Natalia

Royalties Paid to Stager When His ver.of Ballet is Staged?

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Does anyone know? I'm especially interested in knowing the fee paid to a stager for a full-evening classic in a medium-to-large ballet troupe. Even a "rough average" will be helpful. This may help us to better understand repertoire choices from season to season. For example...I'm guessing that Sir Peter Wright must be a millionaire several times over by now! :) Ratmansky must be inching up there, too. In another thread (in ABT forum), someone suggested that this may explain why Kevin McKenzie may not want to replace his versions of SL or DonQ with newer stagings...yet he didn't mind "giving up" his Nutcracker to that of Ratmansky five years ago. So I'm not sure if the staging fee/royalty is always at play. Any & all insights welcomed!

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I just wanted to add that there are two different issues at play. To me, the term "stager" is the person hired by the owner of the choreography to train dancers regarding a particular work. The Balanchine Trust, which owns the choreography, regularly hires "stagers" to stage the Balanchine rep all over the world. The choreographer (or Trust of estate of a dead choreographer) is the owner of the work. The stager does not have to be the owner of the choreography, although he/she could wear both hats.

I have no doubt that McKenzie receives an agreed up royalty check every time SL is performed at ABT, just as the MacMillan estate receives a royalty check every time MacMillan's R&J is performed. I don't think that the amount of the royalty McKenzie gets is so large that it is a motivation to keep or dump his SL. His primary source of income is as artistic director of ABT, and the royalties are probably a very small percentage of his total income. I don't know if this information is reflected on company tax returns or financials as a separate item, or if that info is publicly available.

For people like Ratmansky or Wheeldon, their royalties are probably much more significant in terms of their overall annual income because their works are being licensed to numerous companies around the world. (In contrast, McKenzie's SL is not being performed anywhere else (because nobody wants it?)). Also, I'm sure that both Wheeldon and Ratmansky can command a high price for licensing of their works because of their acclaim and popularity. Mrs. Ratmanksy is a primary stager of Mr. Ratmansky's works, I believe. I'm not sure who is staging Wheeldon's works. Mrs. Ratmansky is also bringing home the bacon by appearing in character roles at ABT.

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Good point about the terminology, abatt. By "stager" I was thinking of that work's creator (choreographer) setting his/her own work on a company...as Ratmansky is doing now or very soon in Milan with his Swan Lake (as per his Facebook this morn). Ditto every time that Sir Peter Wright mounts his own choreography in Canada or Wherever.

These appear to be the true Kings of Dance.

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This is a fascinating topic, with a lot of different angles in it. Some choreographers, or rights holders, will only allow work to be staged by themselves. For many years, Anna Markard would not allow anyone other than herself to stage The Green Table (I don't know if that was the case with other works by her father). Ohio State University, which has been a significant training ground for Labanotation, got her to agree to an experiment where they would reconstruct the work from the notated score and she would come in to check the work -- she agreed that they had captured the essence of the ballet, but as I understand it, will still not allow a reconstruction from notation for professional performance.

Practices by other living choreographers vary wildly (no idea what the dead do). But in general, choreographers who are still making new work don't do the heavy lifting staging their old work, in part because of the time it takes. If you're interested in having your work performed widely, you just don't have the time to go multiple places to stage things alongside your new projects. Sometimes that happens (especially if the work was co-commissioned) but generally not.

What seems to be the most common practice is that the initial staging will be done by someone the choreographer (or rights holder) authorizes. Oftentimes these are people who were in original casts, but are no longer performing -- sometimes they acted as assistants during the making of the work, sometimes they are certified as reconstructors using various notation systems. Occasionally that stager will be the only authority in the process -- they take the work all the way to performance. Other times, the choreographer will come in for the last part of the process to coach/tinker. I've noticed that if it's a newer work, the choreographer often comes in to tinker -- make changes in the original work or "fix" what they saw as problems in the previous performances. Sometimes they will tailor the work to the new cast, or make a custom variation for a certain dancer -- this is usually part of the initial contract, but sometimes not.

