Amy Reusch

Presenting ballet on college campuses (campi?)

31 posts in this topic

I was sadly surprised to discover the performing arts center on the University of Connectucut campus is presenting no dance in it's 2011-2012 season except for Connecticut Ballet's Nutcracker. In the past we've gotten standard college tour fare: one night stand Russians, AspenSsanta Fe, Complexions, Graham, Parsons, Taylor, Tharp, Philobolus, etc... Or so it has been for the past dozen or so years since I've lived here... I've been impressed by how the Jorgensrn would get generally better quality than plays the broadway road house called The Bushnell in Hartford. The Jorgensen leaves a lot to be desired (don't epect to see the dancers feet or anything below the knees if you sit in the orchestra) (and no fly space for sets) but the programming has been very good (just sit on the risers for a good view of the performance). The brochures tended to do things like sell Swan Lake with pictures of The Shades from Bayadere... But still... The absence of dance from the programming this year shocked me.

Is this a trend in college arts presenting across the country or a unique benefit of living under the culteral influence of the University of Connecricut? Please tell me it is a fluke and not a sign of things to come...

Share this post


Link to post

The University of Washington rarely has ballet companies in its World Dance Series. Cal Performances at Berkeley has ballet companies in some seasons. Last year they had RDB; this year there are none. Last year they also had Sylvie Guillem in Eonnagata.

Share this post


Link to post

CAl Performances's list is short but it's good -- including the world dance that they've always presented.

In flush times, back before the collapse of Lehmann Bros., and with a special round of fund-raising to mark hte end of Robert Cole's tenure as head of Cal Perfs, they presented bot hthe Kirov and the Bolshoi. Actually, I remember writing then that we would not see the likes of this extravagant programming again for a LONG time. Perhaps the crash had begun, but the things that had been set in train were still coming to pass....

Houses have been small forthings I've seen; UC Berkeley is being cut back in ways it never has before, since the state has no money and it's a state university. Cal Performances has been self-supporting for a long time, but so many UC staff have lost their jobs, and he prospect of further cutbacks is looming, and the loss in value of real estate has been so chilling, people who might have bought tickets are holding back....

Share this post


Link to post

The University of Washington rarely has ballet companies in its World Dance Series. Cal Performances at Berkeley has ballet companies in some seasons. Last year they had RDB; this year there are none. Last year they also had Sylvie Guillem in Eonnagata.

So I guess Corella Ballet was lucky to be invited to perform at the University of Washington in May? If I remember correctly, they were not the only dance company to perform there this past year--though the only classical company. (Correct any details at will.)

Share this post


Link to post

So I guess Corella Ballet was lucky to be invited to perform at the University of Washington in May? If I remember correctly, they were not the only dance company to perform there this past year--though the only classical company. (Correct any details at will.)

Yes, that has been rare in the last 15-20 years. It's a World Dance Series, and its mission is much broader than ballet or, for that matter, classical anything.

I don't know the ins and outs of creating a series, but I assume it's a combination of audience expectations, continental representation, money, scheduling, and good marketing/networking.

Share this post


Link to post

I reviewed the SUNY Purchase brochure today, and was excited to see that Corella Ballet was scheduled to perform, until I looked at the price of tickets. Then, I remembered why I rarely attend cultural events, even though I live in NYC. Even if the economy were not struggling, I still would not routinely expend such sums on tickets; I would only pay for expensive tickets on a special occasion. This is another reason why attendance is so poor, and ballet companies are struggling. (I don't know if this post belongs in the thread on marketing of dancers or other threads discussing funding the arts.)

Share this post


Link to post

I reviewed the SUNY Purchase brochure today, and was excited to see that Corella Ballet was scheduled to perform, until I looked at the price of tickets. Then, I remembered why I rarely attend cultural events, even though I live in NYC. Even if the economy were not struggling, I still would not routinely expend such sums on tickets; I would only pay for expensive tickets on a special occasion. This is another reason why attendance is so poor, and ballet companies are struggling. (I don't know if this post belongs in the thread on marketing of dancers or other threads discussing funding the arts.)

