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Alexandra

SPAC drops NYCB

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From today's Links:

The other shoe just dropped:

SPAC drops NYC Ballet

The New York City Ballet, a mainstay of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center since it opened in 1966, will be dropped from the lineup after this summer.

Despite a 7.6 percent attendance gain last year, the ballet company is too costly to bring back each year, SPAC President Herbert Chesbrough said Friday, explaining the board's decision.

Chesbrough said it hoped that other less costly ballet companies or classical dance programs can be found to replace the New York City Ballet, whose season at SPAC runs for three weeks in July.

The dance schedule will not be replaced with special events such as popular music or rock concerts, he said. The special events, unlike the classical programming, are money-makers for SPAC. The possibility of dropping the other classical residence at SPAC, the Philadelphia Orchestra, has not been raised.

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This is awful. I haven't felt like this since 1993, when NYCB dropped Suzanne Farrell from its coaching staff. I've been going to Saratoga during the NYCB season for as many years as I can remember and I came to love the town. I can't offer any sort of comment on the SPAC board's action, since to me it seems unbelievable, especially since ballet attendance was up last year and could have been expected to rise again this summer with the Balanchine Centennial. This is the sort of thing that sends me into my grumpy old man rant. Where's the loyalty? NYCB was an original constituent of SPAC. Does that count for nothing? And I didn't appreciate the disgustingly wimpy comments of the Museum of Dance Director at the end of the Saratogian article. Not to mention that board member. What a Valentine gift to Mr B!

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The Albany Times-Union provides a bit more insight than the Saratogian's sketchy attempt (can't their features editor even spell Peter Martins' name right?).

Times-Union Story

It's been painfully clear that Chesbrough has been working hard to find excuses to drop NYCB, while doing nothing a competent manager would do to promote NYCB, like, say, advertise.

He's probably going to cry alligator tears all the way to Clearchannel Entertainment (the scourge of ballet companies throughout the country), and shortly announce a "wonderful" deal to let Clearchannel handle SPAC's classical bookings, just as he signed over SPAC's pop and rock bookings to them a few years ago (after he got a hefty raise to compensate him for how hard he works).

In order to do this, he had to free up a block of time, and now he's done so. It seems if he had been truly interested in keeping City Ballet around, he could have done much more than he did (other than asking NYCB to accept less money, what HAS he done?) to hold onto them.

I think Chesbrough wanted NYCB gone, and mismanaged their tenure to ensure they would be gone. It's not for nothing that we heard more and more rumblings from the SPAC board in recent years about how "expensive" NYCB is. Well, sometimes if you want the best, you have to pay for it. There was a time SPAC was the best.

The question I have (and also asked obliquely by the Times-Union's reporter) is what is Chesbrough doing to justify his $300,000-plus salary? Handing a wonderful public asset over, lock, stock and barrel, to a nasty entertainment monopoly?

For this he should be rewarded? No wonder Marylou Whitney, who'd been instrumental in the creation of SPAC in the Sixties, recently resigned from the board. Doubtless she could no longer bear to see her handiwork destroyed by the country club SPAC's board has become.

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This year, as ballet companies all over the world pay tribute to Mr. Balanchine, and as the centennial of his birth is celebrated everywhere, his company is thrown out of the theater that he helped to build.

I am ashamed to be an employee of that place.

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Oh. My. God. What a blasphemy this is -- I had to read both articles twice, I couldn't believe the Stepford quotes from the Chamber of Commerce and Museum of Dance officials. How on earth did the likes of these people and this Chesbrough guy become the inheritors -- and now the trashers -- of this amazing legacy? I don't believe I've ever seen such blatant mismanagement and neglect and, good grief, I'm running out of vocabulary. I can't believe of the SPAC board only Marylou Whitney was outraged enough to quit, or that they put up with Chesbrough all these years as he ran the program into the ground.

:speechless:

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If I might add my voice to the chorus of outrage-- :green:

has anyone read today's Links, with another , er, article from the Saratoga paper?

"Herb and the city are smart to replace it with something that's more of a draw..."

"We sold more for Dave Matthews in two nights than for the entire ballet.."

This is beyond Stepford. This is Babbitt-- except that Lewis never dreamed of this class of imbeciles. Apparently Saratoga WANTS to become another blip in the landscape of venues hosting one talentless and exorbitantly overpriced "draw" after another. Perhaps Tanglewood might also want to jump on this new cultural bandwagon? Next stop, Dry Gulch, Nevada....

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Good points, tempusfugit! I've been thinking a lot lately of the alternate universe that the angel shows Jimmy Stewart in "A Wonderful Life." We seem to be living in it! Something went wrong.

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This whole thing makes me very upset. For 8 years I've been attending SPAC in the summer to see the ballet. I live closer to Saratoga than to the city however I have seen both. It's just that SPAC is so beautiful in the summer and less expensive than the city and the dancers allow themselves to be more open to the children wanting to meet them after the shows as well. Saratoga has always been a real classy nice town for me to visit and enjoy but if they begin replacing these classical programs with better draws I fear they will lose that reputation. My only hope is that they will lose more money when they drop NYCB and realise they should bring them back. :green:

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You know, all you Saratogans and Summer Saratogans might write letters to the editor on this one, as well as to the board of SPAC.

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Very, very sad. I am so sorry. I have only been up to Saratoga once, two summers ago, but that one time was one of the most beautiful evenings of ballet that my husband and I have ever experienced. We will go this year and it's my bet that the attendance rate will climb even higher.

I wonder if Saratoga has calculated the loss of revenue from the students and families at NYSSSA's ballet program or perhaps that just isn't enough money for their coffers to remain true to the higher calling they once had?

Amen to Alexandra's suggestion of a blitz upon them!