When Pacific Northwest Ballet presented an all-William Forsythe program last year, we had a bit of all of the above. The company had performed In the middle a couple of times in the past, and I think the initial blocking and staging was done by company ballet masters, with the assistance of dancers who had been in those earlier performances. Then stagers came in -- they were all former dancers who had worked with Forsythe in Frankfurt -- they refined the work done with In the middle, set Vertiginous Thrill, and set much of the work for New Suite. Since New Suite was technically new (a series of excerpts from existing Forsythe rep, in some cases reworked, the actual choices made specifically for each company that requested the work) that process needed to stay open-ended. It was, I think, only the second time that they'd done the project, so despite the fact that it was assembled from existing work, most of the process was still being created. Luckily for us, we got quite a lot of time with Forsythe when he came to finish New Suite and coach the rest of the program -- I can't remember the number of weeks, but he was here for much longer than most choreographers come. He also participated in a number of public events, which were fascinating. I don't really think of this as a typical situation, though -- he had recently dissolved his company and was preparing to come to Los Angeles to teach at USC, so he was making some big changes in his working life.

When PNB first got the Ronald Hynd production of Sleeping Beauty, he and Annette Page were here for most of the process, but they sent a choreologist (reconstructor specializing in Benesh notation) ahead of them to get started. At this point, Hynd wasn't making new work or running a company -- staging his existing work was his main job. At the time, the company wasn't really familiar with the style the Hynds wanted -- they did a phenomenal job getting those dancers to look like Petipa dancers. When PNB first got Ratmansky's production of Don Quixote, which he had made on the Dutch National, it was staged by artists from that company -- he came a couple of weeks before the opening and worked very closely on the production. Many dancers commented on how much detail he brought to those rehearsals -- he had a backstory and specific material for everyone on stage. These were both program-length works that take a team to make them go.

Currently, PNB has five works by Christopher Wheeldon in their rep -- one of them he made from scratch, and so was here for that process, and the other four were restagings of existing works. He was here for some part of the rehearsal process for all of the initial restagings, but the first part of the process was overseen by other stagers. Each of these has been revived by the company at one point or another, some with the original cast and some not -- Wheeldon was a part of the process for a couple of those revivals, but not for all.

These are just a few examples of how this process works. It's really governed by the arrangement that the artist's representative makes with the company -- some artists have very specific standards for those contracts and others negotiate based on who is doing the asking. The only thing I can say absolutely is that there are very few constants in this process.

It occurs to me that your question is actually about money. While I don't have any fee information at hand, you can find that information for Pacific Northwest Ballet in their annual reports, which are on their website. I can say that some things are much more expensive than you might think they are, that some choreographers will undercut their fees in order to get their work performed, and that some people donate parts of their fees back to the institution, for a variety of reasons. And in general, royalties are separate from staging fees.

Apologies for such a long post -- it's an interesting and varied topic.

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Although "The Guardian" has chosen to report on the controversial in Sir Peter Wright's new book, "Wrights and Wrongs: My Life in Dance," which is scheduled to be available on Bastille Day, I'm looking forward to reading any descriptions he gives of the choreography and staging processes. There was some interview footage of him in the bonus tracks of the Dutch National Ballet DVD of "Sleeping Beauty" (with Sofiane Sylve, before she moved to NYCB). He staged his production for them, and it's lovely.

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Thanks for all the feedback but nobody has answered my basic question: Cost? If I ran my own ballet company and wished to have, say, Sir Peter's Giselle in my rep, how much would I have to pay just for the right ( no pun) to present it for, say, ten performances over the course of two seasons? Only the rights. I'm not referring to travel costs/per diem, designs, dancers' or other staff wages. Are we talking $10,000 or $100,000 or $250,000 or ?? Ballpark figure. (I like it very much when people in ballet make good money, so there's no malice intended in my Q.)

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Honestly, I don't know. You can, I'm sure, find out what the Royal and the Birmingham company pay for the work (two companies that are listed in Wikipedia as performing this production), but I'm sure that they both negotiated specifically with him and that the fees they agreed on are, at least in part, affected by his long-term relationships with those organizations. Who else performs his Giselle right now?