The price range of $54-$70 isn't actually that bad, especially compared to London where ticket prices can reach the $200+ mark for a best seat ticket. The thing is though live performance costs a great deal and it's part of the joy and immediate pleasure of what makes dance, and in truth the Corella ballet is a good deal cheaper than a show on Broadway, a musical or indeed ballet in the city centre.

But one thing is certain without those prices live performance simply couldn't exist.

Share this post


Link to post

I reviewed the SUNY Purchase brochure today, and was excited to see that Corella Ballet was scheduled to perform, until I looked at the price of tickets. Then, I remembered why I rarely attend cultural events, even though I live in NYC. Even if the economy were not struggling, I still would not routinely expend such sums on tickets; I would only pay for expensive tickets on a special occasion. This is another reason why attendance is so poor, and ballet companies are struggling. (I don't know if this post belongs in the thread on marketing of dancers or other threads discussing funding the arts.)

The price range of $54-$70 isn't actually that bad, especially compared to London where ticket prices can reach the $200+ mark for a best seat ticket. The thing is though live performance costs a great deal and it's part of the joy and immediate pleasure of what makes dance, and in truth the Corella ballet is a good deal cheaper than a show on Broadway, a musical or indeed ballet in the city centre.

But one thing is certain without those prices live performance simply couldn't exist.

Double the ticket price for a couple, and then add $16 for tolls, x for gas, x for parking, and perhaps x for clothing and a babysitter. The price may be relatively cheaper than other entertainment and even necessary for the ballet's budget, but still too high for many fans' budgets. Regardless of the pleasure I would obtain, I cannot justify it, particularly when I have an elderly parent at home on a fixed budget with inflation increasing his costs but not his income, and nieces and nephews with a range of needs.

Share this post


Link to post

As a side note to the general discussion...When Corella Ballet appeared in LA last November, USC, which has a series for its students to expose them to international arts, sent a contingent of 100 students to Corella Ballet's opening night's performance. As an alumnus of the university's film school with detailed info about the company, I was invited to give a pre-performance lecture to the students about the company and my documentary. So, even if CBCL did not perform at USC, the students (and their admins) still made a point of attending, and learning about the company and ballet, and hopefully will now attend other ballet performances at the LAMC or elsewhere. My only problem that night was that no one (USC or LAMC) had provided a large screen monitor to show my trailer + clips and I consequently spent the previous 2-days frantically trying to find one at less than an extortionist's price.

Share this post


Link to post

I wish I could have heard your presentation. I think it's great the USC tied film to the company's visit to LA.

About pricing, University of Washington World Dance Series tickets are $39-$48 standard, with small discounts for subscriber add-ons -- there are multiple series in addition to World Dance -- and faculty/alumni. Student tickets are $20, which was my entire weekly budget almost four decades ago. (My meal plan covered food.)

I was lucky to have been able to usher, which meant I got in free. My alma mater, Wesleyan University, was midway between Hartford and New Haven, and we were lucky to be able to hear top-notch music, with the faculty and graduates of Hartt and Yale so near, in addition to the number of great musicians who lived in Connecticut. My favorite concert in four years was a recital by Jan de Gaetani.

There was very little dance, though. There were a few presentations in the small summer festival held at the university, and I remember being hired to do wardrobe for a modern dance company called 3 x 5. My job was to iron these incredible silver-colored capes that flowed so beautifully and were used in a piece to a recording of a George Crumb piece, which I came to love.

Back from the digression:

$50-$80 might not sound like much for a ticket at SUNY Purchase, but it's not like NYC or London where there's extensive public transportation, or like Seattle where most patrons drive and parking is relatively inexpensive. To drive to Purchase is heavy on tolls and patience, especially on the way up during the four-hour rush hour window, and not easy on gas. To get there by public transport is an arduous process.

