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Is the economy affecting ballet attendance, budgets?


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#1 bart

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 05:38 AM

In a post on the Paul Taylor opening, zerbinetta wrote:

We atttended Thursday's opening night. A glorious program (Byzantium, De Suenos, Arden Court) gloriously danced.

The Mezzanine was perhaps one quarter full; the orchestra looked to be about 75% full.

This is not good.


This called to mind several other references to small (or smallish) audiences for ballet and dance generally which have been posted on BT recently. I was surprised, for instance, at the relatively low turnout (about 2/3 full) for a Ballet Florida's highly publicized production of Ben Stevenson's Cleopatra last night. I would have thought that THAT event, at least, would have brought out the new audiences.

Does anyone have any impressions -- or hard news -- about a decline in ticket sales or donations for companies that you follow -- either in the US or in other countries?

If there has been such a decline, do you have any sense that it's related to negative economic situations or perceptions (recession fears, mortgage problems, cost of living, or other economic variables) affecting the US and the world?

#2 Michael

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 06:16 AM

I think ticket sales were up at NYCB this Winter.

#3 vrsfanatic

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 06:33 AM

Moiseyev was sold out in Miami last week. Not a seat in the house. The show was great BTW. I keep hearing ABT is also sold out in Miami next week. :angel_not:

#4 SanderO

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 08:21 AM

It would depend on the demographics of the "general" ballet going public.

Those taking the biggest hit in this depression will be the bottom end. The very bottom couldn't afford ballet to begin with. The lower middle class is was an expensive luxury and it will be one of the first things to drop away.

The middle middle class will simply cut back on everything and may still have some cash for "entertainment", but they may have to choose between ballet, opera, theater, sports etc.

The upper middle class are feeling the inch and will move to cheaper seats perhaps or simply attend fewer performances and be more selective in their choices. They will cut back on their support as well.

The upper class will continue in the same numbers in attendance and support. But they will be asked to provide more support.

Short answer, less people attend ballet in a depression and those that do are well off.

#5 carbro

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 11:21 AM

I don't think there were more than 40 people in the Rear Mezzanine of City Center last night. You can see that this left the area feeling pretty empty. (On the seating chart it is the section at the bottom of your screen.) Those seats are $15 each, so I doubt the economy is to blame. And with so few of the seats occupied, getting the notoriously rare decent seats in that section is not a problem.

I don't know people aren't going. The Grand Tier looked fairly well sold, mid-mezz about 2/3 full -- maybe a little less. So people are buying the more expensive seats. I didn't see how populated the orchestra level was.

I hear that compared to other nights this week, last night was more well attended. :angel_not:

#6 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 11:56 AM

It would depend on the demographics of the "general" ballet going public.

Those taking the biggest hit in this depression will be the bottom end. The very bottom couldn't afford ballet to begin with. The lower middle class is was an expensive luxury and it will be one of the first things to drop away.

The middle middle class will simply cut back on everything and may still have some cash for "entertainment", but they may have to choose between ballet, opera, theater, sports etc.

The upper middle class are feeling the inch and will move to cheaper seats perhaps or simply attend fewer performances and be more selective in their choices. They will cut back on their support as well.

The upper class will continue in the same numbers in attendance and support. But they will be asked to provide more support.

Short answer, less people attend ballet in a depression and those that do are well off.


I think that's exactly right. Ballet tickets are part of consumption just like anything else paid for, and since it's no longer a purely aristocratic affair, there's no way it could not be affected since people are well-known already to be cutting back on things much less luxurious than ballet. I expect to see much less attendance, particularly in light of the job losses report.

#7 bart

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 08:05 PM

Just wanted to report that the next 2 performances of the Ballet Florida Cleopatra were better attended than the opening night -- appearing to be about 80% of a 2000+ seat house. As carbro has noticed at City Center, the more expensive sections seemed to be the fullest.

Any other reports from your local -- or not-so-local theaters? And how about Europe, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere? Please keeep the reports coming.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 09:09 PM

Just wanted to report that the next 2 performances of the Ballet Florida Cleopatra were better attended than the opening night -- appearing to be about 80% of a 2000+ seat house. As carbro has noticed at City Center, the more expensive sections seemed to be the fullest.

Any other reports from your local -- or not-so-local theaters? And how about Europe, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere? Please keeep the reports coming.


Bart, how can somebody getting paid $6.50 per hour afford a ballet performance ? . Budget affects it for sure. Opening up a little, i must confess that if it wasn't for some contacts that provide me with free tickets, i wouldn't be able to go as often as i do. I sure miss the full accesibility...

