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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 3:17 am 
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Hey guys... Gigi, thanks for the English tip. I remember from the "Ramona" books that the guy running your school is the "principal" because he's your "pal". But the fundamental belief you hold dear to your heart is "principle". I didn't know which one to apply to the dancers who do most of the work in your dance company. Now I'll remember that they're your "pal" as well (at least the principal dancers in my company are my pals :-)<P>LMCTech, thanks. I have a tendancy to read things over-literally, and then start wondering if I really communicated what I meant to.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 7:45 am 
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The question, “Is Boston dance really that different from Cambridge dance and why?” is in my opinion not specific to have a definitive answer. But if I’m permitted to read into it, I’ll point to some components of an answer.<P>1) For a dance to be distinct it would have to reflect a stylistic difference. Boston vs. Cambridge is not like Kirov vs. Bolshoi. Regretfully, Boston Ballet has not developed a distinct style in the about 50 years of its existence and it is a company with recourses unmatched by Cambridge.<BR>2) All the dance venue theaters are in Boston: Wang ~ 3500 seats, Emerson ~2000, Schubert ~ 1200. Note the mainline dance audience is around 1700 for premier nights at the Wang. The studios such as in Central Square are insignificant both commercially and IMO artistically. The metropolis does not have a modern dance company. See point 4and 5.<BR>3) Mateo’s company in Cambridge is the only one of consequence. But note it’s size: 80 seats per performance for a season of about 14 performances. 80 x 14 @ $25 = ticket sales of $28k add the projected Christmas season @ the Emerson, still not enough to pay salaries for a minimum of 35 week employment season that it takes to build a viable company. Corporate moneys are pretty much dried up by the Boston Ballet organization.<BR>4) The visiting dance companies, both classical and modern perform in the Boston theaters. The local recital studio type and modern dance are all in the Boston side of university’s environments such as Boston University, Northeastern, The Boston Conservatory, the State Teachers College. The Boston University and the Boston Conservatory produce regular dance recital programs. The Cambridge side universities do not have dance departments. The Cambridge modern dance studios are miniscule, occupied by Graham type hopefuls, whose choreography mostly disappears after the single performance.<BR>5) The visiting modern dance companies and such as Flamenco, predominantly perform in the Emerson theater. Mateo stages innovative choreography with limited resources, the Massachusetts Youth Ballet produces wonderful youthful dancing, thus dance is very viable in the metropolis but to draw a distinction of Cambridge vs. Boston is not usefull.<BR>

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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 9:19 am 
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One venue that no one has mentioned is the Harvard Summer Dance Center. BUT, I'm not even sure it exists. It was modeled on the American Dance Festival, ie, classes, workshops and performances. In recent years they had some GREAT teachers/chorographers, including the likes of Bill T. Jones, David Gordon, Lucinda Childs, etc. As well as Boston teachers participating. Is this still happening? Does anyone know anything about it? It wasnt'a huge program, but for six weeks, gathered an impressive array of national/international caliber artists. I attended during the late 70's.


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 10:06 am 
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Trina I don't think that program exists anymore. Image<P>D'ici, what is a "Graham type hopeful" anyway?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 10:23 am 
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Trina, I don't think that program exists anymore.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 10:35 am 
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Trina, I don't think that program exists anymore.<P>(sorry, just being silly...)