Round-trip peak to White Plains is another $21/per person plus bus or taxi fare in both directions. I know that's not 200 GBP, but why schlep to Purchase when you can take the subway or bus to something a lot closer and not spend that much more in total.

ETA: Sorry, puppytreats -- I didn't see your post on commuting costs.

Share this post


Link to post

It was my idea to tie the film and CBCL's LA performances together. I told the USC staff I was an alum, and I was making a doc about the company, and they thought it was a good fit. I'm glad they did. The LAMC was unhelpful, and obstructive, though the venue was beautiful as always.

BTW: Every time I come to NYC it is an 8hr round-trip bus (trains are more expensive and less accomodating times), and costs me between $100-$300 on top of the ballet ticket price (depending on whether I could attend a matinee thereby saving on hotel costs or had to stay over); which is why I liked Fourth Ring NYCB tix, but had to save up for many months to attend ABT at the Met, or anyone else at NYCC. I didn't attend any CBCL perfs this year, because I simply could not afford it. I have never received a comp ticket from either AC or his company (though 2008-09, while filming, I had free access).

Share this post


Link to post

I've been mulling this over for awhile. Like the rest of arts presenting, there are a combination of elements involved, some based in the art and some in the audience. For some schools, the college is the primary (or only) arts presenter for their audience. The idea of the "college town," a community with more cultural resources than its size would usually support, thanks to the presence of a school, still does apply in many places (although the rise of cable television, video/DVD rental and the internet has changed that dynamic significantly). In other locations, the college theater is just one of several venues, and their programming is in competition with those other colleagues. But in both of these cases, the college presenter has responsibilities to their school as well as to the outside audience -- their choices usually reflect academic goals as well as purely artistic or commercial ones.

This all gets complicated by the general challenges of touring dance. I don't need to describe the overall situation to this crowd, except to say that we've all noticed a nose dive in the number of ballet groups who tour steadily outside of major cities. Even if you're committed to presenting ballet specifically, there just aren't as many groups to call on as there were even 20 years ago.

Modern dance in the US has a very strong connection to the college touring circuit -- artists like Martha Graham and Jose Limon would often go from school to school, teaching in college P.E. and dance programs and performing on what they used to call the "gymnasium circuit" (since many of the venues were converted gymnasium spaces). At the same time, ballet companies (like the Ballet Russe) performed in former vaudeville houses, on tours run by bookers like Sol Hurok. There was a de facto divide between the dance forms -- modern was intellectual and ballet was entertaining. There is still a whiff of that distinction in programming choices today.

Next to those traditional influences is the contemporary image of dance. Where 20 years ago most people might automatically think of ballet or musical comedy if you asked them to name the kinds of dance you'd watch in a theater, the influence of music videos, contemporary dance films and hip hop/breakdancing have broadened the popular image of dance as a performing art. A college venue that wants to include "dance" on a performance series with music and theater won't necessarily think of ballet as a separate form, distinct from all their other dance choices.

One other element, at least in the college venues, is the increase of world/ethnic arts presenting. There has been a concerted effort over the last 20 years to bring artists from all over the globe to American audiences, and this has also broadened the general definition of "dance" for most presenters. And since there are still only 52 weekends a year, a rise in the number of options means that any one choice will have a smaller part of the pie. Alas, the tightening of touring visa requirements and rising costs for processing will likely shut that part of the market down for smaller theaters.

This is getting long, so I'll end here, but it is a big issue, and I know that presenters do take it seriously.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember the last time Miami City Ballet came through and performed at Evergreen State College in Olympia. It was the middle of the week, and I couldn't go to see it :(

I think Cal Performances at Berkeley covers the territory of both UW World Dance and Seattle Theater Group. San Francisco Ballet's post-"Nutcracker" rep season begins in January and goes through end of April or beginning of May, with the opera seasons in the Spring and Fall. Half of the Cal Performances season doesn't compete with San Francisco Ballet for the dance audience. Their modern dance offerings more well-known names -- this year: Mark Morris, Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch/Wuppertal, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, Trey McIntyre Project -- while World Dance is part of a combined "World" category of music, dance, and theater. They also have more venues, with Zellerbach being the biggest. I once heard one of Jordi Savall's groups play at a neighborhood church, and you could hear sirens and drunken students intermittently through the windows.

