miliosr

2017-18 Season

27 posts in this topic

Yes, finally! They had the dates up for weeks with no info and then finally added the choreographers maybe a week ago and yesterday finally added the actual names of the ballets. I was thinking it takes chutzpah to ask people to subscribe without giving the ballets they would be subscribing to, so I am glad to see they finally came through. Some very interesting things, and this is why there is buzz around Sarasota. Who would have thought the sleepy town of Sarasota would become an Ashton base? I also see that the Gomes connection is being explored. They got him to participate in a gala and then he danced the male lead in Two Pigeons, and now he is going to choreograph something for the company. I walked by Joseph Volpe before the final program on April 28, and it is funny to see him running things at Sarasota Ballet after so many years of managing the Metropolitan Opera. I live too far away from Sarasota now to go to every show, but their repertoire continues to tantalize. I am getting to see ballets that normally I would never get to see.

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6 hours ago, Birdsall said:

I was thinking it takes chutzpah to ask people to subscribe without giving the ballets they would be subscribing to,

 

I know a few organizations that are able to run a successful subscription campaign with a significant number of TBA programs on the schedule, but you're right -- it takes fortitude, and a really good relationship with your subscribers.  Interestingly, most of the organizations I know that can do this present some really experimental work -- perhaps the audience that is willing to take a leap in the theater is the one that will take a leap of faith for a season.

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No rescheduling of the reconstruction of Ashton's APPARITIONS, which was removed from the April 2017 bill? Boo!  So much for a trip to Sarasota next season.

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16 hours ago, sandik said:

 

I know a few organizations that are able to run a successful subscription campaign with a significant number of TBA programs on the schedule, but you're right -- it takes fortitude, and a really good relationship with your subscribers.  Interestingly, most of the organizations I know that can do this present some really experimental work -- perhaps the audience that is willing to take a leap in the theater is the one that will take a leap of faith for a season.

 

I can picture lovers of experimental work being fine with just knowing the dates for the season, but people who love ballet and do not live in Sarasota (but near enough to visit) or people who would like to travel to Sarasota (great beaches, by the way for anyone who is thinking about it......you can look down and see your feet) need to know the ballets. But they did finally post and so I shouldn't complain. I guess the posting of just the dates were for the hardcore subscribers who live in Sarasota and plan to see every show no matter what, but they need the dates to put in their calendar and make plans. But the rest of the world wants to know the ballets in order to consider when to go to Sarasota.

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15 hours ago, Natalia said:

No rescheduling of the reconstruction of Ashton's APPARITIONS, which was removed from the April 2017 bill? Boo!  So much for a trip to Sarasota next season.

 

There must be a problem with it, because they made it sound like it would be rescheduled. It may show up in a future season, but maybe there were scheduling conflicts with whoever was going to help stage it.

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Scheduling or perhaps Budgeting problems, Birdsall? Or policy/change of focus? Not so much "All Ashton Rarities, All the Time" as in years past. Maybe it's cheaper to stage well-know Ashtons, like THE DREAM, which can be rented more economically from other US companies that already have it in their rep?

 

yet...

 

I just realized that only two ballets in the final triple bill for next season (April 2018) were announced. So there's a tiny glimmer of hope that they're leaving the spot open for a possible reinstatement of APPARITIONS, if budget or other conditions allow?

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7 hours ago, Birdsall said:

 

I can picture lovers of experimental work being fine with just knowing the dates for the season, but people who love ballet and do not live in Sarasota (but near enough to visit) or people who would like to travel to Sarasota (great beaches, by the way for anyone who is thinking about it......you can look down and see your feet) need to know the ballets. But they did finally post and so I shouldn't complain. I guess the posting of just the dates were for the hardcore subscribers who live in Sarasota and plan to see every show no matter what, but they need the dates to put in their calendar and make plans. But the rest of the world wants to know the ballets in order to consider when to go to Sarasota.

