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Saratoga, the NYCB, and ways to market ballet


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#16 MJ

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 07:02 PM

A few years ago, the NY Philharmonic asked NY State to help develop a summer location for the NYP. It never went anywhere for many reasons. They realized a suburban location within a few hours drive is key. Saratoga is too far for day trippers, and has to compete with the Berkshires (tanglewood and jacob's pillow).

My day trips to Tanglewood, I've noticed my group was the youngest there. Young people are not exposed to culture as much.

As Nutcracker season approaches, I'm curious if companies have tried to use the nutcracker franchise to grow their audience?

#17 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 07:25 PM

As Nutcracker season approaches, I'm curious if companies have tried to use the nutcracker franchise to grow their audience?

...I have my hesitation on the supposed winning outcome of this strategy... :)

#18 Globetrotter

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 07:21 PM

Here's a little stream of consiousness...

I grew up in Saratoga in the 50's and 60's and spent a lot of time at SPAC. Although it was always a NYS institution, it seemed to be actually conceived of and directed by a few wealthy individuals, (Vanderbilts, Whitneys) who were friends of Nelson Rockefeller. This is not bad. Without Governor Rockefeller we probably wouldn't have Lincoln Center, either. These people had the rare combination of vision, power, money and artistic sensibility to create something like SPAC (sounds a bit like Lincoln Kirstein, too). I think we lack these leaders today.

And SPAC was only part of what Saratoga created in the early 1960s. The flat track was a major other part. We had horses and ballet in Saratoga (and the Philadelphia Orchestra, too) so the entire summer in Saratoga had a very different feel the first year SPAC opened and for years after. Lots of my friends' parents would rent their houses for a month to the 'horse people' and move to their cottages in the Adirondacks. Not so many horse people rent houses these days, and the NYCB season is down to less than three weeks. I think the new and exciting feel is gone and SPAC has grown plain.

I remember seeing Balanchine's Jewels at SPAC as my first ballet, and thought all ballet looked like that. Needless to say, I kept coming back. As far as finding a new audience, I quickly found out that the ballet was an effective place to take a first date. My high school buddies realized the same thing, so the ballet had an instant audience of teenagers on the lawn, some of whom were even paying attention to the stage.

So SPAC's troubles are NYCB's troubles, too. We might not have the leaders, nor the special synergy between sports and arts, but I'll remember my first evening at the Ballet, when the curtains opened at each new Act - the stage unbelievably Green, then blazing Red, then dazzelingly White - filled with these wonderful creatures....

#19 bart

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 06:12 AM

A few years ago, the NY Philharmonic asked NY State to help develop a summer location for the NYP. It never went anywhere for many reasons. They realized a suburban location within a few hours drive is key. Saratoga is too far for day trippers, and has to compete with the Berkshires (tanglewood and jacob's pillow).


I grew up in Saratoga in the 50's and 60's and spent a lot of time at SPAC. Although it was always a NYS institution, it seemed to be actually conceived of and directed by a few wealthy individuals, (Vanderbilts, Whitneys) who were friends of Nelson Rockefeller. This is not bad. Without Governor Rockefeller we probably wouldn't have Lincoln Center, either. These people had the rare combination of vision, power, money and artistic sensibility to create something like SPAC (sounds a bit like Lincoln Kirstein, too). I think we lack these leaders today.

I remember seeing Balanchine's Jewels at SPAC as my first ballet, and thought all ballet looked like that. Needless to say, I kept coming back. As far as finding a new audience, I quickly found out that the ballet was an effective place to take a first date. My high school buddies realized the same thing, so the ballet had an instant audience of teenagers on the lawn, some of whom were even paying attention to the stage.

So SPAC's troubles are NYCB's troubles, too. We might not have the leaders, nor the special synergy between sports and arts, but I'll remember my first evening at the Ballet, when the curtains opened at each new Act - the stage unbelievably Green, then blazing Red, then dazzelingly White - filled with these wonderful creatures....

Thanks to both of you for your comments. There is so much more involved in making ballet a success than just what happens on stage.

Social patterns of "vacationing," community/artistic leadership, and the culture in general do seem to have chanaged quite a bit since the Saratoga season was initiated. I love the image of teenagers attending the ballet and -- sometimes -- actually paying attention. It seems like another century (oh my gosh! -- it was another century) and, indeed, another solar system. :flowers:

#20 Farrell Fan

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 06:46 AM

Nice recollections, Globetrotter. To have had "Jewels" as your first ballet (with Verdy. McBride, and Farrell, one hopes) in that magical Saratoga setting, is a memory to be cherished. Thanks for sharing it. You also mention the racing. That's one aspect of the Saratoga you remember that is just as popular today as then. There's something about the place that the other New York tracks, Aqueduct and Belmont, can't hope to duplicate. History perhaps?

#21 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 08:44 AM

My impression is that the publicity for NYCB at Saratoga is left to SPAC. The information about the season does not appear at the State Theater until SPAC sends down the flyers (for the entire SPAC season) to the Company, usually in June.

Probably, as always, money is the problem (publicity ads, mailings and now online). But a coordinated Summer Dance Festival would be stupendous.

#22 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 09:29 AM

This just in from the "Business Review" tho I'm not sure what paper:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 9:37 AM EDT
SPAC seeks public input on events

Gift giveaway days, outdoor movie nights and better food are among several ideas floated in a Saratoga Performing Arts Center survey looking for ways to improve the concert and dance venue.

The president of the nonprofit Saratoga Spa State Park concert center is seeking public input regarding it's Freihofer's Jazz Fest, New York City Ballet, Philadelphia Orchestra, Wine and Food Fest and other events.



This is a link to the article, which has a link to SPAC and the survey discussed.

Obviously, they can use our input!

#23 4mrdncr

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 07:53 PM

This summer and last, I really wanted to make a trip up to Saratoga to support NYCB's presence there. But I couldn't find a bus or train home! I'm not politically committed enough to pay for a hotel room, I'm afraid.

The NYCB Guild used to send a bus up once each summer. I haven't heard of them doing that for years now. If they do, maybe they only advertise it to guild members.

My guess is, offer an 11:30 pm bus from Saratoga to NYC, and you'll have, over the course of the summer, a few hundred more seats in seats -- or the lawn.



Just saw this and had to comment. I have the same problem coming into NYC to see anything. No transport back to MA after 6pm, or Hartford, CT (from which I still have to drive 45minutes to home) after 10pm. Several times, I have wandered the city at night, or spent a few hours in an all-night cafe, waiting for the earliest bus/train back north--which leaves at 4:30AM. Not horrible to do in the summer, but very tough in the winter.


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