PeggyR

SFB: Sponsored principal dancers

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Something that appears to be new to SF Ballet: sponsored principal dancers. Davit Karapetyan, Maria Kochetkova and Yuan Yuan Tan all are listed as such.

I assume it has to do with money. How does this usually work? Does the sponsor pay the dancer's salary, or contribute to it, or what?

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Interesting. They have this at ABT, but at ABT every principal dancer has a sponsor, even if it's a corporation rather than an individual. I think it's much worse for morale if only a few dancers are listed as "sponsored" because it leaves the impression that those who do not have sponsors are somehow not as good.

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Colorado Ballet does this. In the spring 2013 print programs, every single principal and every single soloist is sponsored by a named individual. They don't include that information on their current web site, but I'm thinking that they might still be lining this up for the 2013-14 season (which opens in October 2013).

In the 2011-12 print program, all three female principals were sponsored, but none of the three males and none of the soloists.

EDIT: Let me add that in the 2010-11 print program, nobody is sponsored. But the Colorado Ballet hired a new Executive Director and new Development Director in 2011, so that probably explains this.

I have no idea what they charge for that kind of sponsorship and it's not indicated on their web site as an example of "sponsorship."

Development officers are always looking for new incentives for donors and this one seems like a good idea if they can manage it so nobody is embarrassed by omission. Is it the Royal Ballet that has a policy that nobody gets flowers on stage unless the principal that night first gets them, so somebody set up an endowment to ensure that principals always get flowers? Something along those lines to avoid embarrassment to anybody seems like a good idea.

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It's pretty common these days with symphony orchestras to have sponsored positions - so the principal musicians in every section are 'sponsored' by someone who has donated lots of money. I've seen it pop up with some ballet companies (I think Boston Ballet has a couple of sponsored positions) but I agree it's more awkward in a system where you're funding a person not a position. With the orchestra, it's clear that the first flute player is sponsored and if they quit, the next first flute player will still be sponsored. With ballet, there's no way of doing it other than just sponsoring a particular dancer.

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At the National Ballet of Canada they have a dancer-sponsoring program called "Dancers First" but it is not just for principals; any rank of dancer can be sponsored.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/15/arts/how-much-is-that-dancer-in-the-program.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

I've attached a 2004 NY Times article in which the pros and cons of dancer sponsorships was discussed. Interestingly, the article noted that SFB and NYCB were among the prominent institutions that had rejected dancer sponsorship. I guess Helgi has become more desperate for money in the intervening 9 years since this aritcle was initially published.

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In case the link doesn't work, the article title is How Much Is That Dancer in the Program?

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Private fund-raising has gotten ever more urgent as government funding has continued to decline dramatically. The NEA request for FY 2014 is only $154 million (see p. 4):

http://www.arts.gov/about/Budget/NEA-FY14-Appropriations-Request.pdf

The "high-water" mark in NEA funding was $176 million back in 1992 (and remember that these are actual dollars, not inflation-adjusted):

http://www.nea.gov/about/budget/AppropriationsHistory.html

Support from almost all states and cities has also declined over the past two decades.

I don't have a problem with dancer sponsorships, although some of the techniques are really creepy (e.g., auctions) and it seems at least some companies are avoiding such approaches. Wealthy donors sponsor productions, performances, special events, costumes, rooms in buildings, etc., etc. Why not dancers?

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Something that appears to be new to SF Ballet: sponsored principal dancers. Davit Karapetyan, Maria Kochetkova and Yuan Yuan Tan all are listed as such.

I assume it has to do with money. How does this usually work? Does the sponsor pay the dancer's salary, or contribute to it, or what?

Funny that you would mention this PeggyR - I just noticed these designations myself last week on the SFB website. Note that these dancers also happen to be non-US citizens, so understandably may require sponsorship.

Interesting. They have this at ABT, but at ABT every principal dancer has a sponsor, even if it's a corporation rather than an individual. I think it's much worse for morale if only a few dancers are listed as "sponsored" because it leaves the impression that those who do not have sponsors are somehow not as good.

