I moved on from full-time professional ballet after this Spring for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was the sense that as a ballet dancer, your job is to provide escapist entertainment for wealthy patrons. That gets old fast, I value my independence more than that. And I was dancing for a company that stays away from this kind of patronage.
The idea of having to schmooze with a particular patron who has "bought" me feels downright obscene to me. Classical ballet, along with all the crazy balletomane stories, already has overtones (and history) of being a kind of high-class prostitution. This kind of patronage system only encourages that attitude, which is ultimately bad for the dancers and bad for the art form.
Personally, I could never do it; I value my sense of freedom more than that. I would be the bad dancer that everyone hates to sponsor because once he IS sponsored, he refuses to do more than say "hi" to his "patron" at parties. Oh yes, I can already see the strained meetings with management, in which I'm reprimanded for not being more social with the patrons. I can see the veiled threats of being passed over for promotion if I don't "get in line". Sigh, life in the corporate world. I would gain a reputation as an audience-hater than fall into THAT line. So THIS is why dancers go into modern dance.
Not that I'm the total crab, mind you. I love the art of ballet and I love to share it with people. But the idea of sharing it "more" with someone just because that person has forked over $25,000 --- that is obscene. I will share ballet with anyone who is willing to come up with $100 for our 8-week Beginner I ballet class and actually come to it consistently. Anyone can walk in off the street and take my class. For those students who ask questions in class, I will share more with them after class --- for free. I have seen my students improve and I am quite proud of them.
For that reason, I don't think I'm distant or unapproachable, nor are most other dancers. Any sense of distance is created by management to increase the mystique and marketability of the company.
Case in point: Eva Evdokimova is one of the foremost ballerinas in America today. She was a prize hire of Boston Ballet's (as a teacher for the company), only to be let go after a year. She's absolutely at the top, but apparently she is also quite approachable. She teaches at least 5 open classes per week in New York, and one of those is an Advanced Beginner class.
The fact that such top people are teaching "on the ground level" in ballet tells us just how precarious the art form is. Why aren't these teachers all hired up by the big companies who can benefit most from them? On the other hand, it's sad that there are so many patrons willing to bid thousands of dollars to "buy" a dancer, but not so willing to invest their own time and bodies in experiencing the art of ballet for themselves. That is one reason why the art of classical ballet is dying.
On the other hand, I have nothing against endowed positions in the ballet. Whoever endows a position can have his or her name printed next to the position in the program. The key difference here is that the POSITION is endowed, not the DANCER. That leaves at least some sense of freedom and independence on the artistic level.