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 11:15 am 
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Boston or Cambridge, dancers can barely afford to live nearby. I just learned my landlord is putting my house on the market. Image<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 6:56 pm 
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According to Boston Ballet's <A HREF="http://www.bostonballet.org/pages/thecompany/bb_company_f.htm?company" TARGET=_blank><B>web site</B></A>, the company was founded in 1963; they're just shy of 40.<P>According to the Emerson Majestic's <A HREF="http://www.emerson.edu/majestic/stage/glance.html" TARGET=_blank><B>web site</B></A>, the theater seats 976. That's still a LOT bigger than any dance spaces in Cambridge. Off topic, here's some <A HREF="http://www.emerson.edu/majestic/history/Wilbur.html" TARGET=_blank><B>commercial history</B></A> of Boston's theaters. Wow!<P>D'ici has rightly pointed out that Mateo's current 80-seat dance space cannot sustain a professional comapny. Actually, this spring there were 9 sold-out performances, each which sold about 80 tickets at $25 each. There were also 5 patron performances, which did not sell out, but sold for $60 each. Whatever that comes out to, it STILL couldn't cover the dancer saleries for the season, let alone the technical costs. Although most ballet companies fall short of breaking even on ticket sales alone (NYCB, for exmaple, makes 70% of its revenue on ticket sales), I suppose that Ballet Theatre fell somewhat more short than most on this Spring season.<P>I don't know the plans for sure, so I'm free to speculate publicly on this forum: I think the company is currently in an "Internet startup" type of mode, but in slow motion. That is, it's trying to gain exposure and build awareness of its product, even though it regularly loses money. At least the loss of money is well-controlled: there is enough demand to ensure that all seats will sell out on any given run. The company commits only to losses it knows it can afford. What's worst for a company is if it stages a production and the expected audience never materializes.<P>In the meantime, the company has build a certain awareness over the past year, in large part due to the marketing people. Consider some marketing milestones:<P> *) The term "Sanctuary Theatre" was well-placed, and picked up by the press. There is now an awareness of a new theater for dance in Cambridge. That theater will certainly change, but whatever it becomes, it will be called "Sanctuary Theatre". The public will come to accept and expect its existence.<P> *) Four seasons have now been performed in the "Sanctuary Theatre". The press regularly reports that the company is "well-settled in its new home". Although this is not really true --- major changes to that home are in the works --- it still provides an air of permanence to the public. That sense of permanence is important, both in building an audience and in soliciting sponsorship.<P> *) The company has held regular seasons since December 2000. That is critically important in building an audience: regularity lends an air of permanence; it also gives the dancers and choreography opportunity for continued artistic growth.<P>Great pains have been taken to ensure good reviews. People who have not attended judge the show primarly on the reviews and on the sense of regularity. Not on the size of the theater ("Stomp!" in New York, for example, plays in a very small space, only 20 feet wide). And they certainly don't do the math to figure out how much the company is losing. Continued production gives an air of success. In true "Internet startup" fashion, those reviews are critically important to the long-term health of the company.<P> *) The Cambridge politicians are firmly behind the company, as evidenced by the recent "Dance Belt" award (ugh!). That's important in Cambridge.<P>I used to imagine there were economies of scale with big theaters: put enough people in there, and they can pay for a very expensive show. Now, I'm a lot more dubious of that idea, at least in ballet. For one, large theaters cost a lot more than small theaters to rent. Many seats in a large theater aren't that great anyway, so you can't charge too much for them.<P>A successful marketing campaing seems to be key to selling seats. But marketing is a lot of work, requiring a large marketing department, which eats up revenue. And marketing people are MUCH less willing to work for low pay, just because it's a ballet company, than dancers. We had 13 dancers this spring and 3 people working full-time in administration and marketing (plus another full-time staff person for the school). Selling more tickets requires more marketing people; a few more are hired for Nutcracker. Larger dancer organizations have MANY more administrative staff.<P>Information Technology may be able to increasing marketing efficiency somewhat. But IT is expensive as well: good systems require many hours to develop, at a cost of $100/hr for programmer time. It's hard to find competent programmers willing to work for what ballet companies can afford. So they're left with not-quite-efficient IT systems, which limits what the marketing staff can ultimately do.<P>What's the long and the short of this? Apparently, putting on the Nutcracker for 8,000 in the Sanctuary Theatre generates about the same net profit as the Nutcracker for 30,000 in the Emerson Majestic. Which is better for the comapny? In this case, probably the Emerson, since it gives more exposure. But it's sad that there are not any more economies of scale.<P>But in the Spring and Fall seasons, the smaller theater is a clear winner. Without its own theater, a ballet company must rent a larg(er) theater such as the Emerson Majestic. That's so expensive, it's only possible for 1 weekend. You invite the press on the first night to get reviews, so you can sell tickets for the second and third nights. And that's it. Having to sell all tickets in one weekend puts a strain on marketing, requiring more labor in a shorter period of time. Unfortunately, those are the constraints under which most dance companies must operate. A longer run at less cost per week makes for a better artistic product. Mateo used to perform spring and fall shows in the Emerson Majestic, but he's happier with longer runs in a smaller space.<P>I suppose that touring is also possible; you repeat the 1-weekend formula in a number of cities. I've heard the economics of touring are better than most other options, that's why companies do it. It also gains exposure. But living on the road is not pleasant.<P>I've learned that very large arts organizations, such as Boston Ballet and Boston Symphony Orchestra, deal with the very same economics problems that small organizations deal with, just magnified. They have more revenue, more sponsorship, more costs, more marketing people, and bigger revenue shortfalls. Sigh, arts economics contains so much funny math, I have a hard time understanding how ANY organization stays alive.<P><B>Sanctuary Theatre?</B><P>As of last fall, plans had been kicking around for a while, for the 250-seat system in the sanctuary (large studio). But I had never seen it, I'd only seen the 80-seat system. Nutcracker rehearsals were almost over, and there were still no seats. I said "I'll believe it when I see it." Then one day, I saw it, and I was amazed! My imagination was expanded, now I can more readily believe that this will become a permanent (but removeable in one day) fixture of the sanctuary. I hope the audience doesn't become TOO attached to the cabaret-style cocktail seating; more seats will make for a better bottom line.<P>Right now, the Sanctuary Theatre is used for studios and performances. Theatrical productions put a lot of strain on the school. There are plans for expanded studio space, which would allow school programming to continue, unaffected by goings-on in the Sanctuary Theatre.<P>Once that happens (at a snail's pace), I can imagine what the Sanctuary Theatre might become. I've been to the <A HREF="http://www.joyce.org/history.html" TARGET=_blank><B>Joyce Theatre</B></A> in New York, a 472-seat theater owned by Ballet Tech. That's small, but an ideal size for a variety of dance productions in New York. At 250 seats, the Sanctuary Theatre could play a similar role in Boston's (smaller) market. I personally think it would be really neat, to provide a quality performance space for many of Cambridge's dance groups. Some of the touring companies that now perform downtown might find the economics of the Sanctuary Theatre more suitable to their needs as well.<P>There are other more radical ideas in the works too, but I decline to discuss them. I think there will be some pleasant surprises. Everyone agrees, there is a shortange of dance and theater space in Boston, especially of the smaller theaters. Any new venue construction helps everyone.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 7:17 pm 
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The "dance belt" award!! Too funny!


