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Calliope

Funding & Elitisim

24 posts in this topic

I can tell off the bat this will be long winded, so please bear with me while I try to get to my point.

I was wondering last night about this. I remember seeing in the threads in the past the "is ballet elitist" subjects and since we've been discussing finances lately. In the States it seems that a large portion of the companies rely on the Gala fundraisers for the bulk of funds and many of the companies state that performance cover barely a small percentage of the overhead for the operations. Which basically means that people that can afford to go to $1,000 a plate dinners are the primary donors (not that the rest of us that contribute don't make a difference, but...)

Does the financial backing of the upper tier contribute to this ballet is for the elite notion and is it the same in other countries (both the funding and elitist attitude)?

[ December 21, 2001: Message edited by: Calliope ]

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Although galas are an important part of the fundraising mix for dance companies, I am not aware of any company where the galas constitute the greatest portion of the funds raised. Most companies have a diverse mix of funding including individual gifts from a wide variety of donors, foundation grants, corporate sponsorship or grants and government funds. If ballet is an elite art form, how it is funded is only part of the issue.

In Europe, government provides most of the money but ballet is still considered an elite art form. My question is "why is that considered bad?"

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i don't think being an elite form of art is bad, but i don't think that it has to mean that it is elitist about its audiences. in the case of dance i think that to be elite means in some ways to be beautifully done. to be more than something everything can do, at the same time being something everyone can love. i don't think there's anything wrong with that; i love going to the metropolitan museum but i don't look down on the paintings just because i can't reproduce them!

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Rich people have always supported the arts. I'm very happy they do -- it means they're there for the rest of us to enjoy.

I agree. I don't think "elite" is a dirty word. Or "literate" or "educated."

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Originally posted by alexandra:

Rich people have always supported the arts. I'm very happy they do -- it means they're there for the rest of us to enjoy.


Except when it becomes too expensive and only a few people can afford it... And also "elite" seems to be a word which has a lot of different meanings depending on the context (I agree than ballet is, as Mme. Hermine wrote, "not something everyone can do", and that "educated" and "literate" surely aren't bad words, but I don't think that being richer means that you have better artistic tastes...)

As liebs wrote, in Europe (or at least in France, since I don't know well about the situation in other European countries), most of the art is funded by the government. There is some private funding, but not much (and especially not much for dance- it seems that the sponsors prefer to support "lasting" things like sculptures or paintings, rather than performing art). There are galas from time to time at the Paris Opera, but I don't know much about them, and I don't think they represent a significant part of the budget (moreover, I think that often they are for charity purposes for other causes).

I don't know if ballet is considered as an "elite art form" in France (perhaps because the word "elite" isn't used that much?), it probably depends a lot on whom you're speaking with. But surely it isn't considered as very accessible from a material point of view, as the only big company with a large repertory is in Paris and rarely tours in the other French cities (while taxpayers there pay for it, too)- and surely there are as many people able to appreciate ballet in other French cities than in Paris... Moreover, even if the ticket prices are less high than for other companies like the Royal Ballet or than opera tickets, it still isn't very accessible for most of the population, and the POB administration doesn't make much efforts about it (they often have a "you're not good enough for us" attitude towards potentiel customers that I find quite annoying), unlike many theaters. Then, I think that there are quite a lot of people who consider ballet "not intellectual enough" (often they haven't seen any), but that's another matter.

I think that, as it has already been written in other discussions, ballet can't become a "mass art" without losing much of its qualities, but I wonder about the situation in some other countries. For example, I remember reading(in articles in "Ballet 2000") that in Cuba ballet was very popular, and for example that the ballet festival there was a huge event, with sold out tickets, etc. How true is it? And has it implied some negative consequences on the art form?

[ December 22, 2001: Message edited by: Estelle ]

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"Elitism" is a loaded term. If you take it to mean an insistence on quality, it's a virtue. If you're talking about restricting access, it's a vice. I've always believed in being elitist about content and populist about access. As has been said before here, ballet isn't for everyone, but it is for anyone.