Or their position is financially more precarious? But I do think this sponsorship may be necessary to help out the foreign national dancers. I would imagine that if Froustey stays with SFB past the 1 year trial period, she will become 'sponsored' as well.

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Something that appears to be new to SF Ballet: sponsored principal dancers. Davit Karapetyan, Maria Kochetkova and Yuan Yuan Tan all are listed as such.

I assume it has to do with money. How does this usually work? Does the sponsor pay the dancer's salary, or contribute to it, or what?

Funny that you would mention this PeggyR - I just noticed these designations myself last week on the SFB website. Note that these dancers also happen to be non-US citizens, so understandably may require sponsorship.

Interesting. They have this at ABT, but at ABT every principal dancer has a sponsor, even if it's a corporation rather than an individual. I think it's much worse for morale if only a few dancers are listed as "sponsored" because it leaves the impression that those who do not have sponsors are somehow not as good.

Or their position is financially more precarious? But I do think this sponsorship may be necessary to help out the foreign national dancers. I would imagine that if Froustey stays with SFB past the 1 year trial period, she will become 'sponsored' as well.

I'm a little confused by this. My former employer hired some foreign citizens periodically and it's true that getting the right kind of visa is treacherous and time-consuming (especially after 9/11), but the employer as an institution was the sponsor. Wouldn't SFB be the sponsor for the right kind of visa to work in the U.S.? Is there a new requirement that they also now find an individual to "sponsor" them for visa purposes?

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I'm a little confused by this. My former employer hired some foreign citizens periodically and it's true that getting the right kind of visa is treacherous and time-consuming (especially after 9/11), but the employer as an institution was the sponsor. Wouldn't SFB be the sponsor for the right kind of visa to work in the U.S.? Is there a new requirement that they also now find an individual to "sponsor" them for visa purposes?

I can't imagine that this type of 'sponsoring' is actually related to visa sponsoring, which is a complicated process that involves the employer. Actually, are we sure that all three dancers are non-US citizens?

In any case, since so many dancers in the US are from other countries, I would imagine that it's just chance that the three dancers in this case happen to be.

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I'm a little confused by this. My former employer hired some foreign citizens periodically and it's true that getting the right kind of visa is treacherous and time-consuming (especially after 9/11), but the employer as an institution was the sponsor. Wouldn't SFB be the sponsor for the right kind of visa to work in the U.S.? Is there a new requirement that they also now find an individual to "sponsor" them for visa purposes?

I can't imagine that this type of 'sponsoring' is actually related to visa sponsoring, which is a complicated process that involves the employer. Actually, are we sure that all three dancers are non-US citizens?

In any case, since so many dancers in the US are from other countries, I would imagine that it's just chance that the three dancers in this case happen to be.

Of course I was referring to financial 'sponsorship' in this case. Tan now lives with her parents in the Bay Area, and I don't know if her father was able to get work in this country, so it has to be expensive for the Tan family to remain here each year.

I can't see it being coincidental that Kochetkova, Tan and Karapetyan are being helped in this manner - they are arguably the biggest draws for the company. Whether Karapetyan has gotten dual citizenship is a question (now that he is married to Zahorian). I would expect Tiit Helimets to get a sponsor as well, but I'm not sure of his citizenship standing (assuming that has anything to do with it).

I really just think that the SF patrons are trying to help make SFB a rewarding place to be for these dancers, so they are less likely to leave the nest.

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I'm a little confused by this. My former employer hired some foreign citizens periodically and it's true that getting the right kind of visa is treacherous and time-consuming (especially after 9/11), but the employer as an institution was the sponsor. Wouldn't SFB be the sponsor for the right kind of visa to work in the U.S.? Is there a new requirement that they also now find an individual to "sponsor" them for visa purposes?

I can't imagine that this type of 'sponsoring' is actually related to visa sponsoring, which is a complicated process that involves the employer. Actually, are we sure that all three dancers are non-US citizens?

In any case, since so many dancers in the US are from other countries, I would imagine that it's just chance that the three dancers in this case happen to be.

Of course I was referring to financial 'sponsorship' in this case. Tan now lives with her parents in the Bay Area, and I don't know if her father was able to get work in this country, so it has to be expensive for the Tan family to remain here each year.

