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NYCB Dancers Cut


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#76 Alexandra

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 01:56 PM

To add to Dale's good examples, the dancers of the Royal Danish Ballet did a work stoppage to protest Frank Andersen's firing of Sorella Englund (the World's Greatest Madge :yahoo: ) back in the day. He did not renew the contracts of quite a few dancers (15? don't remember the number), mostly older ones, or people who had been injured. There was a need to cut the roster -- whether it was for financial reasons, or simply because Flindt had had the money to increase the corps in the 1960s, and those dancers were still there in 1983. There was a lot of press attention then.

#77 bart

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:10 PM

I too am trying to see this from both sides. In my view, the Union should have been brought into this.

According to the Sunday NY Times story by Daniel Watkin (published earlier on line and linked by dirac):

The dancers' union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, said City Ballet was well within its rights not to rehire the dancers. "We would have preferred to have a discussion about it and see if there was a way to preserve jobs, which is what we've done elsewhere," said James Fayette, the guild's New York area dance executive. "They just moved forward and were not interested in having that discussion."

This seems relevant to Helene's point posted above: "Since management claims that finance was the only consideration in their decision, there are/could be other ways to save the money that would have left the corps intact."

P.S. As many BT members know, Fayette is a former NYCB principal dancer. He retired in 2005.

#78 Simon G

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 03:19 PM

Abatt, dancers definitely spoke out when Ross Stretton fired (let go) dancers when he took over the Royal and later when he left the company.

Dale,

Stretton didn't even bother to fire them, I don't know if he actually legally could, but what he did do was not give leading soloists and principals any performances at all. The most famous case of jumping over pushing was Sarah Wildor, who in the first year of Stretton's dictatorship, sorry, directorship, had her work load reduced to a single performance of Giselle, it was at that point that she walked.

Stretton also very publically stated that the quality of the dancers was sub par and that they'd have to audition for every role, the only two dancers he rated were Rojo & Cojocaru and he placed on their shoulders a crippling workload which led to serious injuries for both ballerinas.

#79 justafan

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 08:42 PM

I totally understand why corps dancers are so flipped out that they are being laid off. To get to NYCB, you have to be the best of the best, and to achieve that you have had to dedicate your life to the art. To have this seemingly snuffed out --although I'm sure there are ways they can use their training in the future -- must be a horrible blow. And like many Americans these days, it is making these dancers question the choices they've made up to this point.

Still, I totally agree with Beatrice. I think that NYCB just decided they didn't need 100+ dancers in this era of austerity. What number does ABT have? 60+? Given that, they made the kinds of choices that all management does -- and cannot speak about. Certain dancers, for whatever reason that we are not privy to, were determined expendable. Management can't say why but it doesn't make it untrue. Given the fact that these professionals danced with NYCB -- two years, nine years, whatever -- should be what recommends them in the future. They not only went to the nation's best ballet school, they were chosen by the company. They should be proud of that and use that experience to drive their futures in some way. Chewing over what the issues were that led to their layoff can't help them. And making Martins a villain is just plain silly-- it holds him to a ridiculous standard.

I'm so sick and tired of the venom that is always directed at Martins. He's no Balanchine. But he's not only kept the company afloat, he's made it an Institution. And Institutions go through periods of peaks and valleys. That's why it is so criticized but I don't think anyone should take this criticism as evidence that NYCB is poorly run or other ballet companies are so exemplary. I just don't see it.

I thank these dancers for their many, many years of work that resulted in so much pleasure for me and others. And I wish them the best of luck in the future.

#80 Hans

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 08:49 PM

ABT has 89 dancers listed on its website.

#81 Helene

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 10:26 PM

San Francisco Ballet, #3 in size in the US, has 66 dancers plus 4 principal character dancers.

#82 MJ

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:42 PM

Adding to all the financial data: NYC and NYS are in DIRE financial straights. Tax revenue is way down, NYCB's annual checks from cultural affairs departments will be cut substantially.

The only variable cost a non-profit arts company has are its' own employees. Stage unions, costumers, ballet masters, rehearsal coaches, rents, electric, insurance, are fixed costs.

The company also has access to a great school for apprentice dancers, a cheap(er) source of labor.

The current credit crunch is extreme, it is not possible to borrow your way out of debt.

A world-class Ballet Company is right next store, ABT, only 20 meters away. local competition. Kennedy's and Obamas show up at their ballets. Dance Theater of Harlem's bankruptcy is a sobering reminder of what can happen.


The economic dynamics of a Ballet Company are similar to Macroeconomics: Globalism, supply and demand, competition, fixed and variable costs, raw materials and finished goods. Wish all you want, but the arts are not immune to the economic downturn.

Mike

#83 Beatrice

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 10:34 AM

Adding to all the financial data: NYC and NYS are in DIRE financial straights. Tax revenue is way down, NYCB's annual checks from cultural affairs departments will be cut substantially.

Wish all you want, but the arts are not immune to the economic downturn.

Mike


Not only are the arts "not immune" to an economic downturn, they are the first thing to suffer.

