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Villella To Step Down from MCB

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It's not so much that he was well-paid; I thought checkwriter's point was that it was a larger expense for a company with a smaller budget, which means less money for everything else.

A lot of company costs are locked in by contract and can only be modified by concessions, such as the salary freeze/reductions at PNB, forced unpaid leave, etc. Costs for materials have gone up substantially as well: Speight Jenkins at Seattle Opera has cited the increasing cost of plywood as having a large budget impact.

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Okay, I went back to the form 990s. These are very interesting documents, and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in learning more about the nitty-gritty of running a not-for-profit company. First, a comparison of AD compensation, ranked by % of what the AD earns as compared to the company's expenses (the forms don't reflect what the companies' budgets were, but do show revenues and expenses; I elected to use what was spent as a uniform base measure). I've included the salaries. To try to compare apples to apples as much as possible, I've used the returns filed for 2009; keep in mind that the companies' fiscal years may not be the same as calendar year (MCB's, for example, begins on May 1 and ends on April 30, roughly paralleling its season).

Here is what I learned (I can’t figure out how to insert a table). The following is the company; expenditures; AD salary as a percentage of expenditures; and AD salary:

MCB / $11,864,700 / 2.73 / $321k

Joffrey / $12,940,715 / 1.74 / $225k

SFB / $41,581,034 / 1.56 / $649k

PNB / $20,247,642 / 1.32 / $267k

Boston / $26,670,953 / 1.3 / $347k

Houston / $18,914,204 / 1.18 / $224k

NYCB / $61,429,513 / 1.15 / $705k

ABT / $36,025,653 / 0.79 / $283k

As for Linda Villella - she earned $62,283. In addition, Crista Villella earned $43,559 as ballet mistress.

Some other interesting points. The company had a 1.7 million deficit (expenses over revenues) in each of years 2007 and 2008. Perhaps in response to that, Villella reduced his salary from $350k to $321k. Of course during the 2008 fiscal year he also fired a number of dancers.

The company paid Twila Tharp and Elvis Costello each $90,000 during fy 2007 for "Nightspot."

I'm not sure the company's money problems are over. According to this article in the Huffington Post, the currently-stalled reality series "En Pointe" highlights the company's money issues - even after the Paris tour. What's also rather disturbing is this quote from a dancer: "'Have you seen Black Swan? That happens all the time. It really does,' referring to the violent psychosis of the young rising star played by Natalie Portman." I hope that is just one dancer's opinion and not a reflection of the atmosphere that prevails at the company.

Also, for what it's worth, the ABT form 990s were particularly interesting; for 2010, Ratmasnky was paid almost as much as McKenzie.

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Fascinating information, Checkwriter. Thanks! (And, as you note, this is all public information for non-profits.) I'm surprised that ABT is so low in dollar amount. San Francisco and New York are unusually high-cost cities, so that's perhaps a partial explanation for them.

I learned in reviewing salary data on college presidents (which the Chronicle of Higher Ed regularly publishes) that many total compensation packages include all sorts of extra benefits, like housing, deferred compensation for retirement, etc. They try to break that out so comparisons are more meaningful. I don't know if the ballet companies report as a total compensation package or if we're only seeing the dollar salaries here. I'm also wondering (but please don't feel an obligation to research this!) whether some of these directors are drawing additional salaries for their roles at the affiliated schools, for royalties for ballets they have created or staged, etc. That might account for some of the interesting disparities.

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San Francisco is expensive but not that expensive - easier to live here modestly and comfortably than in New York. San Francisco Ballet's AD Helgi Tomasson is paid well because he revitatlized the company - it went through some very bad times - and runs it at a very high level, as Edward Villella does the Miami.

Regarding the Balanchine Trust restagings, that's a sort of a last minute touch up - it would seem that you really need to be rehearsing Balanchine technique in classes all year long. The reconstructions look different at different companies and in different years, depending on how much time the repetiteur would have to spend bringing certain parts up to passing level. What struck me about Miami's reconstructions is how good the corps bring off their parts which are just as complicated as the soloists'.