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Non-profit organizations that avail themselves of public funds in the USA must make available to the public its annual financials, so it should not be too hard to find sample budgets with some level of detail for a season, at least down to a general acquisitions level. If a company asks for donations, they should let us know how money is spent. I'm just looking for a general ballpark figure on acquisition of an existing full-evening classic.

Edited to add: Sandik, thanks for the tip-off related to the RB. I'm trying to help a close friend with estate planning. She would like to donate cost of ballet productions to a US-based company & didn't know where to begin. I'm already getting leads & thank folks who have emailed me privately. Thanks again!

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http://www.abt.org/pdfs/ABT_Form990_2012.pdf\\

Natalia, I easily found ABT's 2012 tax return on the internet.

On the Statement of Functional Expenses, there is an expense of $353,000 regarding Royalties (line 15 of the form). However,there is no breakdown regarding the royalty payments, unless it is somewhere else in a schedule that I missed.

I don't recall what they performed in 2012, but I'm sure a lot of that figure relates to royalties to Ratmansky, to the MacMillan estate, and others

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All 501 ©(3) organizations file a 990 tax return with the IRS. These are public documents. Many groups post their own on their Web site. Groups like Guidestar collect them. And you can request them from IRS. I understand that IRS is making them more readily available on their Web site.

But, as abatt points out, they only report category totals, not all line item expenditures. I work with a 501c3 group and we have no further reporting requirements other than to our board.

For royalty payments, I assume each arrangement is negotiated, depending on audience, number of performances, etc. I understand that Balanchine let DTH perform his work at no charge, to help them get started, eg.

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Who else performs his Giselle right now?

In interviews Wright has mentioned that he has staged the ballet 15 times. A slightly different version is performed by the National Ballet of Canada (since 1970) and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (since 1982). The NBoC has just finished a run, so I wouldn't expect any budgets from this season to have been reported yet. The RWB performed it a year ago, so perhaps the annual budget is available somewhere, though, as others noted, I wouldn't expect published figures to include specific costs for each production. But I suppose one could contact the companies and ask.

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Non-profit organizations that avail themselves of public funds in the USA must make available to the public its annual financials, so it should not be too hard to find sample budgets with some level of detail for a season, at least down to a general acquisitions level. If a company asks for donations, they should let us know how money is spent. I'm just looking for a general ballpark figure on acquisition of an existing full-evening classic.

Edited to add: Sandik, thanks for the tip-off related to the RB. I'm trying to help a close friend with estate planning. She would like to donate cost of ballet productions to a US-based company & didn't know where to begin. I'm already getting leads & thank folks who have emailed me privately. Thanks again!

By now you've probably realized that you're looking at a very big ballpark. The problem (well, one of them) is that there are so many variables.

Is your friend thinking of a specific company and/or a specific ballet? Or are they thinking more generally, about some kind of fund that a company could apply to if they were hoping to mount a program length work?

If it's the former, that might be simpler. If they're looking to support a particular company, the best place to start is with the company itself. What kind of works are they already performing -- where do they come from, how did they get them, and how much did they cost? If you're looking at the Acme Ballet Company, in Moderately-Sized-City, that does three programs a year outside of Nutcracker, and one of those is always a family-friendly-full-length, you can gauge from there what their general budget might be, what kinds of resources they have for a new production, and what might fit their artistic mission. While your friend's motives might be to help the company to grow, or to expand their repertory, they likely don't want to endow a production that is so out of line with everything else the company does that they wouldn't have the human resources to present it, or the general resources to maintain it. Then you know what you might be shopping for.

If what your friend wants to do is to support a particular ballet or choreographer, that's even easier -- contact the artist directly. They would be thrilled to receive a donation earmarked for a particular work.

It gets more complicated when you start looking at a specific company -- do they have a relationship with a choreographer or a choreographer's estate that would give them a discount on a work, or a chance at a work that another company of similar size might not be considered suitable for? Pacific Northwest Ballet was very fortunate at the beginning of its life that Francia Russell came on board quite early -- as a renown Balanchine stager, the company saved money on hiring other stagers at a point when they had a very small budget. (this is outside the royalty payments -- as noted above, Balanchine could be extremely generous with those negotiations). As a result, we had a much richer repertory than we might otherwise have been able to afford.