 

I think it's less about the work being programmed, and more about the distinction between local and visiting audience.  As you point out, making a commitment to travel to a location is a much bigger investment than just the price of the ticket.

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5 hours ago, Natalia said:

I just realized that only two ballets in the final triple bill for next season (April 2018) were announced. So there's a tiny glimmer of hope that they're leaving the spot open for a possible reinstatement of APPARITIONS, if budget or other conditions allow?

 

The program title is Ashton and Tudor, so who knows what the wild card ballet might be.  Let the speculation run wild!

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46 minutes ago, sandik said:

 

The program title is Ashton and Tudor, so who knows what the wild card ballet might be.  Let the speculation run wild!

Don't get too excited yet.  It's "Ashton & Tudor" because, for now, it contains Tudor's LEAVES and Ashton's MARGUERITE. The 3rd ballet could be by anyone; hopefully yet another Ashton?

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How long is Marguerite and Armand? (I know it's a one act.) The Tudor Trust lists The Leaves Are Fading at 32 minutes.

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I was surprised to read in the news report posted elsewhere that the company is downsizing that it had 51 dancers on contract last year, although it doesn't say for how many weeks. (I remember a story a couple of years back in a dance magazine about how dancers survive on small salaries - one dancer at Sarasota was a barista at Starbucks.) As that news report says, regional companies typically have 45 or less. Colorado Ballet has 25-30, not counting apprentices or studio company. I wonder if this is another example of a mismatch between artistic visions and fiscal realities.

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PNB currently lists 44 dancers (15 principals, 8 soloists, 21 corps) and 3 apprentices.  They pull from the professional school for big ensembles like Nutcracker and Symphony in C (in part to give those dancers some stage experience).  Does Sarasota have a school that can fill in those gaps?

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Posted (edited)

I found the report posted under press releases puzzling. Company becoming substantially smaller with quite a few dancers dismissed; insistence by management it had nothing to do with finances or recent unionization or change in artistic vision. Statements that partly came to 'well, we have achieved our goals and we don't need those numbers anymore...' ... Sarasota is always offered as a huge success story (rightly I think). It would not be astonishing if there were financial growing pains, but why issue statements saying that is not the case? Have no wish to speculate--would like a better understanding.

Edited by Drew

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The company already numbered in the 50s (including apprentices) during its heyday of the Ashton Festival in 2014 (just checked my souvenir playbill). To me, it was amazing - too good to be true - to have such a large company dancing quality works by Ashton & Tudor when larger cities had much smaller companies doling out "easy-to-sell" fare like Alices and Draculas. I had assumed that this "miracle" was due to an exceedingly wealthy/generous population, with older demographics.

 

The announcement about the cuts now explains certain earlier admin decisions, subtle (or not) changes in rep, etc. When I heard about the unionization I thought, "Ah, ok. Here comes the end of Camelot." Not that I'm against artists being fairly compensated...but I had assumed that all of the great achievements of the past 10 years had happened with already-unionized dancers. 

 

Sigh. 

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4 hours ago, sandik said:

PNB currently lists 44 dancers (15 principals, 8 soloists, 21 corps) and 3 apprentices.  They pull from the professional school for big ensembles like Nutcracker and Symphony in C (in part to give those dancers some stage experience).  Does Sarasota have a school that can fill in those gaps?

Ballet West has 40 on their web page. I think San Francisco is the third largest company in the country, and they have 72 (excluding apprentices and character dancers). It does make 51 seem all the more unusual in a small city.

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Joseph Volpe, who is now the Executive Director of Sarasota Ballet, used to be the General Director of the Metropolitan Opera, a much, much larger entity. He handled lots of union disputes and talks in his day. He is also very famous for having fired soprano Kathleen Battle when she was on the top of her game. So he can play hardball when he needs to. I have heard he was often fair in union talks, but I'm sure he didn't please everyone. I will be very surprised if he doesn't have a game plan that makes sense (but might not make sense to us at the moment).