Balanchine was changing his ballets over the years, so Villella's Balanchine is different than Tomasson's which is different than Maria Calegari's. There really is no all important original point. You do need different companies around the country maintaining strong and different takes on Balanchine - rather than everywhere there being a sort of "best available practices" Balanchine.

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Not necessarily: there have been prominent examples of Artistic Directors who change the direction of companies despite the popularity and/or quality of what they're getting rid of. The Pacific Northwest Ballet board was looking for continuity; not every board or artistic administration is interested in the same thing.

It doesn't look as if this board is looking to make that kind of drastic change, given what we currently know. Things have to get pretty bad before the Balanchine Trust will yank the ballets and I expect the Trust will give the new AD a chance, at least.

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The PNB book by Manes posits that Martins's compensation may include royalties from his choreography, not just his salary.

If thats the case, considering how much higher Martins' salary is than anyone else's, and how, ahem, WONDERFUL he is as a choreographer, maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again, or so they can hire talented choreographers to come in since they make such a point about how critical that is to NYCB's mission.

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Thanks, checkwriter, for broadening our discussion. All Board revolts seem to start with finances, so it's good to have our atten drawn back to that. Unfortunately, conflicts over money have a way of spilling over to conflicts over artistic policy (repertoire, coaching, picking a target audience, etc.) The threat of changes in "artistic policy" is what worries me the most about what is going on in Miami right now. It's been known to happen elsewhere.

A couple of points:

The well-received series of performances over the summer in Paris did not come without great expense. You don't simply pick up your company and take it on the road for a month in an expensive European capital for free.
Like you, I don't have the figures, but I know that the producing organization -- Les Etes de la Danse -- picked up much of the tab for this trip. I assume that individual donors were also tapped. (Villella may have alienated some donors, but he has many others who support his projects.)

The week at City Center in 2010 cost $1,000,000 and was paid for by MCB. Without spending for the City Center engagement, and the excitement it brought, would MCB have been invited to perform on Dance in America? To dance at the Chatelet for three weeks? I don't know, but I suspect that it was an investment that paid off.

... for the company to focus sits energies on courting an increasingly elderly group of supporters does not seem to be a strategy that will promote success in the long run. Meanwhile, there is a very large and growing group of full-time residents, many of whom are Hispanic, that the MCB has all but ignored, While the company started and built on support from the north, for it to grow and thrive it may need to look to Florida and South America. presumably if Villella ever intended to do that, he would have started long ago.
A very interesting set up points. It's clear that some people in Miami are thinking along these lines.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on what "looking ato Florida and South America" might involve. Villella's rep (and the company's founding style) is Balanchine with bits of Robbins (men Villella worked with closely during his time on stage). This has expanded in recent years to include Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and several full-length story ballets. Balanchine training seems to have been crucial to the MCB qualities that audiences and reviewers love: speed, energy, risk, comfort in a variety of musical styles and syncopations. I happen to value this style and this repertoire highly, and hope for a good deal of continuity. Villella does much of his own coaching. The repititeurs he brings to the company are people he actually danced with or those whose work he knows well and respects. This is the kind of day-in-day-out enagement a good AD has to be able to perform. I'd like a replacement who shares Villella's artistic vision -- and who is able to expand on it, just as Villella himself has been doing these last 10 years since I've watched the company. This should be entirely compatible with introducing new repertoire and attracting new audiences to join (not replace) the old one.

As for "looking to Florida and South America," the roster of dancers already reflects this to an amazing degree. 6 of the company's 12 principals were trained in Latin America (Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Brasil). Two others are US-born dancers of Latin extraction, both trained at the MCB School. 2 of 5 Soloists are from Brasil. Some of the most exciting new corps and apprentice dancers are young people trained in Brasil (and Puerto Rico) who seem to have gotten better and better as a result of their exposure to Balanchine training and the achance to perform in Villella's chosen repertoire.

