Partly because I can see the point that ABT style sponsorship could be seen as problematic, especially if young artists are placed in a potentially difficult position.

But Michelle's response is way over the top, in this particular instance.

Point 1: These Scottish Ballet members are experienced artists, near the top of their profession, who I'm confident can well look after themselves. I'd hate to be in the shoes of an SB administrator who ascribed words to Jarkko that he wasn't happy with - soft touch he ain't! Further, SB has made it clear that this event is chaperoned and takes place in a designated, public space.

Point 2: Dance can only take place when it is funded. This has three basic components: state, ticket and related sales, private (personal, corporate and trusts). UK state funding for the Arts in the UK, while infinitely higher than the US, has never been as high as that seen in much of Continental Europe. However, the concerted efforts of a number of highly talented administrators has persuaded Arts Council England and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to increase funding for dance over the past decade, when across the rest of Europe the money for dance has been in decline.

Much though I would love to see greater state Arts funding, and will continue to support those such as DanceUK, so often derided by Article19, who interact and work to persuade Govt of the need for more money, I suspect that we are not going to see a bonanza for the UK Arts over the next few years. Especially as the Olympics will probably erode some Lottery funding for the Arts.

Assuming Trust income and ticket sales remain at similar levels, that leaves private funding. Thus, if companies want additional cash, in all probability they are going to have to market to the private sector and compete with a host of other causes for cash.

An example from another field: a few years ago, I sat opposite a professional fundraiser for Amnesty International who helped raise £8m for a new HQ. She courted sponsors for up to a year before raising the question of a donation. The senior campaign staff accepted the need to be available for events, briefings etc in order to help the organisation project an image that would enable this money to be raised. That's the way it works in a range of organisations, including the Arts. Easy work it ain't.

Like Kate, I cannot see why dancers should be averse to helping the marketing of their companies by legitimate ways and it would seem that the SB dancers are happy to do this. I know that this sort of activity in the US is a contracted duty in some companies and that does makes me uneasy. However, I strongly suspect that the two SB dancers involved are happy to be involved.

Michelle, if you and some of your colleagues wish to play no part in the raising funds for your companies, then so be it, and I respect your wishes. But you are saying that you are different from those who work for other organisations such as Amnesty, plus you are helping to keep dance impoverished.

Michelle wrote:

If you really want to give money to the arts just give them the cash and be done with it.

If only it were that easy, but private funding is a two way relationship with both sides needing to benefit in a range of possible ways. For corporates, it may be branding by association or training for employees. For individual funders it is often social contact with the artists they admire. In the mists of time this was on-stage coffee mornings for the Friends of provincial rep theatre companies. The SB charity dinners are a modern version of an old approach.

I hope UK skills in the area of private funding for the Arts increases, in order to make the sector more financially robust and that artists help their administrators to achieve these goals; it's called team work.

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:52 pm ]
Post subject: 

I'm well aware that it's often done ( I do, after all, actually do shows with dancers ). Many things are often done that are not right.

It's always seemed creepy to me.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

If you don't like meeting the public who attend your work - fine, Jeff. But why "creepy", when so many other people who work for other organisations help to market their companies, be it for winning business or funding. I was never a "natural" at this stuff, but I did it for the greater good of the organisation.

Jeff, are you saying that the Arts organisations are intrinsically different from those in other sectors? Apart, of course, from the fact that they usually have less money.

Author:  Press-Article19 [ Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

You're mixing comments from my post and the blog entry which is written by someone else but that doesn't really matter.

Jeff makes the perfect point about 'thing being done' but that doesn't make it right.

At present Scottish Ballet receives over £3,000,000 ($5.8 million US) in annual funding. Compared to the money given to Scottish Dance Theatre (their contemporary counterpart) who receive just £500,000, we don't see them deploying these type of tactics to raise a few extra pennies. Believe me, if they do they'll be getting just as much stick.

This auction is set to raise next to nothing in comparison so the benefit to the company is a moot point. (We're also slightly suspicious that the current bidder on Soon Ja Lee joined eBay today and is called Bidder 3!)

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.

In response to what the sponsors get in return, they get free tickets, free drinks, and a chance to associate their name with something that has a little more credibility than their, usually, dubious business practices.

If you want to use the company to raise money then let them do what they do, dance, to raise that money. There are many ways to achieve this which are both ethical, dignified and they don't turn Scottish Ballet into a publicly funded escort service.

One final thing, the 'press release' you mentioned above was nothing of the sort, it was a canned email sent to some of our readers who complained to Scottish Ballet.


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