 

Apparently, a major overhaul is happening, and there are probably pros and cons to all of this, but we don't have all the facts. It is sad to hear so many dancers will not be returning (I was recognizing many overtime). It will definitely take its toll on morale among those who stay. One of the things I thought I saw previously was a joy for what they were doing/dancing. What some lacked in polish they made up for a love of what they were doing. It is a shame if more technically perfect dancers replace them but are on the cold side.

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Posted (edited)

On 5/6/2017 at 7:14 PM, Birdsall said:

... What some lacked in polish they made up for a love of what they were doing. It is a shame if more technically perfect dancers replace them but are on the cold side.

 

We've seen that before, at NYCB in the mid-'80s, at MCB a few years ago, maybe at PB (Pennsylvania Ballet), and TSFB looks like going out of what existence it had in December.  One positive indication in Sarasota, though, is that Webb is staying on.  Especially while I was reading Natalia's posts, I was thinking, I'm sorry I missed it, but he's signed up for another 10 years, right?  So there's another glimmer of hope.

Edited by Jack Reed

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12 hours ago, Jack Reed said:

 

We've seen that before, at NYCB in the mid-'80s, at MCB a few years ago, maybe at PB (Pennsylvania Ballet), and TSFB looks like going out of what existence it had in December.  One positive indication in Saratoga, though, is that Webb is staying on.  Especially while I was reading Natalia's posts, I was thinking, I'm sorry I missed it, but he's signed up for another 10 years, right?  So there's another glimmer of hope.

 

What you are saying is what I was trying to imply. There is hope for the audiences, if not for the dancers who left and some who remain (who might be shaken by colleagues/friends leaving). If morale is now low, it could effect the artistry next season. As you say, however, Webb and his wife Barbieri are staying. They have turned the company around artistically. But apparently now they are cleaning house and maybe planning on hiring many new dancers, who maybe fit in with their vision. My impression is that until the company had become somewhat known Webb had to make do with what he had (maybe he was never totally happy with the dancers' style or training....who knows?), but now that it is gaining some international buzz and Volpe is the executive director they are planning to clean house and start fresh as far as dancers go. On a human level, I find that very sad. On a business level maybe it is what is needed (I am not behind the scenes, so I can't judge and know what went on and what is necessary really).

 

I don't think this is necessarily the "Fall of Sarasota Ballet" at all. Like I mentioned, Joseph Volpe ran the Met in NYC. He knows a thing or two about running a HUGE performing arts entity. Hypothetically, Sarasota Ballet should be a breeze for him. I have a feeling there are big plans for Sarasota Ballet, but they are in the works, and the changes are painful, especially for the dancers. I wish these decisions had been made in time for them to find work elsewhere. I hope it is true that Webb is trying to help some of them. It sounds like there are some he is eager to be rid of, however, so he won't be helping them.

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The Webbs remain for now. Going by some of the comments to the linked news articles, it seems that a segment of the patrons would like to see them out too.

 

What kind of dancer  (from which school or training style) would the Webbs seek to replace the displaced dancers? Which Cecchetti-based (or RAD-based) school in the USA would they invite to audition for that Ashtonian style (beside the local Barbieri academy)? I ask because it would be very hard in today's political environment to import a lot of UK citizens  (or citizens of countries in the UK-Cecchetti-RAD orbit) to take the spots of American dancers. By the way, do the top UK companies even hire mostly Cecchetti or RAD dancers nowadays, schooled in the ready-for-Ashton style? I think not. One of the miracles of Sarasota is how most dancers have been so well coached in the Ashton ballets, in spite of the dancers' Vaganova foundations, for the most part.

 

So by getting a boatload of  new dancers, the Webbs would most likely have to start from scratch again, unless they feel confident that new Ashtonian dancers of professional calibre can come from the Barbieri academy. Or maybe the Board is looking to "modernize & homogenize" the company's rep into the same mass-"audience-friendly" fare that we see elsewhere in Regional America, e.g., maybe one intelligent mixed bill a year in the midst of an Alice in a Wonderland, a Dracula, a Peter Pan and a Nutcracker?