If there's a ballet company touring, Cal Performances gets it for the SF area, just like STG would present it if the company was willing to tour north of San Francisco.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember the last time Miami City Ballet came through and performed at Evergreen State College in Olympia. It was the middle of the week, and I couldn't go to see it :(

They've had some modern groups that haven't made it up to Seattle as well -- I don't know who's programming them right now, but they're an excellent example of a venue that books work for both the school and the community at large.

I think Cal Performances at Berkeley covers the territory of both UW World Dance and Seattle Theater Group. San Francisco Ballet's post-"Nutcracker" rep season begins in January and goes through end of April or beginning of May, with the opera seasons in the Spring and Fall. Half of the Cal Performances season doesn't compete with San Francisco Ballet for the dance audience. Their modern dance offerings more well-known names -- this year: Mark Morris, Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch/Wuppertal, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, Trey McIntyre Project -- while World Dance is part of a combined "World" category of music, dance, and theater. They also have more venues, with Zellerbach being the biggest. I once heard one of Jordi Savall's groups play at a neighborhood church, and you could hear sirens and drunken students intermittently through the windows.

As I understand it, Cal Performances is less tightly connected to the school than Meany Hall is. And they do work with multiple venues, including several that they don't own, but only rent. But they do have a good relationship with Meany, and have cooperated on some things in the past. The two presenters are often thought of as bookending the west coast.

If there's a ballet company touring, Cal Performances gets it for the SF area, just like STG would present it if the company was willing to tour north of San Francisco.

It's a little more complex than that, or Corella Ballet would have been at the Paramount last spring instead of at Meany. And it was Meany that presented the Eifman company in 2001 and 2003. But it's true that the vast majority of Meany's bookings have been modern and world dance oriented, and I think it's likely that if Miami were to come through town now STG would certainly be in the running. I'm still kicking myself for missing the last Dance Theater of Harlem shows at STG in 2004!

Share this post


Link to post

If there's a ballet company touring, Cal Performances gets it for the SF area, just like STG would present it if the company was willing to tour north of San Francisco.

It's a little more complex than that, or Corella Ballet would have been at the Paramount last spring instead of at Meany. And it was Meany that presented the Eifman company in 2001 and 2003. But it's true that the vast majority of Meany's bookings have been modern and world dance oriented, and I think it's likely that if Miami were to come through town now STG would certainly be in the running. I'm still kicking myself for missing the last Dance Theater of Harlem shows at STG in 2004!

I should have been more specific: if there was a major ballet company touring, STG would present it, like they've presented ABT and the Bolshoi Ballet. Meany can't support the scenic requirements for the story ballets with which major companies tour. Cal Performances has presented Bolshoi, Mariinsky, and RDB at Zellerbach, and San Francisco Ballet performed a major story ballet there to end the last season they were banished from War Memorial for seismic upgrades. (I think it was "Swan Lake", the only program I didn't see that season.) STG also presented Lyon Opera Ballet. I'm sure I read at the time that they required a bigger venue than Meany, although I can't remember enough about the program to know whether this was scenery driven. (I only remember "Jardi Tancat".) I think they would have looked better on the Meany stage.

I wouldn't put either Eifman or Corella Ballet in the major category.