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 5:17 am 
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It’s the Vision Thing!<P>A usefully starting definition of dance is that of a celebration in movement. Going past the rudimentary, purely individualistic, an organized form of movement implies a vision. The realization of an artistic vision requires fundamentals, a choreographer, dancers. Hence “but first a school”.<BR>A choreographer can’t hope to express his vision in ballet without trained dancers. The process is symbiotic, he challenges the dancer, spurring the dancer’s growth and the dancer nourishes the choreographer’s creativity. Without talented dancers, the vision has to be scaled down, dumbed down, at best in a holding pattern. To confuse the primary component of vision with venue space and administrative functions or advertising slogans, is to confuse thighs and leotards with dance.<BR>However neither historical examples nor artistic maturity is a give. What is enticing, are shortcuts: “In true "Internet startup" fashion, those reviews are critically important to the long-term health of the company. “ and “Information Technology may be able to increasing marketing efficiency somewhat.” Translate “Internet startup” into a self-delusion, a marketing bubble, and the critic becomes but a source to be wined and dined, a salesman with malleable aesthetic values.<BR>I hope that the guiding vision of Mateo’s Ballet Theater is not that as expressed by Citybob. Mateo is a talented, original choreographer. A very welcome addition to the Boston dance and even with the compromises required by the present dancers, a relief from the mediocrity of the Boston Ballet’s season. However there is a caution for the next year. If the proposed program is realized, if the company dancers are revitalized, if the school produces new talent for the corps, then the audience necessary to sustain and permit growth of alternatives, such as the Ballet Theater will shrink or disappear. And Mateo’s company is not viable at 80 or 200 seats for a 15 performance season. Certainly not with mediocre dancers.<P>Trina’s, “The "dance belt" award!! Too funny!” is too true. The present company needs it.<BR>

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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 5:46 am 
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Well, <I>every</I> artist has limitations; that's why even NYCB principals take class.<P>As for some of the other comments that have been made, perhaps not everyone saw my quotation of the "Issues" forum description, so I'll repost it here:<P>"Discuss issues in dance (Keep it nice and civilized. <I><B>Be respectful</B></I>)"

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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 6:02 am 
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Hey there. I was talking mainly about business, not art. Business and marketing are interesting fields in their own right. Of course they're not the artistic core of an arts organization. But they're the financial core.<P>Running a ballet company, financially, is a tricky business. Profitability is an elusive goal, one that even the large companies do without. I thought CD readership would be interested in reading about some of the business issues involved. Starting a new company, even after 15 years, is very difficult. Internet startup is a risky business, trying to get the appropriate market share before you run out of financing. Most Internet startups folded, and most dance companies don't last long either. 15 years is already a long time, but it doesn't make things easy. Apparently, arts management is never easy.<P>As for prospects for the company itself: enough people believe that the current plan is viable to invest millions of dollars in it. That is what a board of directors is for. They would not have undertaken the current direction if the belief had been that it would not work. I think we should defer to their judgement of the situation, since they have ALL the relevant facts and have put their own $$ on the line for it.<P>Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet are distinct companies with distinct missions and largely distinct audience as well. The demographics of the two audience bases are quite different. Improved artistic quality at Boston Ballet in the up-coming years can only serve to help all dance organizations in town. It will help increase interest in and knowledge of ballet as an art form.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by citibob (edited May 08, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 12:52 pm 
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I think I would have to agree with your last comment, bob. It all trickles down from the top. A more stable Boston Ballet can only help to stablize a Boston/Cambridge dance scene as a whole.


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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 1:04 pm 
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A stable Houston Ballet has not had a noticeable stabilizing effect on the Houston dance scene, but that's largely a result of Houston's "gotwun" mentality.<P>You know:<P>"A dance company? Oh, yeah, we got <I><B>one</B></I>."<p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited May 08, 2002).]

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 Post subject: Re: Boston vs. Cambridge
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 10:34 pm 
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Please see the "What's new on criticaldance" forum for a message concerning this thread.

Thank you.

(Edited by salzberg to fix link)

<small>[ 08-09-2002, 13:02: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>


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