CriticalDance Forum

New York City Ballet: Spring Season 2009
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  New York City Ballet: Spring Season 2009

New York City Ballet opened its Spring Season at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Alastair Macaulay reviews the performance in the New York Times:

NY Times

Leigh Witchel in the New York Post:

NY Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:30 pm ]
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In the Wall Street Journal, Robert Greskovic reviews new works by Benjamin Millepied, Jiri Bubenicek and a revival of Balanchine's "Scotch Symphony" (with a new set by Karin von Aroldingen).

Wall Street Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:53 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay reviews Jerome Robbins' "Les Noces" and Balanchine's "Liebeslieder Walzer" (with asides regarding the new scenery for "Scotch Symphony") in the New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:08 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the all-Robbins program ("Glass Pieces," "The Cage," "Other Dances" and "The Concert") in the New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:37 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay writes about some refreshing and full-of-promise peformances from Teresa Reichlen, Tiler Peck, Megan Fairchild and Kathryn Morgan at City Ballet:

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Jun 16, 2009 1:57 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Sunday, June 14, 2009 Dancers' Choice performance in the New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:57 pm ]
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A revival of Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is reviewed by Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:30 pm ]
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Robert Gottlieb has some comments about the Spring Season in The New York Observer:

NY Observer

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:40 pm ]
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An article on principal dance Janie Taylor which explains the serious medical problems that kept her off the stage so long: ... nterrupted

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 5:20 am ]
Post subject: ... 1&ref=arts

An article on the dancers who were laid off this year. One should note that Sophie Flack gave a very interesting and rather negative interview with Time Out (I think) earlier this summer about her departure. While I felt sympathy with her for having her dream ended, I felt that she came across (in the other article) as rather naive and selfish, given that millions of people across the country have lost jobs and that most won't depart with the kind of benefits she has or with so many years left for education and new opportunities. I think she comes across much better here. This article intimates that senior corp members like her would have been making $70,000 to $80,000. Even with a PhD, I still can't bring in that kind of money unless I get a tenure track position, and those are harder and harder these days as many places have hiring freezes.

Also, I seem to remember an earlier article - perhaps incorrectly - stating that the NYCB dancers/AGMA turned down offers to cut salaries or benefits instead of cutting jobs. (As ABT has done).

Anyway, it makes for interesting reading...

Author:  Ulysse [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:00 am ]
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I am very offended by your latest intervention that, in my mind, describes the lack of respect our profession encounters every day. If all the hours of training a professional dancer has put in his/her training were to be counted, it is not one but three PHDs they would have earned. The lack of diploma in real dance education, which starts in childhood and goes through adolescence, makes your intervention a rather common line of thinking in many people in North America.
The salaries in New York City Ballet are exceptionally high compared to the rest of professional ballet companies around the United States. This article, published a couple of days ago, demonstrates that certain salaries, such as senior staff members and even a free lance photographer made far more money than many of the dancers in the company. ... jj8nuW0VKI
But why is it OK for an NFL player or any athlete to make an outrageous amount of money yearly and not for any professional dancer to make 70,000 to 80,000 a year for a career that will end around the age of 40 if the dancer is lucky to stay healthy and free of a career threatening injuries? Instead of faulting NYBC’s dancers for making a decent living, we should ask why other professional dancers in the United States make so little money (as little as $400 per week or less is not rare) for such short contracts (an average of 20 weeks per year) and with no to little benefits.
Ms. Flack and all New York City company members are privileged in the American ballet world. She made more money yearly than many principal dancers in major ballet companies around the country. I know Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet; to name a few, do not offer this kind of salaries to their principal dancers. NYCB is the only company to offer a 52 weeks contract to its dancers. Also, this is to be verified, I believe it should not be an exception, but a normal occurrence in the world of dance. Professional dancers are laid off every single year during their career and this for a colossal amount of weeks. Does anyone worry about them when the economy is fine and they are getting laid-off? Even board of directors governing professional dance companies seem to have little concern about artists making a decent living. It is to be noted that dance companies under the AGMA or any other union contract offer higher salaries and benefits to their dancers. It is extremely understandable that professional dancers feel somewhat desensitized to the amount of lay-offs in the general population of the United-States due to the familiarity of the situation for them.
Also you can question if cutting expenses on a photographer and Mr. Martins taking a 10% salary cut as other senior staff members did (it is unclear if he did or not) could have saved the dancers positions, it is the prerogative of an artistic director or ballet master in chief to hire and lay-off dancers as he wishes in order to maintain artistic integrity within the company. The question is: Why hide behind the economic downturn instead of just being honest with the dancers and the public? I don’t see Ms. Flack as naïve or selfish. She is young and she had to cut her dancing career short, which can be devastating for an artist. And choosing to move on to a new career does not make the sadness of leaving your life long professional goals behind.
Why should a professional ballet or modern dancer’s contribution to society be less valued than a university professor’s contribution? What kind of criteria are we using? Is it the criteria that art is superfluous, elitist and a luxury? If so, you are right in line with the thought process that is making it so difficult for professional dance organizations to survive in the United Sates. Unlike in Canada and in many European countries, American arts organizations receive little to no financial support from the government. They are left to the mercy of a small pool of funding from public and private foundations as well as individual donors. The truth is that they are merely surviving and the longer the economy falters the less performing arts organizations will remain.
Civilizations are remembered through art, architecture and literature mainly. What will be the United States art legacy of the beginning of the twenty first century if artists and their work continue to be viewed as expendable?