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In Cuba, ballet is extremely popular. It may be the result of the political situation -- that Cuba has been so isolated it's had to look inward -- but the ballet has been a great source of national pride. Alonso was also in the position of being ablt to present what she wanted to present and to educate an audience -- anyone, rich or poor (of course being rich doesn't mean one has better taste; being well-educated, however, means that at least one has been exposed to good art) needs to be educated to appreciate fine art or literature.

I think the arts will depend on rich donors, which is why New York City can support two big, and several small, ballet companies. If you need to raise $500,000, getting it in $10 checks is a much more daunting task than being able to tap five people who can be convinced to write a $100,000 check.

The situation in France is quite different from here, I think, since so many of the smaller companies outside Paris have been turned from ballet companies to contemporary dance companies. I've heard two rationales for this. One is simply that contemporary dance is so much cheaper -- smaller cast works, no pointe shoes, etc. -- and the other is (Patrice Bart said this in the recent DanceView interview) that "ballet does not stand mediocrity" and that it's better to have one top-of-the-line company than a dozen lesser lights. IMO, this is a mistake and one that will eventually cost French ballet dearly. If most of France is cut off from ballet -- never sees it -- but sees only contemporary dance, well, gosh, that's what they're going to think of as dance, and Paris Opera Ballet is going to be even more distant and foreign -- and the cries of "why do we have to support that elephant?" will grow louder.

Lincoln Kirstein had a theory that what kept ballet alive was all the small companies -- even the really tiny ones, the infamous Dotty Dinkles of the world. That gives lots of people a connection to ballet. Ballet in America was richer, I think, in the 1940s, '50s and '60s when several companies toured incessantly, bringing ballet to even tiny towns. But you still need people with money to fund it.

High ticket prices is a knotty question, and no one looks at the costs of producing ballet. It's not just the dancers and musicians, or even the stage unions (who used to get all the blame) now. It's very high salaries to administrative and artistic staff. Departments of education, community outreach, marketing, special programs, etc. That all has to be paid for.

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Alexandra, you're right. All of the expenses of running a big or small company add up. But it is important to remember that no one, not the dancers, stage hands, musicians or administrators get rich on the salaries or fees they are paid. Almost everyone does it to some degree or other for the love of it.

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Liebs, I'm sure you're right. Everyone, or almost everyone, in ballet is there because they love it, but artistic director salaries in the larger companies are now counted in fractions of a million -- quarter-million, half-million -- dollars PLUS if the director is a choreographer, there may be royalties on top of it, and certainly are if his or her ballets are taken into another company's rep. So I think there are some people at the top -- and on the exec side, too -- who are doing very, very well financially. Several $100,000 salaries must have some effect on ticket prices! (There are still dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who are helping out on subsistence wages, or as volunteers, too, but the tip of the pyramid is getting pretty heavy.)

[ December 22, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Originally posted by alexandra:

I've heard two rationales for this. One is simply that contemporary dance is so much cheaper -- smaller cast works, no pointe shoes, etc. --


That was one of the main reasons for the change in Nancy (the city of Nancy cut its subsidies).

and the other is (Patrice Bart said this in the recent DanceView interview) that "ballet does not stand mediocrity" and that it's better to have one top-of-the-line company than a dozen lesser lights. IMO, this is a mistake and one that will eventually cost French ballet dearly.


I agree 100%. Also, I think that part of the problems is that most things in France still are very much Paris-centered (even if there has been much progress in the last two decades), and so the changes in regional companies are not taken very seriously- the powers that be seem to think that as long as there is some ballet in Paris, that's the only important point... Also none of the regional companies has had a long, continuous history (even though there had been ballet companies quite early in many cities, after all Dauberval's "Fille mal gardée" had been premiered in Bordeaux in 1789): there have been so many changes of directions and policies, with the work of one director being destroyed by the next one, that it was hard to build anything on such foundations. And most people don't seem to understand that building a company and a repertory takes some time, and not only the three or four years an artistic director often lasts.