 

I'm sad & afraid that a few more axes may be falling. I sure hope not!

 

It was somewhat telling that, a couple of years ago, Sarasota Ballet opted to NOT perform a NUTCRACKER (its own "circus"-themed version) and did a run of Ashton FILLE MAL GARDEE in its place.  I'm sure that the Board "loved" that, even though I and other Ashton Lovers silently applauded.

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3 hours ago, Natalia said:

What kind of dancer  (from which school or training style) would the Webbs seek to replace the displaced dancers? Which Cecchetti-based (or RAD-based) school in the USA would they invite to audition for that Ashtonian style (beside the local Barbieri academy)?

 

An interesting question.  I know the Houston Ballet school used to incorporate a big chunk of RAD training, back when Stevenson ran the company.  And there are a number of smaller schools that offer the full curriculum (including the exams), but the big issue would be where those dancers have been apprenticing.  I don't know that they would be able to "step into" the kind of rep that Sarasota has been offering without some kind of pre-pro training.

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I found it pretty surprising and daring for Webb to do La Fille Mal Gardee instead of Nutcracker in December also, and I was there, and the house looked full to me, so I felt it was a gamble that he won. Of course, maybe there are more money making issues at play when canceling Nutcracker. I have to admit that when I first saw that particular season announced, I thought, "That is DARING!!!!!"  There is no way to really know the future, I guess, concerning what will happen with Sarasota, but I would be very surprised if the company totally took a complete nosedive. They still have the ingredients for success. I think the dancer overhaul is shocking and traumatic (especially for the dancers), but we will have to wait and see.

 

I believe Webb inherited a lot of dancers, and it seems like the way of the world now to clean house and bring in dancers who will be loyal to you. I was just guessing at his wanting a specific style or whatever. I was actually being polite. I think he simply wants other personalities and the article sort of hints at that, but I really don't know. When Webb took over the former director had been ousted, I believe, and I think there were hard feelings then too, so Sarasota has had a turbulent time. Even though Webb has been there for 10 years, during that time I think that the former director was initially upset and attempting to compete with SB at first. I think Webb invited and honored him recently to patch up old hard feelings. I think the hard feelings were not necessarily directed toward Webb but rather the board or the loss of the director position. But when I saw that Webb had honored him, I thought that was a step in the right direction. I really don't know the whole story, but the previous director started up a Jose Carreno Festival which later folded and then a modern dance company during Webb's time. I think there was a no compete clause so the former director was doing "other" things somewhat related but different, but to me it seemed like a competition. I have always wondered if Jose Carreno felt like a pawn in a competition game and that might be why he pulled out of his festival and initially was going to team with Barbieri's school, I believe.

 

I suspect there is more to the story than the article lets on. We are likely to never really get the whole story. I hope the dancers who are not being rehired find jobs, and I hope Sarasota Ballet continues on.

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46 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

I found it pretty surprising and daring for Webb to do La Fille Mal Gardee instead of Nutcracker in December also, and I was there, and the house looked full to me, so I felt it was a gamble that he won. Of course, maybe there are more money making issues at play when canceling Nutcracker. I have to admit that when I first saw that particular season announced, I thought, "That is DARING!!!!!" 

 

It's a very English choice -- like many European companies, they've never thought that December was exclusively Nutcracker territory.  But I seem to recall them doing a Ringling Brothers influenced Nut, which would be a very charming nod to another local institution.

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Thanks for all of these good thoughts. My guess is that the big changes, if any, will be noted in the rep for the 2018/19 season.  The 2017/18 still has a good amount of Ashton, without the ultra-rarities of the past...no more flying-in Sir Wright and other high-level stagers from overseas, that I can tell. The better-known Ashtons could be staged by folks in North America, for ex.

 

I'm also wondering if the visibity of Marcelo Gomes in Sarasota this season & next portends a "special non-performing role" beyond the 2017/18 season?

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