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:18 pm ]
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I think you need to step back and not read so much into a few sentences.

Firstly, it took a combined 21 years of education, plus several years of working for me to get to the point of completing a PhD. And starting in college, and certainly in grad-school, that was year-round, and often well more than 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. In my field, there are almost certainly far fewer professorial jobs available than there are positions at ballet companies. And yes, dancers' careers are short, but they were out there living their dream and earning good money for years whilst many of us are still grinding through years of education in order to even begin a first career. I have a great respect for ballet dancers and the sacrifices they make for their careers, but at the same time feel that they shouldn't be elevated above those in numerous other professions who make equal sacrifices.

Honestly, I think it would have been a much better article to get companies to open up (some have) about the effect of the economy on their finances, and the steps they have chosen to take and why. Each company is unique, so what might have worked for one company doesn't work for another. Obviously, there are some privacy issues, but I think it would be good for many companies and unions to be a lot more open about finances. It's great that the basic union contracts are online and we can see some salaries on the tax forms, but that leaves a lot blanks in the picture. The fact is that the economy is hitting everyone hard, and dancers are no different in that respect. And perhaps it's a shock to the dancers who have been somewhat insulated from the wider job world and the harsh realities of getting two weeks notice.

I can totally empathize with Ms. Flack and the other dancers on having their NYCB careers cut short. My dream for years was to be a vet, but I got rejected twice from vet school. At that point, I had to reassess my goals and figure out how to take my skills and experiences and find another direction to take my life. It hurts, there were many tears along the way and many frustrations, but it worked out in the end. And that's the process the dancers are going through - and they shouldn't feel like they are alone. It doesn't mean they are bad dancers, or will never have another opportunity to dance professionally or are failures. They've just hit a speed bump like millions of other people in this economy. So perhaps they need a little perspective...

Yes, 10 dancers lost jobs. But, for the most part, they are in their mid-twenties, and have had the opportunity to save money and should have a good network of connections in the dance and other NYC worlds. Which already means that they have a lot more going for them than many people who are finding themselves without jobs. For comparison, I think about the workers at a wood-paneling factory north of here. These are people mostly in theirs 40s, 50s, 60s with high school educations or less, with families, mortgages, kids in school etc. And it's not a metropolitan area - there's not much else up there besides the closing factories but farmland and forest. So there are few accessible opportunities for retraining, other jobs and unemployment doesn't pay soon enough or enough to support a family or pay for petrol to drive hours in search of jobs. And if they got retrained, getting hired at 40 or 50+ is a tough feat. Further, if these people have no money, then what becomes of all the stores in the villages and towns where they live or the schools and services if people can't afford to pay their taces. It's a very scary situation all around. Compare that to a 26 year old dancer who is very right to hurting and upset, but has a world of opportunities in NYC, through connections fostered in the dance world and in NYC.