Share this post


Link to post

I should have been more specific: if there was a major ballet company touring, STG would present it, like they've presented ABT and the Bolshoi Ballet. Meany can't support the scenic requirements for the story ballets with which major companies tour. Cal Performances has presented Bolshoi, Mariinsky, and RDB at Zellerbach, and San Francisco Ballet performed a major story ballet there to end the last season they were banished from War Memorial for seismic upgrades. (I think it was "Swan Lake", the only program I didn't see that season.) STG also presented Lyon Opera Ballet. I'm sure I read at the time that they required a bigger venue than Meany, although I can't remember enough about the program to know whether this was scenery driven. (I only remember "Jardi Tancat".) I think they would have looked better on the Meany stage.

I wouldn't put either Eifman or Corella Ballet in the major category.

I see the distinction you're making here. If we're looking specifically at technical requirements, then the Paramount might edge out Meany (although Meany has a full fly loft -- I think they handled the scenic stuff for Eifman without trouble) but companies like ABT and the Bolshoi would really be better off at McCaw Hall (I remember worrying that people would fall off the stage into the orchestra pit during the Bolshoi's performance of the ballroom scene in R&J!) But McCaw isn't really available for that kind of touring rental, unless the timing works out absolutely perfectly, not to mention the implied competition with PNB. And that's when we get into the audience factor -- who goes where to see what.

But getting back to the topic (college presenters) Since I'm supposed to be working, I did some nosing around about who has what kind of facilities, and what they've got scheduled this year. Just looking at three university affiliated schools (Ohio State/Wexner Center, Krannert Center/U of Illinois, Cal Performances/UC Berkeley) there are some interesting differences in the way the market themselves as well as the kind of performances they present.

In no particular order...

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Champaign-Urbana, IL

Tryon Festival Theatre

seats 979

40 x 35 stage

front curtain

They’ve got several theaters in one complex, including a 2,000 seat concert hall, but the Tryon seems to be the touring dance venue. They list dance as “Movement - Bodies in Motion” on their website, but they don’t seem to sell a dance series, or a mixed-art series that includes dance (though they don’t do that for theater either -- music is the only performing art sold in a series). They’ve got nine touring dance events on their schedule, one of which is three nights of the Moscow Festival Ballet (2 Swans and 1Beauty) They run all the performing arts venues for the school, and so list their student ensembles alongside professional touring groups.

Wexner Center for the Arts

Columbus, OH

Mershon Auditorium

seats nearly 2,500

60x40 stage

front curtain, orchestra pit, can convert to smaller, black box format

Lincoln Theater (outside rental)

seats 582

They’ve also got several theaters run through the Wexner Center aegis, as well as presenting in other venues. They only had two months worth of programming online today, so I can’t get a sense of the whole year. They self-identify as a contemporary arts organization. For Sept/Oct they had two contemporary/modern groups, one at the Mershon and one at the Lincoln. If they’re selling series tickets, I couldn’t find it mentioned on their website -- it seemed to be all about single tickets.

(tangentially, the Lincoln Theater is gobsmackingly beautiful -- go look at this link Lincoln Theater)

They seem to key some of their programming to larger, multi-event university projects -- this is an example:

“Rachid Ouramdane, a superlative French choreographer and dancer of Algerian descent, has a special talent for giving voice to the lives of others while leaving audiences with a strong sense of his own particular artistic vision. This capacity is at the heart of World Fair. ..... This event is planned in conjunction with the opening of a year-long program titled “A Conversation on Immigration” that begins the Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society (COMPAS) initiative launched by Ohio State’s Center for Ethics and Human Values.”

Cal Performances

Berkeley, CA

Zellerbach Hall

seats 2089

stage approx 42x44

Multiple venues, I couldn’t get a handle on how many they use for dance. Zellerbach is the place they’ve got big touring companies. They’ve got a huge schedule, compared to the other two presenters, and are a big player in the classical music community, which is reflected in their programming.