I can't see it being coincidental that Kochetkova, Tan and Karapetyan are being helped in this manner - they are arguably the biggest draws for the company. Whether Karapetyan has gotten dual citizenship is a question (now that he is married to Zahorian). I would expect Tiit Helimets to get a sponsor as well, but I'm not sure of his citizenship standing (assuming that has anything to do with it).

I really just think that the SF patrons are trying to help make SFB a rewarding place to be for these dancers, so they are less likely to leave the nest.

We don't know how the financial arrangements work at SFB (at least from what I've read here), but from that old NY Times article, it seems that it would be unusual for the sponsorship to consist of extra compensation over and above the salary paid by the company. I saw this mainly as a way to shore up company budgets by recruiting donors to pay some or all of that dancer's salary/benefits, although perhaps that's not always the way it works. Major donors like to have their names on things (buildings, theater chairs, classrooms, etc., etc.) and get recognition, so sponsoring dancers fits right in with that incentive.

The comparison with endowed professorships at Universities would not necessarily be helpful here. At some schools, the named endowment is buying a supplemental salary, research account, reduced teaching load, etc. in combination with the base university-paid salary. At others, the revenue from the endowment pays the full salary and perks of the professor who occupies the chair. So those professors with endowed chairs are getting extras one way or another but (as someone noted with endowed "chairs" in orchestras), the endowment stays with the institution and a succession of professors occupies the chair over time.

Finances are difficult for many U.S. dancers, not just those who are foreign-born, especially corps members. We had a link a few weeks ago, as I remember, to stories about how young dancers survive -- waiting on table, sharing apartments with several other dancers, teaching, etc., etc.

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My understanding is that principal dancers at the level of Tan and Kochetkova do guest appearances off season and are able to supplement their income with those earnings. It's hard to imagine that San Francisco Ballet needs to sell sponsorships to make ends meet – Nutcracker and Cinderella pull in full houses and ballet seems to be on the "A" list of things to do in San Francisco. Productions are already sponsored by banks and the oil company and individual donors. It would be great if the extra sponsorship money indeed went to corps members salaries or to retirement or health insurance for dancers once they'd left the company.

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Finances are difficult for many U.S. dancers, not just those who are foreign-born, especially corps members. We had a link a few weeks ago, as I remember, to stories about how young dancers survive -- waiting on table, sharing apartments with several other dancers, teaching, etc., etc.

Absolutely - only principal dancers with major companies receive a 'decent' living (but then if it was really so good I bet they wouldn't feel the need to participate in galas at any opportunity). It can be really hard for Corps dancers at regional companies.

Someone should actually create a restaurant that is staffed solely by professional dancers (each working only a few hours a week at the restaurant). It would be the place to go for the arts community, haute-couture set and the demimonde! Just a thought. ;)

The walls could be decorated with ballet photos and autographs...

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In the world of arts funding, pretty much everything -- orchestral seats, chairs, drinking fountains, seats, curtains, rest rooms -- is now a "donor opportunity." Given this situation, it looks like sponsoring individual dancers is the new reality ... at least for companies with a donor base that can support it.

If I recall correctly, ABT did not start off with sponsorship for all the principals. That happened only with time, as is probably the goal at SF.

One serious drawback to this would be if the patron begin to act as though the individual dancer actually owes them some sort of compensatory service. Or, if the sponsorship is contingent on hiring or promoting a protege who might or might not qualify otherwise. There's a reference in the NY Times story linked by abatt to a board member of Colorado Ballet who went to China scouting for dancers and who returned with an offer to pay a year's salary and expenses for two dancers he liked. One dancer worked out; the other (too tall) did not. This sets a bad precedent. I also wonder about those rare sponsored corps dancers. It would be unfortunate if the sponsor turned out to be a doting relative with deep pockets, or something like that.