As I said, I thought the article in the NY Times showed Ms. Flack in a good light and it looks like she has a very bright future in front of her. But, I found the TimeOutNY interview rather unprofessional which could quite easily be due to the writer's line of questioning and choice of edits.

Having never met or known Mr. Martins, I cannot make any real judgement on his character or choices, but I've had some horrible bosses. However, though I've vented plenty in private and to trusted friends, I've never made my feelings known in public. You have to take the bad, and use it to make yourself stronger and learn to highlight your strengths. And lot other people's poor behaviour drag you down. Criminal acts against oneself/one's company aside, venting in public rarely is considered appealing behaviour nor is it looked upon in good graces by future/potential employers.

I think perhaps one of the problems is that ballet dancers who come from ballet schools to apprenticeships to companies often lack the job skills/job hunting/job smarts that others get from further education and experience in the job-interviewing (as opposed to auditioning) world. It's something I think CTFD helps with, but would probably be a great help to be taught in the upper levels of ballet schools or as part of apprentice programs. How about a course that would teach upper level students to read and understand a basic contract, to be able to set up a budget to determine whether a salary offered by a company would be enough to cover expenses, to be able to deal with insurance companies.

FYI, I'm pretty sure that NYCBs does not - or has not have/had in the past - a 52 year contract. I think they are laid off - tours excepted - between the end of Saratoga and the start of winter rehearsals in October. Though their benefits may well extend through the layoff - i.e. medica;/pension/dental/life. But if they are making $50-70,000 a year (though NYC costs are horrific), that's more than most 52 week salaries. Somewhere I thought I read that Houston Ballet had the longest contract, though I think reading more recently that the new Clear Lake (?) company has the longest contract now.

I do very much resent the implication that I lack respect for ballet/arts or an understanding of their importance. I have been quite vocal about my disgust for the cuts to arts funding here and the totally idiotic comments made by the Canadian prime minister. Arts are vital and will always be a key part of society. Here and in the US, arts bring in millions, if not billions of dollars to the economy through ticket tales and indirect items such as tourism, money spent on meals, lodging, parking, books, CDs/DVDs and transport (and of course taxes paid by those who earn salaries in the arts). Nevermind, that over the years, I've spent much time and money in many places to promote that dance world through reviews, interviews, features and word of mouth promotion. Trust me, if I didn't have such a great passion for dance, I would have spent much more of my foreign vacations seeing the sights than sitting in uncomfortable chairs/floors in windowless ballet studios.

To sum up, I have the greatest respect for ballet dancers, but feel that perhaps we need some perspective when considering layoffs and the like. Perhaps the best advice for us all - dancers, researchers, politicians, bankers and all is constantly push our own boundaries and o make our lives as diverse as possible. So if one dream must end, there are others to pursue....


Author:  Ulysse [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 4:13 pm ]
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I do not feel that stepping back is actually the right attitude right now when anyone seems to comment on the value of a dancer’s education and the adequacy of their salary through a “few sentences”. You are the person that made that comparison that I find unfair and frankly, far from productive. I do respect any education, weather it is in the arts, science, literature or any other field. I do not value one education over another and the time measured to become a surgeon, obtain a PHD or become a professional musician, actor or dancer does not give one education prevalence over another.
I understand that your post was about NYCB but it is very disturbing for me to read in your second post that “yes, dancers' careers are short, but they were out there living their dream and earning good money for years”. I will not repeat what I said in my previous post but how many dancers do you really know who earn this amount of money for years? I f you knew the financial situation of professional ballet dancers in the United States and even in certain Canadian companies, you would not dare write such a comment. Are these dancers to be less paid because they have a passion for their job? Are you supposed to be paid more if you hate your job? Very few young dancers will combine the passion, talent and discipline to accomplish their dream of becoming a professional dancer. Should they be penalized for combining all the ingredients necessary for a career? Should Mozart have been paid less to compose music since it was so easy for him and at such a young age on top of it???
You singled out dancers and no one is trying to elevate them above anyone else. Better recognition and equal rights seem fair to me. As I said earlier, the majority of professional dancers in North America have a hard time making decent money. FYI, a lot of professional dancers have families (including children) to feed too. As Ms. Flack said in the interview, people tend to treat professional ballet dancers as boys and girls instead of adult men and women, however young they are. That, in itself is a lack of respect and understanding which is unfortunately fostered by the ballet world itself.
You say you love ballet and I believe you but wouldn’t it be better for a dance journalist to really investigate the financial situation of the majority of professional dancers instead of focusing on the privileged situation of a few at NYCB? American ballet companies are not for profit organizations and I believe their financial records are public knowledge. I am interested in finding out the real facts about the length of NYBC dancers and if their contract was ever a 52 weeks contract. Maybe someone reading Critical Dance will have the definite answer to this question.
I did not read too much in your first post and I am still alarmed by your position after your second post. There are more than 10 dancers that lost their jobs this year in the United States since NYCB is not the only ballet company in this country. Many companies, the latest being Ballet Florida, have closed over the past year leaving many dancers without a job and little to no opportunity to find one. Why should this be less alarming than for factory workers? It is not about elevating dancers above anyone but it is about treating them equally with other people in the work force. Can we agree on this?

