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Ballet Philanthropy

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If you won a huge lottery, say over 20 million or a very distant relative passed away and left you the bulk of their very large fortune, I'm sure that most of us would give some of it away to various charities. Being that we all love ballet I'm also sure that some of it would go to various ballet causes.

So what would you do with it? Give donations to existing ballet companies? Start your own ballet company? There is alot of ways it could be spent.

First I would give a HUGE donation to Alexandra. Perhaps she could restart publishing Ballet Alert!, hire more writers for DanceView or start a whole new ballet enterprise.

Second I would build a not for profit theatre in my town. It would be around a 1500 seater. I would book ballet companies that I don't get a chance to see in my neck of the woods, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Miami City Ballet, etc. Also modern dance, classical music performers, and opera singers. Since it's a not for profit enterprise, once operating expenses are met, the companies can keep the rest of the ticket money.

What would you do with your unexpected booty?

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Before I spent anythng, I would ask Alexandra how much she needed to run this nexus of magazines, websites and on-line publications and send it to her.

Then.... (assuming the windfall was ten times $20 million)

First--build a theater/opera house with a main auditorium with about 1500 seats and a smaller venue that would seat about 250.

Second--while it is under construction, find a music director. Sign her to a five year contract with options to renew. The music director would have experience leading both from the platform and the pit and would be in charge of building the orchestra and deciding on guest conductors. The permanent orchestra will have about 60 full-time members but the pit will be large enough so that free-lancers hired for works by Strauss and Wagner will fit comfortably.

She would also hire the chorus master, who would be an associate conductor and occasionally lead opera performances. The music director is the senior artistic person on the staff.

Third--hire a general director for the opera company. He would have artistic management experience in Europe and North America, have excellent contacts among singers, designers and stage directors. He will have experience staging or conducting operas as well as running a house.

Fourth--hire a choreographer/director for the ballet company. She would have experience both in creating her own ballets and in staging the work of others. She would hire ballet mistresses and masters and begin auditioning dancers for the company.

Fifth--hire a director for the 250 seat theater. He will work with the opera and ballet company to help decide which smaller works, works in progress or other appropriate things for this venue. He will also be responsible for a jazz series and several chamber music series, some of which will be in the main house.

Sixth--hire a director of development. She will have contacts in the local business community at various levels. Her first task will be to find a corporation to buy naming rights for the building itself, the main auditorium and the small house.

Seventh--hire a sales and marketing director. He will be a marketing professional who knows how to present a successful campaign. He will have the freedom to devise campaigns to fill seats for every performance, whether through season tickets, cheap seats for music or dance students, promotions based on the works being presented or other means. The small theatre would have its own marketing and sales operation under his direction.

The fall opera season will begin in mid September and run through mid November. The holiday ballet season will begin in mid November and run through the first week of January, with an appropriate number of Nutcracker performances.

The winter opera season will begin the second week of January and run until mid April, when the spring ballet season will start and run until the end of May.

The only non-negotiable artistic demands I would have are: Swan Lake would be part of at least on ballet series per year and Fidelio would be given at least once a year--although it could be a one-off festival production.

There will be some type of summer festival, including concerts on stage by the orchestra, touring orchestras and chamber music groups and anything else that would make sense.

My office would be in the theater, of course. I would have a box for entertaining special guests, big contributors or others I wanted to impress. I attend at least part of every performance sitting in various parts of the house.

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Since it's a not for profit enterprise, once operating expenses are met, the companies can keep the rest of the ticket money.

What would you do with your unexpected booty?

Once operating expenses are met, there will be no left over money from ticket sales. That's why dance companies need donors, and are non-profit.