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maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again,

Villella laid off dancers as well, and I understand they got the news in the mail.....

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maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again,

Villella laid off dancers as well, and I understand they got the news in the mail.....

I remember that, and I found it very distasteful. I recognize that at times, in any company, layoffs may have to happen, but the manner of those seemed especially cold.

I was just making a joking comment that if, in fact, the justification for Martins salary being approximately twice that of any other AD was him choreographing ballets that quite frankly nobody (almost nobody? I'm sure SOMEONE must like them) wants him to choreograph, maybe it would be nice for him to donate some of that back.

The emoticon was supposed to indicate the kidding/irreverent nature of the comment and I apologize if it didn't come across.

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Meanwhile, there is a very large and growing group of full-time residents, many of whom are Hispanic, that the MCB has all but ignored, While the company started and built on support from the north, for it to grow and thrive it may need to look to Florida and South America. presumably if Villella ever intended to do that, he would have started long ago.

Was anyone here watching MCB when Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros was associated with the company? I assume some of his work appealed especially to Hispanics. Did it attract new balletgoers? Did it attract donors? Did either leave when he did?

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An interesting point ktw. I always felt Gamonet's involvement with the company did both those things - attracted the Hispanic community in Miami and Hispanic donors. But I have nothing to substantiate that assumption. Does anyone know where Gamonet is working now?

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I learned in reviewing salary data on college presidents (which the Chronicle of Higher Ed regularly publishes) that many total compensation packages include all sorts of extra benefits, like housing, deferred compensation for retirement, etc. They try to break that out so comparisons are more meaningful. I don't know if the ballet companies report as a total compensation package or if we're only seeing the dollar salaries here.

One of the 990s mentioned that in addition to salary, Villella has a 'discretionary account' that he had to date never exhausted. It did not state what the amount of that account was. I'd hear rumors of other benefits, but nothing definite enough to post here.

Regarding the Balanchine Trust restagings, that's a sort of a last minute touch up - it would seem that you really need to be rehearsing Balanchine technique in classes all year long.

That shouldn't be an issue if a successor is Balanchine-trained; further, ballet mistress Roma Sosenko is Balanchine trained. Villella's teaching style (I've seen him teach a number of classes) is best described as inscrutable. Though that can be said for many. I don't think technique is his strong suit.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on what "looking ato Florida and South America" might involve. . . . As for "looking to Florida and South America," the roster of dancers already reflects this to an amazing degree. 6 of the company's 12 principals were trained in Latin America (Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Brasil). Two others are US-born dancers of Latin extraction, both trained at the MCB School. 2 of 5 Soloists are from Brasil. Some of the most exciting new corps and apprentice dancers are young people trained in Brasil (and Puerto Rico) who seem to have gotten better and better as a result of their exposure to Balanchine training and the achance to perform in Villella's chosen repertoire.

My point was that the company needs to be looking to Florida and South America for support, to wean itself off of or at least substantially supplement the snowbirds/retirees. There is a tremendous energy in the community, and it's a business gateway to South America. To date, the MCB has not fully taken advantage of that, despite having that great roster of dancers with ties local and further south.

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I wouldn't necessarily write off Snowbirds: there are new migrations all the time, a renewable source, they don't take off decades to raise families, and the ones a board would court have grown children out on their own, disposable income, and are almost always the ones featured in the legacy donation ads, regardless of geography.

I know WA state has no state income tax -- nor does Texas -- and both states' residents are allowed a sales tax deduction against federal taxes as well, which is an advantage. However, we're not paying Peter Boal enough out here.

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Florida also has no state income tax, Helene. Which is why so many "winter people" actually spend 6 months (plus a day) here, to maintain Florida residency. The population of well-off, well-educated, and even artistically sophisticated full-time residents in south Florida is surprisingly large.

Only about 1/3 of MCB's regular season performances are in Miami itself. The other cities on its schedule -- Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Naples -- have smaller Hispanic populations than Miami-Dade County. The Hispanic arts communities are also smaller than in Miami-Dade, as is the potential Hispanic donor base.