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:08 pm ]
Post subject: 


My post was very much focusing the situation at NYCB, and not intended to be a generalisation. NYCB has what is probably the best contract in the company, and few other dancers receive that kind of money. But it was the NYCB dancers who made the NY Times and TimeOut NY. The issue of Pointe I received today mentions a cut of 10 or so dancers at Nevada Ballet Theatre - that would have been a much more interesting story to read, and I suspect would have been a better way to bring the news about cuts in the dance world to the general public.

Non-profits only have to make limited information available to the general public - usually what they report to the IRS. That generally includes very few actual numbers - totally income, total spent, total spend on 'charitable' aspects with a brief breakdown. And the top ten salaries of non board members. More information is often available in annual reports, but those usually come out years later and cost companies yet more money to assemble, print and distribute (I have no problem with companies that just release them on their websites).

The general AGMA contracts are all posted on AGMA's website, so it should be easy to find out how long NYCB's contract lasts. I'm guessing it's about 46 weeks give or take, but it might be 52 weeks with more limited salary during lay off. Of course, soloists and principals negotiate their own contracts which tend to take into account time off for guesting, choreography and other absences.

The point of my post was to point out that the economy has hurt us all, regardless of profession, and part of the recovery may be taking some things in stride. And that dancers are no different from the rest of us, and that in this economy, having started a career early may be very much a blessing. The vast majority dancers have taken this well in stride, but I think Ms. Flack had a little public temper tantrum, though she recovered nicely in the NY Times.

So we all should be working towards a stabilized economy where there is reasonable equity in salaries across professions. That may require cuts in some places - it might not be all bad if this all shakes out with fewer companies and fewer ballet jobs, if those jobs are secure and fairly paid. Better that than than more, but less stable jobs that pay poorly. Better to know the odds when you are heading into a career than to have them changed half way through.

Anyway, I like your idea of an article on the financial realities - some day if I have time and can get my hands on the tax forms, AGMA contracts, annual reports, and stats on things like cost of living, it might be interesting to do some comparison. But I doubt it would be easy or even possible to get the real interesting financial numbers on salary breakdowns etc.

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:36 pm ]
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A further note...

I just checked, and under normal circumstance, the minimum contract year at NYCB is 38 weeks. Factoring in vacations, which range from 2-5 weeks in the US, depending on profession and seniority, plus statutory holidays and that probably is equivalent to about a 45 week year. That would make sense since dancers usually are off in August and September (though the last few years, they've had tours in that period).

Factoring in weekly salary (beginning at about $950), and all the extras from overtime, hazard pay, per diems etc., salary is commesurate (sp?) or better than that of other skilled professions. And far better than that at almost any other company in the US for sure. Harder to compare to Canada because companies don't have to worry about basic healthcare - they'd probably get a dental package, some pension and life insurance, plus a top up healthcare package to cover what the province doesn't.

I'll be fascinated to see ABT's contract when it is posted - that's probably the closest equivalent though with a lot more touring to factor in to the equation.

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