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SFB: Sponsored principal dancers


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#16 bart

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 05:29 PM

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.



#17 California

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 05:44 PM

 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.



#18 angelica

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Posted 26 August 2013 - 06:06 PM

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.



#19 its the mom

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 02:38 AM

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.  



#20 Swanilda8

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 03:12 AM

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.



#21 its the mom

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 03:26 AM

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?  



#22 kbarber

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 04:09 AM

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.



#23 Quiggin

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:07 PM

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.



#24 kbarber

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:18 PM

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.



#25 its the mom

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 01:08 PM

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?  



#26 Quiggin

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 01:54 PM

Freudian slip, I meant to say sponsors rather than owners. I really don't see why it is necessary in San Francisco where the ballet is very well managed and the audience well heeled. It's an old money town and old money here loves the ballet. For example, one evening at the symphony I sat in a box named after one of the people at work – she's a lawyer – and the next morning I ran into her in the elevator. I said what a surprise to have been seated in a box with your name on it. And she said "oh that's something my husband did – he's always doing things like that, I can never keep up."

 

Anyway it's ok to sell sponsorship to the "orchestral seats, chairs, drinking fountains, seats, curtains, rest rooms" as Bart says, but they're inanimate objects.



#27 puppytreats

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 02:22 PM

I read an article from a long time ago in which Roberto Bolle said that at ABT, dancers have to find a sponsor and don't get paid.  I may be misquoting it, so forgive me if I am wrong. 

 

Of course, money buys influence.  Presumably, one pays to create opportunities to see a favored dancer dancing.  Why is it preferable to deny that and pretend it is not true? 

 

However, at the Bolshoi, the implication from press reports seems to be that certain lines have been crossed in this regard. 

 

Of course, the auctions are problematic.  Particularly in light of the history of this country, how can one put a strong, beautiful human being on an auction block, for "sale", without any sensitivity to the images of the past that arise?  One can solicit donations, even for a particular individual;s benefit, without this demeaning, painful process.



#28 California

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 02:50 PM

I read an article from a long time ago in which Roberto Bolle said that at ABT, dancers have to find a sponsor and don't get paid.  I may be misquoting it, so forgive me if I am wrong. 

 

Something seems a little off on this...I can't imagine the dancers' union would allow them to perform without compensation. And it seems unreasonable to expect the dancers themselves to recruit a wealthy donor to sponsor them. Perhaps some could do that on their own, but all of them? I tried a little googling to see if anything turned up with these comments, but struck out.



#29 Jayne

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 10:50 PM

Mr Bolle may be referring to mandatory participation in certain fundraising activities that try to garner sponsorships.   I can see an AD make that part of a principal's contract - Principals and Soloists are required to appear at the Black Tie Ball, Gala Cocktail hour, etc.  I'm sure the union rep has a sliding scale of fees for time spent, etc.

 

Anne Bass is a good (bad?) example of a sponsor who became too involved in NYCB.  Another is John Fry at Ballet San Jose and the media interest in his personal relationship with a dancer, while he was leading the board.   

 

I think it only works well if there are bright lines drawn for sponsors about the types of relationships they may have with the dancers.  It protects all involved parties from issues down the road. 

 

I used to row and the best part of the sport was that sponsors paid for boats (racing shells)!  A $35,000 Olympic level racing boat for 8 women had a place for the name at the bow of the boat. Most of the time the sponsors didn't want their own names.  They preferred to name boats after their favorite coaches, or a fellow rower who had passed away that they admired for contributions to the sport.  Sometimes they picked literary names, school mascot names, or something silly.   I've seen the "Emma Peele", a series of boats named after Greek Mythology, smaller boats named after the 7 dwarves, etc.  

 

If I had $35,000 to spend on a boat, I'd call it "the Debauched Sloth" after the Patrick O'Brien book series on Captain Aubrey / Dr Maturin.  There is something lovely about the idea of a "debauched sloth" winning a rowing race.   Far more appealing than making dancers feel like they have to do unethical things to get $$$ to dance. 



#30 its the mom

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 03:58 AM

At least in the case of Boston Ballet's AGMA contract, there is no remuneration for attending donor functions (except if required to dance).  I would imagine other AGMA member contracts would be similar.  

 

 

"ARTIST REPRESENTATIVE ACTIVITY Any non-dance activity in which Artist’s presence is voluntarily requested to further the fundraising, marketing or educational mission of the company, inclusive of, but not limited to, press interviews, donor cultivation socials and the annual fundraising ball. Such activity, not to be unreasonably scheduled, is voluntary and therefore non-compensable unless Artist is plying his / her trade (e.g. dancing), in which case such time shall be compensated at the applicable rate (see exception below, subparagraph O – Free Day)."




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