When Peter Boal was hired as AD, I know he was not seen as a prolific stager (though he's done much more of it than anticipated). The company had to project more staging fees in their budget to compensate. But his connections to the Robbins estate have bought the company opportunities that they might otherwise not had, and they've been adding to that repertory.

Where it gets sticky is when a donor wants to be an artistic director -- when they have their heart set on a particular work for a particular company. We've talked at length here about the process that companies go through to get works from certain artists (Robbins is just one example) but it really goes both ways. A company has an identity -- it's led by its current artistic director, but it's really the accumulation of their history in their community. (think of all the discussions we've had about the changes at Pennsylvania Ballet) They may think that a particular work isn't appropriate for their rep, for many different reasons. A choreographer or choreographer's estate has an identity as well -- they have ideas about the kind of work they do and the kind of dancers who do it. They may think that a particular company isn't appropriate for their work, for many different reasons.

I love to program things in my head, to speculate about who would look great in what work, but I'm not an artistic director. The only audience I have to satisfy is myself, the only budget I have to meet isn't a consideration, and the only aesthetic barriers I have to overcome are my own imagination.

Since I still haven't given you any hard numbers, I will offer these. From PNB's financial statements on their websites, these are the total artistic fees (licenses, royalties and staging fees) for the last few seasons, along with the works they paid for.

“Choreography and dance”

2014-15 season $434,143

Jewels

Mixed bill (Million Kisses to My Skin (Dawson) Rassemblement, Before After (Ochoa), new work (Justin Peck))

Nutcracker (Stowell)

Don Quixote (Ratmansky)

All Forsythe (Vertiginous Thrill, New Suite, In the Middle

Swan Lake

Mixed bill (Concerto DSCH, Carmina Burana (Stowell))

Of these, Vertiginous, New Suite, and Before After were staged fresh. The new Peck was, obviously, new -- the rest were company revivals with varying staging/coaching needs.

2013-14 season $508,249

All Tharp (Brief Fling, Nine Sinatra Songs, new work)

Mixed bill (Petite Mort, Sechs Tanze, Forgotten Land, Emergence)

Nutcracker (Stowell)

Sleeping Beauty (Hynd)

Mixed bill (Take Five (Stroman), Kiss (Marshall), State of Darkness (Fenley), new Cerrudo)

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Giselle (Boal and Fullington)

Brief Fling and Forgotten Land were new stagings -- the rest were revivals or altogether new.

2012-2013 $610,458

Mixed bill (Circus Polka (Robbins), Cinderella (Stowell)

Mixed bill (new work (Bartee), new work (Mullin), new work (Gaines), new work (Morris)

Nutcracker (Stowell)

Romeo et Juliette (Maillot)

Mixed bill (Concerto Barocco, Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven (Dove), In the Upper Room, new work (Gibson)

Swan Lake (Stowell)

Mixed bill (Agon, new work (Wheeldon), Diamonds)

Circus Polka was a new staging, the rest were new or revivals.

2011-2012 $539,934

All Wheeldon (Carousel, After the Rain pas de deus, Polyphonia, Variations Serieuses)

Mixed bill (Divertimento from Baiser de la Fee, Afternoon of a Faun, pas de deux from Romeo et Juliette (Maillot), Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty

Nutcracker (Stowell)

Don Quixote (Ratmansky)

Mixed bill (Cylindrical Shadows (Ochoa), A Million Kisses to My Skin (Dawson), new work (Victor Quijada))

Mixed bill (Carmina Burana (Stowell), Apollo)

Coppelia (Balanchine)

Divertimento and Faun were new stagings -- the rest were revivals or creations.

This doesn't include dancer or musician salaries, though I think it does include composer royalties.

Again apologies for such a long post.