Also, another reason why ballet probably is more and more foreign to most people is that there is so little of it on television. I've been told that in the 1970s and 1980s, the public television was

showing some ballet quite often, but now it is almost unexisting (probably because all TV channels, including public ones, are interested only in audience figures and advertising money). Of course ballet on TV can't be compared with a real performance, but at least the people who see it know that ballet exists, and it can lead them to pay more attention to it (that's what happened to me thanks to a program about Nijinsky)...

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I'm not sure what defines "rich" but on a typical 1 year for a senior corps member in NYCB with a tour.

They make upwards of 100,000. They get overtime, out of the country per diem and salary.

That's not including if they do guest appearances, which nicely cushions a soloist or principal (who don't get paid overtime).

So while they're not "rich" they are far from starving artists. Then again, this is just NYCB, I'm not sure about other companies.

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Please help me to understand...do you mean upwards of $100,00.00 annually for a senior corps member of NYCB?

Let's hope those dancers have saved their money because they will not come anywhere near that as teachers!

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If that is true, it is way, way beyond anything I have ever heard of for a corps de ballet dancer, even in a major company! Have things really changed that much in a few years? Even with overtime I find that about double the figures I have heard about. When they tour they get a per diem, but they also have to pay for hotels and meals, while still paying rent in NY, so the per diem probably barely covers their daily expenses on the road. I'm not sure about NYCB, but in most, if not all, companies the dancers are paid on a weekly basis, and their contracts vary anywhere from twenty some weeks a year to maybe 46 weeks for a very few. Even they make $700 to $1000 a week, (and smaller companies pay much less than that) that doesn't come close to a six figure salary.

Calliope, I'm not trying to be argumentative here, but I'm really concerned because I think that young dancers reading that might think they can earn that kind of money and if that is happening at NYCB I think it would be the only place. Do you know what the average weekly salary of a corps dancer is in that company, and how many weeks a year they work, not counting overtime or per diem as I don't think they are regular enough additons to figure into an average salary and per diem is not salary anyway.

[ December 24, 2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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on agma's web site, (www.agmanatl.org) it actually has the details of the current contracts of four different companies. as far as corps de ballet of nycb, it lists the following:

8/23/99-8/22/00 8/23/00-8/22/01 8/23/01-8/22/02

Level A Corps $ 825.00 $ 842.00 $ 858.00

Level B Corps 990.00 1010.00 1030.00

Level C Corps 1180.00 1204.00 1228.00

Level D Corps 1430.00 1459.00 1502.00

and they are guaranteed, if i read this correctly, 38 weeks of work, which at the highest level listed here, is just over 57,000.

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And what do they say about per diem, which is not income, but accountable in unemployment calculations?

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well here's that paragraph. they don't address (at least there) the issue of whether or not it is income (i always thought it was and that was why you had to keep receipts etc.).

PER DIEM - USA AND CANADA*

In addition to the above in-town contractual salaries, all ARTISTS shall receive per diem for each day spent outside the City of Origination as follows:

8/23/99-8/22/00 8/23/00-9/22/01 8/23/01-8/22/02

$155.00 $160.00 $165.00

Per diem shall begin at the time of call in the City of Origination and shall finish at the drop-off point in the City of Origination.

*excepting U.S. State Department designated "High Cost" areas, which shall be negotiated individually as needed.

PER DIEM - SARATOGA

In addition to the above in-town contractual salaries, all ARTISTS shall receive per diem for each day spent outside the City of Origination as follows:

8/23/99-8/22/00 8/23/00-9/22/01 8/23/01-8/22/02

$140.00 $145.00 $150.00

oh, and that's www.agmanatl.com, not .org. sorry

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$57,000 for top level corps dancers at NYCB is not a lot of money. Per diems are often spent on tour because even dancers have to eat. NYCB dancers work 38-40 weeks per year and that $57,000 has to cover 52 weeks of expenses in a very expensive city.

It has always been my understanding that NYCB is the highest paid co. in America and it has the most guaranteed weeks of work. So Victoria, I think you are right and most young dancers should not expect to make $100,000 per year.

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I need to clarify.

The salary is typical of senior corps (5 years in)

Housing. Most of the dancers have apartments that are relatively cheap for NYC. NYCB has a few real estate contractors they work with. Most have apartments either under 1000 or a little more than.