About Gamonet: when he left the company, his works were removed from the rep. I've been here for 10 seasons and never had the chance to see one, though Gamonet had his own small company in Miami for a few years.

Here's a thread on the folding of Gamonet's company in 2008. Lack of donors was a problem.

http://balletalert.i...__1#entry252267

Villella started with Balanchine before Gamonet became a big part of the MCB rep. I know that there were those who missed Gamonet's work when it was withdrawn, but there were also those who felt that the time had come for MCB to move on to something else, especially to works that would enhance the company's reputation in the larger world. I suspect that it is easier to get audiences to attend -- and big-pocket donors to pay for -- a major Balanchine revival, a new work by Scarlett or Ratmansky, or an experiment with international names like Twyla Tharp (and Elvis Costello) than to for something more local.

An aside the importance of the Latin influence at MCB. At a studio performance in Miami Beach last month, the company performed a "concert version" of one section of Villella's own Neighborhood Ballroom. Called "Mambo," it was both a pure-dance piece and an exhilerating work to arrangements by Perez Prado, a Cuban. Why not more stuff like this? It would tour well, too. The 4-county audience down here, even those of us who are elderly former northeasterners, would love it.

P.S. Mambo shared the bill with Balanchine's Who Cares? It was great programming. Great juxtaposition of two areas of MCB's strength. (And you should have seen Jeanette Delgado and Renato burning up the floor. tongue.png )

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I didn't realize that bart -- I thought Florida had no inheritance tax.

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The no state income tax is a draw to people, but the salaries (overall) remain low in the state as a result. The reason we have no state income tax is that we get a lot of money through tourism. But I have known people who decided not to take jobs here in Florida because the pay was so much lower than other places, and people hiring in Florida will flat out tell people, "We pay you in sunshine," meaning you don't get a high salary but you get nice weather and enjoy your life more outdoors.

The weather is why we will always get more snowbirds as others die off. I do think it is a renewable resource as Helene called them.

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I moved from NYC, where I was paying income tax to NY State and NYC, and a commuter tax to Yonkers. I took a 20% pay cut when I moved to Seattle. My take-home pay was the same. I'm not sure people always do the math correctly when evaluating a salary in a state with no income tax.

That would, though, make Villella's, Boal's, and Welch's salaries in Florida, Seattle, and Houston directly comparable from an income tax viewpoint.

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I don't know that it is relevant, but of those ADs listed in Checkwriter's [non]table, only Villella and Martins were on a par... weren't they both (along with d'Amboise) legitimate contenders to take over NYCB on Balanchine's passing? Of the other stars (and lesser lights) from the stage, these two held way more box office sway than any other on the list. Miami has been getting Villella for a steal... It's quite the coup for a city/company this size to have scored

Villella... He is older now, and were he just starting out, would no longer command the same investment, but he as surely proved his skill and successful transition from valuable dancer ro valuable director. Admittedly he is very much in the NYC mold, and perhaps Miami, as Manhattan South has less issue with this than say SF or Chicago might, but still, we're talking Villella! I honestly wondered if they thought they were replacing him with Carlos Acosta.

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I honestly wondered if they thought they were replacing him with Carlos Acosta.

Oh...Fille, Grand Pas de Quatre, Spartacus..! lightbulb.GIF

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I think it's worth noting that the company has had repeated budget problems, all with Villella at the helm. While its artistic success is undeniable, it seems to lurch from year to year facing budget crisis after budget crisis. And while the 2009 FY showed the expenditures to be closely aligned with receipts, the two years before that showed deficits totaling almost $3.5 million. The Huntington Post article suggests that the deficit demons have returned. With an aging demographic, an aging AD with limited management skills and no apparent succession plan, the board can be forgiven for looking ahead to a change that, while uncertain, may be in the best long-term interests of the company.