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Thanks again. I spoke today with a Washington Ballet Board member who gave me "specifics" on "staging fee" for full-evening classical works staged in the company during the last four years (Corsaire, Swan Lake, Sylphide, for ex)...not that the WB is necessarily the company that my friend has in mind...but at least now we have "figures" before we meet with the donations people at the company. (I'll keep specific-stagers' works & fees to myself for the sake of confidentiality but it jives with the above subtotals; from 1/4 to 1/3 of annual subtotals. Full lengths take longer than a 20-30 minute work.) My friend wants to spread the joy of HER preferred ballets to future audiences. I first found it a tad creepy but, in fact, it's a beautiful notion.

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I think we all want people to love the things we love, but it doesn't always happen. I had lunch today with a friend who sits on a local library board, and when we talked about this issue she said I might be surprised at how many specifically directed gifts the organization refuses, because they doesn't fit with their mission. The same thing apparently happens with proposed commissions for music groups -- they are often refused with thanks if they don't fit the aesthetic of the ensemble.

Please do let us know what you can about this process -- I hope that, for your friend's sake, this proposal works for everyone involved.

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Oh yes -- and I know several donors to new works funds that get to have input on the dances their money helps to underwrite. But in general, the artistic director is the main judge.

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I have no doubt that McKenzie receives an agreed up royalty check every time SL is performed at ABT, just as the MacMillan estate receives a royalty check every time MacMillan's R&J is performed. I don't think that the amount of the royalty McKenzie gets is so large that it is a motivation to keep or dump his SL. His primary source of income is as artistic director of ABT, and the royalties are probably a very small percentage of his total income. I don't know if this information is reflected on company tax returns or financials as a separate item, or if that info is publicly available.

For people like Ratmansky or Wheeldon, their royalties are probably much more significant in terms of their overall annual income because their works are being licensed to numerous companies around the world. (In contrast, McKenzie's SL is not being performed anywhere else (because nobody wants it?)). Also, I'm sure that both Wheeldon and Ratmansky can command a high price for licensing of their works because of their acclaim and popularity. Mrs. Ratmanksy is a primary stager of Mr. Ratmansky's works, I believe. I'm not sure who is staging Wheeldon's works. Mrs. Ratmansky is also bringing home the bacon by appearing in character roles at ABT.

It depends on the terms of McKenzie's AD contract and / or commission agreement(s) with ABT. In the case of the former he might have been obligated to deliver a certain number of ballets over a certain period of time, with the understanding that the commission fees and royalties that might otherwise have been due to him were instead built into his annual compensation. In the case of the latter, the company might have paid him a commission fee and in return gotten a royalty-free right to perform the works in the future, either in perpetuity or for some stated period of time. The company might have retained exclusive rights to the works in perpetuity or they may have given McKenzie the right to license them out to other companies after some reasonable period of exclusivity.

If I recall correctly, ABT pays Ratmansky an annual salary in return for a steady stream of new work -- either new as in world premieres or new as in "new to ABT" -- as well as assistance with rehearsal and staging. His salary is almost as high as McKenzie's, so I'll hazard a guess that the company has a royalty-free right with some measure of exclusivity for at least a portion of what he delivers to them.

I'd expect to see royalties and fees paid to a ballet company's AD (or to any of its other employees or employee relations) listed in Schedule L to IRS form 990, which covers "Transactions with Interested Persons." If you look at Schedule L, Part IV of NYCB's 990 for the year ending 6/30/14, for instance, you'll see that Peter Martins was paid $10,125 in choreographic fees / royalties in addition to his AD salary. This might have been for works he created specifically for NYCB, or it might have been for work he created for another company and re-staged for NYCB. I couldn't find a similar item on ABT's most recent 990 (for the year ending 12/31/14), for what it's worth, which suggests to me that neither McKenzie nor Ratmansky received royalty payments from ABT above and beyond what they earned as AD and Artist in Residence, respectively. (Well, that or they interpreted the rules regarding what should be reported on Schedule L differently than I have ...)