Hotels on tour are paid by the Company. If your per diem is $400 a week, that's just to pay for food and whatever else you decide to do. All the time you're on tour, there's company dinners and parties, so you could not ever have to pay for a meal. Also, overseas, there are no U.S. taxes, depending on who sponsors the tours since the money is made outside of the U.S.

Saratoga, since they split houses is pretty cheap as well, with a per diem there.

The time off from the summer you can collect unemployment and most rent out their apartments and either work at summer workshops or enjoy much needed time off.

While MOST dancers don't make this much, in NY they are compensated. And not all of the dancers do guest tours or teach, but those that do can make 100,000.

One of the biggest shocks most of the dancers has is that once they stop dancing, they don't make as much and that's why various programs have been set up to help with that transition.

As for young kids, no they shouldn't expect to make millions while dancing, but I think it's the parents who are mostly worried about the cost and SAB they have programs to help the parents figure out that as well.

Hope that helps. Again, this isn't what everyone does.

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One of the biggest shocks most of the dancers has is that once they stop dancing, they don't make as much

Go figure.

I think it's great that NYCB corps dancers can do so well, and only wish that dancers elsewhere might come even remotely close.

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Check out ARB and what they are going through right now. There was a story (see Links from yesterday, Dec. 23) about their new ballets being scrapped, company cut by 4 dancers, and the salaries of the rest of the dancers cut from $26,000 to $16,000. frown.gif That's a very long way from NYCB, and really shows the degree of difference from company to company. It's very hard to think of any professional dancers today only making $26k, and anything less than that is totally impossible in terms of making a living as a dancer.

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Hi!

I'm by no means very knowledgable on the topic, but just a few comments:

Calliope wrote:

I need to clarify. The salary is typical of senior corps (5 years in)

Kate: I would assume that is before taxes (city, state AND federal), and is that before or after deductions for health care premiums??

Housing. Most of the dancers have apartments that are relatively cheap for NYC. NYCB has a few real estate contractors they work with. Most have apartments either under 1000 or a little more than.

Kate: I suspect that the company works with these contractors to find inexpensive apartments because the dancers can't afford to pay much more-these generally are not luxurious apartments by any stretch of the imagination. And do these figures include phone bills, electricity, heat,laundry etc.?? That adds A LOT to the cost of rent... Not to mention that unless you are in a rent-controlled apartment, rent goes up a bit every year to offset increases in the landlord's expenses. And if you own your apartment, you probably have to pay some kind of property/real-estate tax.

Hotels on tour are paid by the Company. If your per diem is $400 a week, that's just to pay for food and whatever else you decide to do. All the time you're on tour, there's company dinners and parties, so you could not ever have to pay for a meal. Also, overseas, there are no U.S. taxes, depending on who sponsors the tours since the money is made outside of the U.S.

Kate:

Even if there are parties and dinners at night, you have to eat during the day, and especially in Great Britain, it's not cheap. Nor does the company always stay in decent hotels-in Scotland the company was housed in dormitories.

I believe that you get taxed on money no matter where it is made-earned income is earned income. The rules (and endless tax forms) may be different, but the money isn't tax free in the end.

Saratoga, since they split houses is pretty cheap as well, with a per diem there.

Kate: They split houses because of the cost-Saratoga is expensive in the summer and decent housing is VERY hard to get because of the concurrent ballet and horse racing seasons. They have to pay rent, and per diem has to cover just about everything else-gas/transportation (the performing arts center is not close to much of the housing), food (which is often take out or restaurant since they often are too busy or too exhausted to cook), laundry etc.

The time off from the summer you can collect unemployment and most rent out their apartments and either work at summer workshops or enjoy much needed time off.

Kate: Unemployment isn't exactly great pay...especially when you are trying to make ends meet in NYC.

While MOST dancers don't make this much, in NY they are compensated. And not all of the dancers do guest tours or teach, but those that do can make 100,000.

Kate: I suspect that not many actually clear $100,000 and in anycase, those that do lose a lot of that income to the city, state and federal governments in taxes.