As for me, I would establish a foundation with the money, and use it to help underwrite live music for performances (first up, Paul Taylor's company), and to support various revivals of works out of repertory (I have to either miss them or want to see them for the first time) in certain companies. (Funding new work is generally the preference, so I would be in a small way redressing that situation.) I would also establish a collection of choreographer's "drawings" and "choreographic notes" and set and costume sketches that I would, until such time as the foundation's resources were exhausted, be housed here in the foundation office, aka the room in which I am sitting. (ie, It's my foundation, I get to have some fun here.) They would be available for exhibition loan to non profits. To keep things on the up and up, I would pay a book keeper, but find a lawyer to do the foundation work pro bono if possible. In the way of ongoing projects, Alexandra, as the well recompensed off site foundation staff member with full, independent supervision of web and print publication, could do with her generous budget whatever she pleased. Additionally, I would fully underwrite on a yearly basis the positions of Faculty Chair of the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio, and Assistant to the Choregrapher and Rehearsal Director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. If there were any income left, I would make make two donations to existing foundations: the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, which makes grants to individual artists, and to the 2wice Arts Foundation, which commissions collaborations between photographers and choreographers. I would also directly make some small grants, just to make sure I kept myself out there seeing things.

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I would set up a Ballet Alert! Foundation. I'd also give a sizable amount to the UBA and WSB.

(Actually, I saw a drawing once of Stage III in UBA's construction--they never got beyond stage one, and it was very grand. It would be thrilling to be able to hand them a blank check and say "finish it.")

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Firstly, one tenth to the church. By the grace of God, I am a dancer.

Secondly, one tenth to the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, contingent, of course, upon the continued employment of their present ballet master. If he moves, the legacy moves with him.

Thirdly, one-twentieth to the Joffrey Ballet School. Alma Mater, you know.

Fourthly, one-twentieth to the School of American Ballet for an endowment of a "Muriel Stuart Professorship of Ballet".

Fifthly, one-twentieth to be held in escrow against American Ballet Theater developing a continuing school of classical ballet. After twenty years, the principal and interest will be accessible to the school. Should the aforementioned conditions not be met, the principal and interest to be divided between the two ballet schools aforementioned, share and share alike.

Sixthly, one-twentieth to the New York City Ballet.

Seventhly, one-twentieth to the American Ballet Theater.

Eighthly, one-twentieth to do with as I damn well please.

The rest, residue and remainder to pay my taxes - hey, I live in New York!

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Hmm... aside from the very worthy causes already mentioned (esp funding Ballet Alert!), I would like to

- pay the salaries of or otherwise ensure that there are at least two dance critics writing regular columns in the local paper

- support dancer transition programs

- set up a touring version of the local company to bring ballet to all the smaller towns in Ontario (or Canada)--made up of apprentices, students, adventurous members of the company. This would increase the pool of jobs available to dancers and hopefully lead to a bigger audience and therefore government funding. (One can always dream...)

and maybe

- set up a school for adult students/adult beginners that's every bit as intensive as the regular ballet schools, with a syllabus and levels etc, and the opportunity to do partnering, variations and pointe under proper supervision

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In addition to giving generously to selected companies, I would fund a new series of Dance in America programs on PBS -- with me in charge of programming. :( And I'd also fund a series of dance programs from all over the world -- telecasts of performances originally broadcast in Europe and elsewhere that we ordinarily don't get to see.

I was motivated to buy my first ballet ticket by seeing ballet on PBS, and I'm sure that many others would do the same if they were exposed to it.

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I'd start DanceTV, a dance only cable channel. Would have a variety of programs

including doing things like performances from all over the world, education programs for lay people, dance technique for students and professionals, interviews, exercises (ala NYCBallet workout). You get the idea. DanceTV would be for profit (dream on) but the DanceTV Foundation would fund performances, choreographers, schools, etc. Would provide it as a free service for cable companies and would give them some advertising time on it. Would try to make a profit or at least break even through commercials. Natural advertisers would be dance suppliers (clothing, shoes, etc.) as well as upscale things like epensive cars, jewelry, perfume, etc. Just think about it - dancer on TV 24/7!

How about the Balanching festival. All Balanchine for an entire month 24/7. Maybe for his 125th Birthday!