Times are tough in NYC, folks. Ignoring it does not make it untrue. And it's not just the ballet.

#84 Helene

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 10:46 AM

I haven't read a single post that argued that the arts, including NYCB, haven't suffered, or even to dispute the numbers disclosed by the Company. The discussion has been about the trade-offs made.

#85 bart

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 11:03 AM

I haven't read a single post that argued that the arts, including NYCB, haven't suffered, or even to dispute the numbers disclosed by the Company. The discussion has been about the trade-offs made.

Absolutely. As to an earlier statement that "times are tough," I don't think anyone here needs to be reminded of this fact. It's tough to be in the arts and it's tough to be on the streets in 2009. But this is not 1931 or 1932. There are resources, though fewer than before. It's legitimate to discuss -- and even argue over -- how these resources should be allocated and in whose interests this should be done.

#86 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 01:17 PM

Adding to all the financial data: NYC and NYS are in DIRE financial straights. Tax revenue is way down, NYCB's annual checks from cultural affairs departments will be cut substantially.


There's no disputing the fact that both NYC and NYS face significant financial challenges, and that this will almost certainly mean cut backs in arts funding. Fortunately -- in this context at least -- NYCB receives comparably little in direct funding from government sources. (Let's leave aside for the moment indirect subsidies in the form of tax-deductible contributions and whatever benefits might accrue from being a resident organization of Lincoln Center.) Its direct government funding could be cut in half -- indeed, cut entirely -- and NYCB would still have sufficient resources to continue operating on its present scale.

Per NYCB's 2008 Annual Report (which you can find here) Operating Revenues from all sources totaled $59.7 million. Of that amount, $26.8 million (45%) came from ticket sales and touring fees, $9.3 million (16%) came from investment income released from the endowment, and $22.1 million (37%) came from Public Support. Of that amount, $1.34 million came from NYC and $340 thousand came from other governmental agencies. The balance of Public Support came from non-governmental sources, i.e., contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

So, about $1.7 million of NYCB's total operating revenues were from NYC or other governmental sources. Now, $1.7 million isn't chump change, but for an organization with $60 million in revenues, $61 million in operating expenses, and an endowment that has recently ranged between about $140 million and $170 million (depending on the market) it's a relative drop in the bucket - just 2.7% of operating expenses. If NYCB's management and board couldn't cover that amount between expense reduction and fund raising, the company needs new leadership and sharper pencils.

Please note that I'm not suggesting that NYCB shouldn't receive government funding (that's a discussion for another day), only that actual or anticipated cuts in direct government funding weren't -- or at least shouldn't have been -- the trigger for cuts in the roster.

Edited to add: The recent market crash and current recession will undoubtedly have an impact on revenue from other sources -- e.g., ticket sales, donations, and income from the endowment -- my post was intended to address government funding only. I have no doubt that NYCB's board and management looked at the books and determined that cutbacks were prudent given the current financial environment.

A second point: a number of commenters have suggested that NYCB is using less-expensive apprentices in lieu of retaining more-expensive members of the corps. Is the really the case? NYCB has taken in apprentices every year that I can remember, and, with very rare exceptions, all of those apprentices are absorbed into the company within a season or two. It's part of the company's life cycle, no? Are they taking in more this year than they normally do?

#87 Helene

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 01:48 PM

A second point: a number of commenters have suggested that NYCB is using less-expensive apprentices in lieu of retaining more-expensive members of the corps. Is the really the case? NYCB has taken in apprentices every year that I can remember, and, with very rare exceptions, all of those apprentices are absorbed into the company within a season or two. It's part of the company's life cycle, no? Are they taking in more this year than they normally do?

That was the way they grew the company so big.

When did NYCB first start to hire apprentices?

PNB just absorbed all six apprentices from last year into this year's corps, the largest number since I've been in Seattle, but hired only one for next year, Ezra Thompson, one of the most impressive young men I've seen come out of the school.

#88 Marga

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 10:53 PM

Ezra Thompson, one of the most impressive young men I've seen come out of the school.

That's good to read about Ezra. He was in the Orlando Ballet School and a trainee from 2005 with Orlando Ballet when my daughter was also in Orlando. I wasn't very impressed with him them, but he was okay, still quite young. I'm so glad to read your assessment of him! He sure has been working hard the past few years.

#89 miliosr

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Posted 10 January 2010 - 12:40 PM

Gia Kourlas includes the February Massacre in her 'Worst of 2009' list:

http://newyork.timeo...-of-2009/2.html

In defense of Peter Martins, I don't think the union agreement would have allowed him to do what she's suggesting. I think a more fruitful line of attack for her would have been to question where the money is coming from to pay for all of the recent promotions when the lack of money (and the corresponding deficit) was used to justify the dismissal of the corps dancers.

#90 liebs

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Posted 10 January 2010 - 03:39 PM

I think it is important ot remember that it is not just salaries that make up the cost of a dancer. There is also insurance, union benefits, shoes and many other expenses per person. So a larger company is more expensive.


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