One of the biggest shocks most of the dancers has is that once they stop dancing, they don't make as much and that's why various programs have been set up to help with that transition.

Kate: I think that the shock is more in having to decide what to do when your ballet career is over, when you've been spending most of your time and energy on ballet since a very young age. Money is one issue, but having to go out and start anew can be very scary and overwhelming.

If dancers are making $100,000, with some good financial advice and planning, they should be able to invest enough to make the transition financially, so long as they aren't unemployed for too long.

Also, is any of that pay deducted for health insure

Kate

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Kate: I suspect that not many actually clear $100,000 and in anycase, those that do lose a lot of that income to the city, state and federal governments in taxes.

Stop the presses! You mean, dancers actually have to pay taxes like, well, everyone else?

While many of your points are well taken, I'm sure Calliope meant dancers some corps dancers' pre-tax gross might be as much as 100k, not that it's their post-tax income! I don't know anyone who, when boasting, or complaining, of his or her salary, will say they "make" their after-taxes income. Common usage, at least in my experience, is that you "make" your pre-tax gross.

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Keeping in mind that NYCB is one of the highest paying jobs (if not the highest), the work year is 40 weeks (I thought I read some where it was about 42-46 including rehearsals), and the work lives of dancers is short compared to other professions, a job that pays $52,000 a year is pretty decent, even in New York. Most of the people I graduated undergrad with in 1993 can't afford to live in Manhattan, let alone the Lincoln Center area, do not make $50,000 a year and have heaps of college loan payments. So, on a certain level, these dancers are doing quite well, especially if they know how to manage their money through the 6-10 weeks they're off. I'm sure some dancers are going to come read this with daggers in their eyes, but I remember feeling this way while reading the recent feature on NYCB corps dancers in Dance Magazine. However, many dancers, especially main corps memebers (ones who are obviously not going to be soloists or principals), do not have long performing careers and most ballet companies don't pay as much as NYCB, whereas many of us can continue on rising up the ladder well into our 40s, 50s and 60s.

Getting back to galas, I think that while the night itself might not generate as much money as it has in the past, they will continue during these hard economic times as a reward to those who do contribute a lot of money. In fact, I think that companies can look at other items, things that do not cost much, as a "reward" to those who contribute, espcially during the stretch we're in now where so many different organizations are vying for our dollars. For ex. more rehearsal or dress rehearsal viewings. Or a chance to meet dancers (not in function that would cost money but in the green room). Like I said in another tread, companies need to get a little creative these days. And I think, that yes, they can be a little less elitist in the way they treat the audience.

I do agree with Alexandra about the high wages of the top executives or AD. But it is that way in life, the people below are the ones who take the financial brunt when things go wrong, not the ones at the top -- just look at Enron.

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A Merry Christmas to all.

yes 100,000 is pre-tax.

The contractor for real estate is rent-stabilized.

When you make a base of 57 K and you have on average 15 hours a week of hourtime (more during Nutcracker) it's quite easy to clear 75 K on that alone.

You can collect unemployment even if you're doing a gig in say Italy. They don't stay in 4 Star Hotels often, but that depends on who is doing the tour. For example, Scotland it's dorms, Australia it was the Sheraton, it really depends on who's bringing you there.

Taxes. You can write off all of your "work" related necessities, such as clothes, shoes, the cost of laundering those clothes, pilates classes and outside dance classes.

You do have to pay AGMA dues, but that also includes your healthcare, of which they have doctor's on staff and massage therapists, so in some instances you'd never have to leave the building!

So, you may not have 100 K floating around in your apartment, but it does add up by year's end. And if you own your apartment, you get the interest write offs.

My sister danced for 8 years with the Company. She cleared the $100 K mark 5 of those 8 years and then was stunned when she found out I graduated college and was making 30 K. I've sinced moved up smile.gif but in the beginning I didn't have an apartment she had, or even half the size, or half the price. But NYCB is a huge corporation and one of the pressures of getting in and out is the financial security.

Like with any job though, in the beginning you don't make the "good money" you need to work your way up to a manager and then director. Ballet just changes the titles.

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