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This is very sad news indeed. Although I am saddened, I am not shocked: I understand that attendance was down; times have changed and ballet boom of the 70s is long gone. That's a huge place to fill for weeks on end: think of filling the New York State Theater two times over for each performance -- as that's what it takes.

I will remember fun times up in Saratoga in a beautiful setting. But NYCB (with its great aesthetic) added a type of class that the those other types (the four-legged ones) of thoroughbreds couldn't give. Now Saratoga will just be another racing town -- without any real class.

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I think this is a horrible development for ballet, period, especially following so closely on the heels of the Wang center/ Boston Ballet fiasco. Perhaps EVERYONE should write letters to the editor... just post an address and I will send one!

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GLAD TO DO SO!!! Please write letters. I'll post a link right away, for snail mail and email correspondance.

Also, re today's Saratogian article--that's three restaurants and one hotel that I shall boycott. I'll not give any business to Doc's, Wheatfield's, High Rock or the Prime Hotel--and won't step inside after I have personally informed management of each.

In bad timing, (well good for me, but bad for this effort), I am currently on vacation in Florida, and about to leave tomorrow for a short cruise--so I am somewhat unavailable until the end of February. But rest assured--things will be done in Saratoga. Whether anything can be reversed remains to be seen, but the Powers that Be will know what is thought of this decision.

On a personal note, I am heartbroken. You all know of my feelings about NYCB and SPAC and their longstanding relationship. Please help us in Saratoga to fight this.

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Send letters to The Saratogian by e-mail at letters@saratogian.com

To be considered for publication, letters should be no longer than 300 words, and must include an address. Please also include a daytime phone number for verfication. All letters will be edited for length and clarity.

Speaking outs should be no more than 500 words long, and follow the same guidelines as the letters.

For more information, call Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo at 518-583-8711.

For snail mail, send to:

Letters to the Editor

The Saratogian

20 Lake avenue

Saratoga springs, NY 12866

for letters to the SPAC board:

Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Avenue of the Pines

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Sorry--because I am not home, I don't have access to information about board members. I can post all of that when I get home. Meanwhile, letters could be addressed to the SPAC Big Wheel: Herb Chesbrough.

The SPAC phone number is 518-584-9330, I think, I am relying on my memory.

One more thing: I have been a SPAC member at the Sustaining level (fairly high level) for over 20 years. No more. I heard rumors about this and have no renewed my membership for this year, nor will I. Any BAers who are also SPAC members might consider using some of that leverage.

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I've never seen NYCB in Saratoga but many years ago went to a concert there and loved the place. It must be wonderful to see the ballet there, and I sympathize with all the folks who will be deprived in the future.

What a smack in the face to Balanchine's memory!

To those who are boycotting and withdrawing support of SPAC, all I can say is: Give 'em Hell!

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Many thanks for those addresses, rkoretzky! We need a "power to the people" raised fist icon right about now.

I sincerely hope everyone who cares will write.

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I found this quote from Herb Chesbrough in today's times articles very revealing: (Please let me know if I've quoted too much):

"Revenue from ballet performances rose by 12.9 percent to $1.24 million in 2003, with attendance rising 7.6 percent. There was a decline in revenue and attendance during the same period for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the center's other classical resident since 1966, which has a contract through 2005. Both companies operate at a deficit, but Mr. Chesbrough described the orchestra loss as significantly less.

"The orchestra is not quite as costly to produce, and they can do a certain amount of pop programs," he said."

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It is my fervent hope that this unhappy situation doesn't become an NYCB vs PO battle. I love both, with all my heart, and both are the permanent legacies of Mr. Balanchine and Mr. Ormandy, who collaborated on the design, construction and indeed every aspect of the original plan.

Indeed the fans of the PO might well remember the old quote about Nazi Germany, the gist being that if one doesn't protest when others are in jeopardy, "they" will come for you next.

Ballet Alerters, don't let this issue die.

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As of last summer, this was the composition of SPAC's Board of Directors:

Charles E. Mather III, Chairman

Wallace A. Graham, Vice Chairman

Edward P. Swyer, Secretary-Treasurer

Herbert A. Chesbrough, President

George M. Cheston

Philly Dake

Charles Dutoit

Martha F. Gerry

Alan Goldberg

Lewis Golub

Wallace A. Graham

Robert J. Higgins

Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords, Jr.

Peter Martins

Charles E. Mather III

Barnabas McHenry

George M. Philip

David H. Porter

Sarah Jeffords Radcliffe

Peter Rollins

Stephen M. Serlin

Sonya A. Stall

Edward P. Swyer

James W. Taylor

Lewis H. Titterton

Charles R. Wood

News accounts refer to the board's "unanimous vote" to oust NYCB. I wonder how many members were present when the vote was taken.

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A unaninimous vote to remove NYCB with Peter Martins on the board? I think you're right, Farrell Fan. I wonder who was present for that vote.

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I'll have to ask Barney McHenry the next time I see him. At least it will let him know that the natives are restless.

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Wasn't there some way that SPAC could have had a transitional, trial season, where over four weeks, half would have NYCB and half a "less expensive" company. If SPAC were to commit its resources equally to promoting both, they could compare which nets more. Come on, much as I adore Paul Taylor, will they fill as many seats? Less money out, but enough to bring a greater net?

And I hate, hate the sense conveyed by Chesbrough's comments that the whole issue is the almighty buck, and artistic merit seems barely a consideration. :angry:

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Paul Taylor?

Try The Rockettes -- Christmas in July! Or Riverdance XVII! Or Fame on Broadway, The Roadshow!

Just wait and see.

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If you haven't already heard about it, here's the address for the petition to keep NYCB at SPAC:

www.gopetition.com/online/3702.html

Let's hope it does some good. I don't think this is over yet.

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