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There's a reference in the NY Times story linked by abatt to a board member of Colorado Ballet who went to China scouting for dancers and who returned with an offer to pay a year's salary and expenses for two dancers he liked. One dancer worked out; the other (too tall) did not. This sets a bad precedent.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding. . . The Times story was published in 2004, before the current artistic director, executive director, and development director at Colorado Ballet were hired. I agree that this was a very peculiar situation and unfortunate precedent.

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It would seem to me that the value of sponsorships would be to defray the costs of a particular dancer's classes and coaching during the weeks when the company is neither in rehearsals nor performances. I don't think the salaries of the dancers, especially those in the mid and lower ranks are enough to support such coaching, which is not inexpensive but is invaluable for dancers to progress and succeed.

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The money from sponsorship, as I understand it (from having a ds who has been sponsored in the past), is for the company to cover costs. The dancer sees none of that money directly. Classes and coaching on their time off? At least in the US, that's up to the individual dancer.

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I agree with pretty much everything that's been said. It seems like a good way to get donor money in. And as for allowing too much donor input on personnel - I assume that very wealthy donors do have input in the company, whether or not they're officially 'sponsoring' a dancer. Though I also think having an 'auction' is just really creepy.

In a somewhat frivolous side tangent, there was an episode of Gilmore Girls, 'Blame Booze and Melville' in which Mrs. Gilmore sponsors a dancer in their local company.

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Sorry, I hate the idea of it. It's one more way for a dancer to be nothing more than an object, once again. Think about it. "Sit with us at the gala, go to dinner with us, can you talk to this person, would you consider doing a special performance, etc." In addition, it's humiliating for the other dancers in the company who don't necessarily get a sponsor. Not because they are not top-notch. Think about the other SF principal and soloist dancers. Domitro, Zahorian, etc. - they don't deserve to be sponsored?

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The most recent National Ballet of Canada donors' newsletter has an article by First Soloist Robert Stephen about his "sponsor".

"She furthered her connection to the company as a donor with the Dancers First programme. As she is my personal sponsor, I ask Senator Eaton what was so attractive about that opportunity. "When you raise money, Robert," she says, you always have to find a hook that will appeal to people. When I go to the ballet and you're dancing, it heightens my enjoyment because I have a small stake in the National Ballet: you." ... I thank Nicole and Thor Eaton for their tireless support over the past five years and am honoured to dance for them in the season to come".

Sponsoring a particular dancer starts out at Canada's National Ballet School as well (which is a separate organization from the company).

I expect the money in all cases (except when money is being raised for a particular production) just goes into the operating fund. But fundraisers will tell you that it is very difficult to get people to give money for the operating fund, because the operating fund is not sexy.

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Sorry, I hate the idea of it. It's one more way for a dancer to be nothing more than an object, once again. Think about it. "Sit with us at the gala, go to dinner with us, can you talk to this person, would you consider doing a special performance, etc." In addition, it's humiliating for the other dancers in the company who don't necessarily get a sponsor. Not because they are not top-notch. Think about the other SF principal and soloist dancers. Domitro, Zahorian, etc. - they don't deserve to be sponsored?

I completely agree. I think it's divisive (and potentially comic - maybe a good topic for a Woody Allen or Almodovar film). I think I might stop going to ballet at the point Domitro, Zahorian, Chung, Quenedit, etc are all sponsored - subservient to the whims of their owners rather than just devotees of their art and some part of them inaccessible, just as art is essentially independent and inaccessible.

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Really, I don't think the dancers are "subservient to the whims of their owners [sic]". I don't think any of the sponsored dancers in the National Ballet of Canada think of the relationship that way.

And I don't think the NBOC's non-sponsored dancers feel humiliated.

Let's face it, if they don't like a hierarchical system where some people get more attention than others, they are not going to be happy as professional ballet dancers, sponsors or no sponsors.

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As you say, it's a hierarchical system. Do you actually think the sponsored dancers are going to publicly say anything negative? It's divisive enough and dependent enough upon the whims of directors, choreographers, (and let's not forget critics) etc., without placing upon dancers yet another way to feel like objects at auction or in constant competition with one another. And please help us if those donors would actually have artistic input or somehow sway casting. Disaster. But, you know, money talks. Wasn't there a story going around about the Bolshoi and "favors" given to donors?

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