On a related note, the IRS has FINALLY begun to make Form 990 data publicly available in a machine-readable format. The information will be housed in Amazon Web Services' Public Data Sets repository and is freely available to anyone with an internet connection and the skills necessary to parse an XML or JSON file. This is a big deal for organizations like Pro Publica, Guidestar, Charity Navigator, etc who to date have had to rely on brute force to gather, warehouse, and analyze 990 data. (I took a test drive was able to extract and download a couple of recent ballet company filings pretty easily. Doing something useful with the XML files is another matter altogether, but hardly rocket science -- it's something hobbyist could manage with time a few free tools. )

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Regarding Ratmansky, I assume that salary is for the new works he creates and the six (or however many weeks) he has agreed to spend in NY every year with ABT coaching the dancers in his new works. To the extent that they are reviving works that Ratmansky created previously at ABT or elsewhere, I would assume that ABT pays him an additional amount which is classified as a royalty payment, and is not included in his annual salary paid by ABT.

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I did a little digging around on both the IRS website and in ABT's recent 990s. Since ABT doesn't list Ratmansky as a "Key Employee" as defined by the IRS, they aren't required to report separate business transactions with him on Schedule L to Form 990. (Everyone in the dance world might think he's artistically critical to ABT's mission, but for form 990 purposes, he doesn't fall within the definition of a Key Employee.) Per the Schedule L rules "business transactions" include license agreements, but if Ratmansky's not a Key Employee, his licensing agreements with ABT wouldn't have to be reported there.

So I think there's no way to tell from ABT's 990s alone whether Ratmansky gets paid additional fees and royalties on top of his salary -- whether for newly created works or revivals of works he created for other companies. I believe that there are only two of the latter in ABT's rep, however: The Bright Stream and The Golden Cockerel.

ABT's Ratmanksy Rep per its website:
The Bright Stream
Chamber Symphony
Dumbarton
Firebird
The Golden Cockerel
The Nutcracker
On the Dnieper
Piano Concerto #1
Serenade after Plato's Symposium
Seven Sonatas
The Sleeping Beauty
Symphony #9
The Tempest
Waltz Masquerade

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Re the terms of Ratmansky's contract with ABT, I just found this in the New York Times' archives:

"Ballet Theater announced Wednesday that Mr. Ratmansky, who had been committed to the troupe through 2013, agreed to the extension two years before his previous contract was up. The terms remain unchanged: he is to spend 20 weeks a season with the company and choreograph at least one new work a year or restage one of his older dances."

So, 20 weeks per year and at least one new work or restaged older work per year.

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Kathleen, thanks so much for doing the digging (I've got limited time right now, so am just going to have to admire from afar). This is fascinating stuff!

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Kathleen, thanks so much for doing the digging (I've got limited time right now, so am just going to have to admire from afar). This is fascinating stuff!

Can you tell I would rather do anything than the chore I was supposed to wrap up today?

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Can you tell I would rather do anything than the chore I was supposed to wrap up today?

A fellow procrastinator!

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I did a little digging around on both the IRS website and in ABT's recent 990s. Since ABT doesn't list Ratmansky as a "Key Employee" as defined by the IRS, they aren't required to report separate business transactions with him on Schedule L to Form 990. (Everyone in the dance world might think he's artistically critical to ABT's mission, but for form 990 purposes, he doesn't fall within the definition of a Key Employee.) Per the Schedule L rules "business transactions" include license agreements, but if Ratmansky's not a Key Employee, his licensing agreements with ABT wouldn't have to be reported there.

So I think there's no way to tell from ABT's 990s alone whether Ratmansky gets paid additional fees and royalties on top of his salary -- whether for newly created works or revivals of works he created for other companies. I believe that there are only two of the latter in ABT's rep, however: The Bright Stream and The Golden Cockerel.

In the procrastination vein, I spent some time rummaging around on PNB's most recent for 990 (for 2014). They don't include a Schedule L, I think in part because they don't have an ongoing relationship with a resident choreographer. Peter Boal and Emile de Cou are both listed as "key employees," as are Ellen Walker and D David Brown as Executive Directors (it was the year he retired and she stepped up). And they list the grants that the company gives as part of their Second Stage program, where dancers can start training for post-performance careers while they're still dancing.

But I can't really tease out the artistic fees for individual ballets

I must say, this is complex stuff.

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The definition of "key employee", linked to above, states "Officers, directors and trustees are not considered key employees."

Is Artistic Director not a director as defined by the IRS?

Tax law details are such an arcane field!

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