They do seem to have a big commitment to presenting touring ballet -- they’ve had the Joffrey, Kirov, State Ballet of Georgia, Perm Ballet, Bolshoi, Farrell, and Danish companies in the last five years, along with Sylvie Guillem and Netherlands Dance Theater. They’ve also had regular performances by Ailey, Bausch, Cunningham and Morris.

and, just to compare, the venues in my home town

Meany Hall for the Performing Arts

Seattle, WA

Meany Theater

seats 1200

stage approx 70x50

orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage

Seattle Theater Group

Paramount Theater

seats 3,000

stage approx 85x47

orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage

Moore Theater

seats 1,400

stage approx 70x40

orchestra pit, front curtain

Seattle Center

McCaw Hall

seats 2,900

couldn’t find stage dimensions

orchestra pit, front curtain, trapped stage

By now, I imagine most everyone has stopped reading, but I got interested in the topic and just kept compiling information...

Share this post


Link to post

Mention of the Tryon Festival Theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana reminded me of this post, for what it fills in of the quality of college-campus presentations sometimes as well as its own virtues.

Share this post


Link to post

University of Connecticut has no dance department, but has presented dance every year since 1996, I believe... Before that I would not know. It seems unlikely that colleges with dance departments eliminated dance from the performing arts presented, but what about other universities like UConn that have no dance program. What about University of Pennsylvania, say? No... Danoce is still presented there.

What would be a university in the same class as UConn? Large state university with no dance department?

Share this post


Link to post

University of Connecticut has no dance department, but has presented dance every year since 1996, I believe... Before that I would not know. It seems unlikely that colleges with dance departments eliminated dance from the performing arts presented, but what about other universities like UConn that have no dance program. What about University of Pennsylvania, say? No... Danoce is still presented there.

What would be a university in the same class as UConn? Large state university with no dance department?

Well, at UConn you're getting three dance events this year (Martha Clarke, Trey McIntyre and Moscow Festival Ballet), along side the Conn Ballet Nut. For a house that seats 2,300 that's not great but not terrible. I must say, though, that their descriptive language about the hall mentions ABT and other major ballet ensembles -- this year's season don't come very close to that.

Oregon State University (large state school in relatively small and isolated city, school could be considered to be major contributor to cultural life in community) gets the Eugene Ballet (two programs besides Nut) but not much else. Both Washington State University and Central Washington State University (large schools in relatively small towns) are doing very little dance of any sort.

Share this post


Link to post

What?? I started this thread because there was nothing listed in the brochure I received! Maybe they added the dance in later on-line? This is wild! Thank you for the good news!

I checked on-line and sure enough... very glad to see it.

Still a mystery of why it wasn't publicized in the mailing. I wonder if the agent that organizes these college tour was late finalizing negotiations for UConn... (I can't remember the name, seems to me there was an organization originally from Philadelphia, later from Michigan that seemed to organize dance series for college presenting organizations... perhaps someone knows who I'm referring to and can supply the name?) It seems very odd to leave a whole genre out of the season brochure.

Share this post


Link to post

Phew! You scared me, Amy! I went racing to the Jorgensen's website after seeing your first post and was relieved to see all the dance listed. However, I'm surprised to NOT see MOMIX. I think they've performed there every single year for decades. I remember listening to Moses Pendleton during one of the "talk backs" about 8 years ago speaking about MOMIX's close relationship over the years with the Jorgensen Theater.

Share this post


Link to post

Still a mystery of why it wasn't publicized in the mailing.

It's certainly possible that they hadn't finalized some of their contracts yet, but not likely that all the dance events were hanging on a thread. I've noticed that fewer organizations are doing really extensive direct mail campaigns or other kinds of 'information on paper' marketing. If you were really curious, you could call them and ask -- I'll bet it's either a deliberate choice or a really awful mistake!

Share this post


Link to post

Glad to see you were alarmed too,Vagansmom! I may do just that Sandik. Will reportback if I find out.

Share this post


Link to post

And just for the record, Amy, "campus" IS a second declension noun, and "campi" is the correct Latin nominative plural, but usage has made "campuses" the correct English plural.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you Mel, you always come in with the most useful arcane information!

Share this post


Link to post