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I think it's worth noting that the company has had repeated budget problems, all with Villella at the helm. While its artistic success is undeniable, it seems to lurch from year to year facing budget crisis after budget crisis. And while the 2009 FY showed the expenditures to be closely aligned with receipts, the two years before that showed deficits totaling almost $3.5 million. The Huntington Post article suggests that the deficit demons have returned. With an aging demographic, an aging AD with limited management skills and no apparent succession plan, the board can be forgiven for looking ahead to a change that, while uncertain, may be in the best long-term interests of the company.

In these economic times I think that a lot of arts institutions (like individuals) are having financial difficulties.

Yes it is an aging population but there are always new older people coming, it is Florida after all, and a lot of these people have disposable income. He isn't that old, and a succession plan was discussed.

I'd like evidence that before Villella there were no budget problems. I wouldn't know, because quite frankly before Villella was the company anything more than one of hundreds of regional companies? I don't think so. I certainly never heard about it.

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Is that unusual for a ballet company? New York City Ballet has had its share, and PNB had deficit issues and has been struggling recently through the economic downturn. Have any ballet companies thrived through the last 3+ years of the economic downturn? Looking up numbers during the Francia Russell/Kent Stowell years, or during San Francisco Ballet in the 90's, it would be easy to attribute deficits to a lack of management skill, but that wouldn't tell the story of circumstances like the main venues being shut for seismic renovations.

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I think it's worth noting that the company has had repeated budget problems, all with Villella at the helm. While its artistic success is undeniable, it seems to lurch from year to year facing budget crisis after budget crisis. And while the 2009 FY showed the expenditures to be closely aligned with receipts, the two years before that showed deficits totaling almost $3.5 million. The Huntington Post article suggests that the deficit demons have returned. With an aging demographic, an aging AD with limited management skills and no apparent succession plan, the board can be forgiven for looking ahead to a change that, while uncertain, may be in the best long-term interests of the company.

Much truth here.

Re: "limited management skills." There are a variety of management skills. Villella is brilliant at some, not so good at others. A key problem, I think, was a structure which had the Executive Director reporting directly to the Artistic Director. The same Executive Director has been in place in the 11 seasons I've been following the company. Such arrangements have a way of becoming inbred and problematic.

The recent decision to create an Executive Director from outside the Miami community and even from outside the ballet world seems a good one, no matter who is chosen to replace Villella. My assumption is that this position is something like a CEO, reporting to and responsible to the Board. (Please correct me if I am wrong, checkwriter or others.)

In an ideal world, place, and time, the new AD would be someone like George Balanchine, with someone like Lincoln Kirstein as facilitator and guardian angel. In the real world it's better to separate the two positions. I would, however, try hard to assure that the CEO is someone who sees his/her job as facilitating the AD's artistic vision, unless the logistics and costs make no sense at all.

RE: the "succession plan." My hope is that all the factions will come together on this. Without Villella's active participation (and connections) -- and some attempt to bridge the gap between the various factions on the Board and the big donor group -- so much can go wrong. Villella does have a clear artistic vision and has had long-range plans to carry that out. Peter Boal in Seattle seems similar to Villella in this. Not every ballet professional, no matter how talented a dancer or choreographer, is in this artistic league.

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maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again,

Villella laid off dancers as well, and I understand they got the news in the mail.....

I remember that, and I found it very distasteful. I recognize that at times, in any company, layoffs may have to happen, but the manner of those seemed especially cold.

I was just making a joking comment that if, in fact, the justification for Martins salary being approximately twice that of any other AD was him choreographing ballets that quite frankly nobody (almost nobody? I'm sure SOMEONE must like them) wants him to choreograph, maybe it would be nice for him to donate some of that back.

The emoticon was supposed to indicate the kidding/irreverent nature of the comment and I apologize if it didn't come across.

No need for apologies, aurora, unless from my side. :) It sometimes seems to me that Martins invariably gets clouted with having laid dancers off when Villella gets off with a tap, but it could be me.

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I seem to remember from the press reports that Villella wasn't terribly focused on a succession plan -- a common situation when dealing with strong leaders.

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