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I would set up a foundation to help support struggling dance companies. I think

that when a company is disbanded due to finances, too much work and blood has

been used. If I feel a company deserves at least one chance to recover, and

survive. :yes:

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Rent the Kirov I agree, but not the Bolshio :( (not after seeing them in London) and add the Paris Opera Ballet.

I would have DVDs made of twenty or maybe thirty of the best companies available, dancing a variety of works, so we could all get to view those companies we long to see. Both the companies and the programmes are open to a lot of debate but with $20M that can be accommodated. :(

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A video encyclopedia of ballet, as maybe an adjunct to rg's wonderful work, with at least one version of every ballet in it, where possible, and where the entire work does not exist, with as much as does exist. so that even if some of them are never done again, we can at least get an idea of what they were like. Of course this will require many many lawyers!

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We have a very nice, but small, company in our town. The woman who runs it, Robin Welch, is a dynamo. But I know what the operating budget is, so I would like to set it up so that they don't have to worry about raising the money to make ends meet and could do some of the things artistically they would like to do.

My 12 year old DD dances at the company school. If she quit tomorrow, she has benefitted so much from dance--well it would be the least I could do to put the local company and school in a good place financially.


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This is a dream topic that needs some updating.

Right now, there's so much talk in my region about major performing arts organizations having to cut their budgets next season. Plus the possibility of our best regional company once again having to drop its live orchestra once again, at least on its regular visits to our city.

One of the posts I definitely support:

In addition to giving generously to selected companies, I would fund a new series of Dance in America programs on PBS -- with me in charge of programming. :) And I'd also fund a series of dance programs from all over the world -- telecasts of performances originally broadcast in Europe and elsewhere that we ordinarily don't get to see.
:angry2: I'd add: hire a team of brilliant marketers so that people learn about the broadcasts and are enticed to tune in and pay attention. And work on a parallel program of subsidized touring for a selected group of companies, so audiences around the country can see more live dance, too.

I'd also give a check to Edward Villella and tell him to hire himself a couple of world-class principals with bona fide star quality. I don't mean any disrespect to MCB's wonderful young dancers. But you need a bit more star power to lead the way in the ambitious and challenging repertory which VIllella has provided for his company -- and to sell it to audiences.

So ... what if you won the lottery? .. you're RICH !!! ... You love ballet. What next?

And, of course, there's always the option that's just a little bit wicked, like the following, from Manhattanik:

I'd write Peter Martins a check for $1,000,000, but tell him he had to use it to revive Pan Am Makes the Going Great.
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How kind of Ari to want to donate to "Dance in America", however there are some facts which should be considered first...

Only ONE station, ONE production company, ONE executive producer, ONE producer, and most of their small staff have been doing it since it's inception. So...you get ONE person's viewpoint and programming/production choices.

Smaller stations rarely have the incentive or funding to do arts or live performance programming themselves, or to air the national feeds of such programs--which was why, for nearly ten years, I thought DiA was not even in production anymore! (I had also heard they had a funding shortfall, and hiring freeze at the time.) So...until DiA opens itself to acquiring, co-producing, or airing broadcasts/programs of other companies, other performances, or other countries' broadcasts of performances, we will all be the poorer in our viewing choices. Of course, if that ever does happen, it won't be "Dance IN AMERICA"--ie. home-grown, but a more universal/international dance forum such as this website.

Therefore, instead of giving your lottery earnings to DiA, try first getting your local PBS station to do more arts programming! For example, I was always amazed that WGBH in Boston produced several music performance programs--eg. Evening at Pops, Evening at (BSO) Symphony, and rock/pop music specials, but never collaborated with BB or the Boston MFA or other organizations. Maybe then, those locally produced programs could provide more regional variety to the national schedule, possibly get nominated for regional or national Emmy's and finally give DiA some competition.

Just some thoughts from this former dancer and PBS insider.

PS. If anyone knows how to get the Lincoln Center management, or whoever controls the rights to "Live from Lincoln Center" to release their programs on dvd, that might help alleviate some of the dearth of viewing choices and make some $$$ for them, so we don't have to contribute as much of our "lottery earnings"?

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