We've had threads recently on the economic difficulties of certain companies (especially Ballet Florida). We've also had many posts making suggestions to ABT for future programming. Perhaps this interview -- which focuses on the business side of running a major ballet company -- will provide a context for thinking about some of the economic as well as aesthetic choices facing ballet companies in the U.S. today.
Among some of the interesting points:
-- Moore spends
a lot of time trying to position Ballet Theatre as a national company and work on our brand.
-- Ticket sales cover about 50% of costs.
If a ballet doesn't sell well, it definitely hurts us.
-- The Board of Directors (there are now 60 on ABT's) are expected to
make a significant annual donation each year, attend special events, and give to the endowment [ .... ] Some are affliated with a corporation and their role is corporate philanthropy, so they represent their business, which gets a lot of PR from being on the board. [ ... ] We don't cultivate people for the board who aren't ticket buyers. We want people who will come and enjoy the company so it's n ot just about having your name on the board.
-- The success of a production like Sleeping Beauty
allows us to pay for ballets like Manon. I love Manon; it's a beautify ballet, of which there are many, like Onegin, that do not sell well. We have to try to balance the two. If we did everything we loved that didn't sell we'd be bankrupt. I often have to break Kevin [Mackenzie]'s heart by trading off the consistently good selling productions with those that don't sell well. [ ... ] When I talk to friends in Germany or France, I can't believe the kind of money they have to spend. It's incredible, really.
-- Last year's new production of Sleeping Beauty, despite unfavorable reviews, sold well.
[T]icket sales were six percent above our goal. Interestingly, ticket sales got better as that first week went along, despite the poor reivews ... We did try to position it before it opened as something family-oriented. This wasn't going to be your traditional Sleeping Beauty.
Incidentally, this particular Ballet Review is a real treasure trove. Included are two Ballet Talk regulars: Leigh Witchel's review of several casts of the Royal Ballet's Jewels and Paul Parrish's review of the Kavanagh biography of Nureyev. There's also a long, very thoughtful piece discussing Diaghelev and Kirstein and their influence on the development of ballet.