#9 Natalia

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 06:50 AM

The Hermitage Ballet tour throughout the Southern US was sparsely attended in most stops. For example, I read that only 200 tickets were sold for the first of two concerts in Atlanta's cavernous main civic center, which may explain why the final stop on the tour was cancelled.

Recent NYC events that I attended -- Vishneva and Ananiashvila-Georgians -- were jam-packed, thanks in large part, to the expat community from former Soviet republics.

The Kennedy Center fills-up for known foreign classical ballet troupes, especially for performances of the 'bread-and-butter' classical repertoire. It fills up for ABT when that troupe performs full-length classics; less so for mixed rep. The Japanese ballet's two performances of 'Raymonda' were jam-packed; not so with the initial mixed rep night. I did not go to the recent NYCB run of mixed rep but was told that the 2nd tier was about 'half full' the first two nights.

#10 cahill

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 09:32 AM

The attendance at the Miami Program 3 performances were not as full as I would have thought on Friday's opening night. There were more younger people than I have seen at Lauderdale and West Palm, there is a very senior crowd at those venues, yet another problem for ballet in years to come. Saturday night and Sunday appeared to be better attended. Perhaps traffic is an issue?

I thought the crowd last year in Lauderdale for the Symphony in three Movements, Program 3, was lighter than this year's program 3. In fact, if I recall correctly Edward Villella commented on the attendance during his pre-performance talks last year.

#11 bart

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 09:56 AM

I thought the crowd last year in Lauderdale for the Symphony in three Movements, Program 3, was lighter than this year's program 3. In fact, if I recall correctly Edward Villella commented on the attendance during his pre-performance talks last year

MCB dropped a Friday Matinee from its West Palm program this year -- reducing total performances to 4 for the weekend.

Some thoughts:

Regarding costs. It seems that the Kravis Center in West Palm -- as well as various presenters -- really have to hustle at the last minute to give away free tickets to fill seats when the program is embarrassingly unsold. The positive is that you see many students from the dance and arts schools, who would not ordinarily get to see ANY live high-class artistic performance. The negative is that it costs time and money to arrange, creates a certain amount of resentment among those who have actually purchased tickets, and brings in no revenue to the presenter.

Worse, I think, is that you don't build committed, self-conscious "audiences" that way. Audiences, even young people nowadays, need predictability and the ability to make plans in advance. Would it be possible for a company or presenter to commit a certain number of tickets (and not just the worst seats) as "student discount tickets" and market them for the entire season. What's better: one free ticket offered at the last minute, or the chance to but a series of $10 or $15 tickets in advance, just like "regular" consumers? I suspect many younger people would vote for the latter.

Does anyone actually do anything like that?

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 10:35 AM

What's better: one free ticket offered at the last minute, or the chance to but a series of $10 or $15 tickets in advance, just like "regular" consumers? I suspect many younger people would vote for the latter.

Does anyone actually do anything like that?

Before the controversial Carnival Center opened and MCB was based on the Beach's Jackie Gleason, they used to do a once a month sale at their box office. It was $ 10 dollars tickets for College Students and seniors who lived on the Beach. It was on a monday morning, (which back then was my day off), and i used to buy all the tickets for all the performances that i wanted. Around noon the tickets were gone already, (there used to be long lines). Now they don't do that anymore...

#13 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 10:35 AM

We're getting a lot of input here on audience/attendance. Anybody see evidence of production values sliding because companies are trying to produce works on the cheap?

#14 carbro

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 12:44 PM

Recent NYC events that I attended -- Vishneva and Ananiashvila-Georgians -- were jam-packed, thanks in large part, to the expat community from former Soviet republics.

Discount coupons were e-mailed for both of these events. They may have helped.

I wonder if some of Heritage's problems stem from the fact that it visited cities where that don't have large, native ballet audiences. While there is virtue in bringing ballet to places that don't often get it, it does seem commercially risky.

#15 bart

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 12:49 PM

We're getting a lot of input here on audience/attendance. Anybody see evidence of production values sliding because companies are trying to produce works on the cheap?

Good question. We've frequently talked about the decline of live music at performances. Other than that, though, what I notice most in our locality are:

(1) ... an occasional tendency to repeat ballets that were performed only 1 or 2 seasons ago. (This must save on the cost of bringing in people to reset work that is new or has been mostly forgotten.)

(2) ... a proliferation of touring Russian Swan Lakes. (There ARE other ballets, even familiar ones) :) .

I have the feeling that the big donors down here in south Florida would not tolerate a noticeable decline in production quality, even if the 2 biggest ballet companies were willing to propose it.


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