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More SPAC politics

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This is an old, old, method of making people crazy, especially if New York State government is involved anywhere in the management mix:

  • Take the easy and make it difficult.
  • Take the difficult and make it impossible.
  • Take the impossible and make it mandatory.
  • What is not mandatory is ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN.

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Hi all:

Been thinking about this a lot, and I've come to realize that one thing I'd not thought about earlier is the fact that one of the things that makes the Saratoga residency special is that it is in New York. NYCB could, no doubt, find another place to have a summer season, but it would likely not be in New York. It's pretty unique and quite special that NYCB brings its performances to residents of NYS as well as NYC, and that's something that shouldn't be overlooked (slapping my own hand :sweating: )

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There are so many different issues raised by this thread that I really think it should be split into different topics. Some thoughts.

The behavior of the SPAC board Obviously, it is awful but the fact that rkoretzky feels she must QUIT working for SPAC speaks volumes about the sad state of affairs in Saratoga. To allow someone so passionate about the arts and the ballet to leave SPACs employ --or what is probably more like a volunteer gig -- reflects very poorly on the SPAC administration. I, for one, will miss her regular updates and reviews of NYCB. It's really a pity that the issue has become so political.

Should NYCB continue its Saratoga residency? I have no inside knowledge, but I'm sure this is not a simple question. There is a lot of sentiment since the venue was built for Mr. B. The stability of a regular audience and venue must be very important to a dance company like NYCB, plus the dancers probably love going there every summer -- many of them have homes, etc. Yet, I can't help but think that despite the difficulty that touring poses, it would be better if NYCB toured more. It spreads their reputation, and gives non-New Yorkers a chance to see the company. Recent tours to Europe and Washington have benefited the company, I think. The best of all worlds would be if they could do both, but until the past couple of years they haven't. I wonder why that's been the case.

The role of critics I could go on and on about this, but I for one -- and I'm a journalist -- think it is disingenous to say the role of criticism is not to influence ticket buyers. Certainly, critics in major newspapers and magazines have a responsiblity to their audience. And to my mind, that first responsibility is to tell them whether they should spend the money to go. I don't go to the Philharmonic or the Opera very often, but I regularly read the New Yorker and the NY Times reviews. If I got the feeling from either of those publications that the standards had dropped, I'd be sure to avoid buying tickets for a while. That might not be what the critic intended, but its a fact. I think the Times understands that, and that's why their critics are more even handed. By even handed, I mean that they do criticize performances but I think the criticism is more in context with what is available from other companies today, not necessarily compared to when the greatest ballet genius of the previous century was creating these very ballets.

The comments of Acocella and Tobias et al really belong in Dance Magazine or Ballet Alert. They are talking to a very small audience -- people who really appreciate the fine points of their arguments.

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I would imagine that the New Yorker readers care more about the finer points of dance than today's Dance Magazine audience, as that publication has been aimed at young dancers and dance students for some time. Tobias writes for a specialized web site. But to the broader point, yes, I think critics (and any writer worth his/her salt) writes for his/her audience. When you're writing for a big circulation paper, the reviews are more general, although it's certainly not out of bounds to compare, either vertically (a company against its past) or horizontally (setting the performance in the context of the time, as justafan suggests above). I think that one of the problems of the net -- and we hit it over and over and over and over here :) -- is that we can move among reviews from the New York Times, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the New Yorker, the New York Observer, and the Hoochie Goochie News and they all look as though they carry the same weight and are aimed at the same readership. But the web readership itself is very small compared to out there in the real world, and all of these print publications have very specific audiences -- broad in the case of the Times, small and targeted in the case of the magazines. Readers of some of these publications don't want to be talked down to and told everything is beautiful at the ballet. (I write that last sentence as the editor and publisher of a small dance "specialist" publication. We get far more letters saying "how refreshing" or "I thought I was the only one who felt this way," etc. after running a review that points out the minuses as well as the pluses, than we get saying, "How can you do this! You're destroying dance! You must be positive!" We have actually gotten a few of those -- three that I can remember. And I always write to them, tell them the circulation, and say, really, don't worry :)

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Good morning. Yes, its 3:20 AM, EST, and yes I'm sleepless. Two points, one personal and one global:

To justafan: Thank you so much. I don't even think you realize how much your words mean to me. But I do want to reassure everyone: I may not be an employee, but I will still be at every performance (with one or two possible exceptions). I'll try to post my impressions. I can afford to buy tickets and there is nowhere else I would rather be. FYI, I was a SPAC volunteer for twenty years and became a part-time seasonal paid employee five years ago. The majority of people who keep the theater running are volunteers and they aren't treated very nicely. I'm cheered by the support that I have received in person and from this board, but I'm heartsick over the way that my service to SPAC ended....I really am.

And the global issue: We're going to lose the fight. I'm convinced. We won't have the numbers and Herb won't see the issue any other way. Britomart--you have allowed me to see another side of this--and that is what is best for NYCB. I've been so focused on what is best for us that I haven't seen it, but you are right.

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Oh rkoretsky - I hope not. People like Chesbrough often seem invincible, but I can't believe that his seeming campaign to get rid of NYCB won't bite him in his nether parts in the end. He's handled it with such gracelessness.

At any rate, I for one will be bringing my mom back to SPAC, and seeing if a few friends can't come in for a performance or two over the next couple of weeks. It's a small thing, and it won't help the numbers problem much, but it is a testament to the efforts of STB and yourself. Your commitment to this cause has inspired a lot of discussion (and individuals) on the board, and it has also asked me to think about the ways in which I for one, take institutions like NYCB for granted. I'll bet those efforts writ large over the Saratoga community have done more than you can imagine or see right now.

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True indeed. The fact that Herb is leaving is happy news, but it isn't soon enough. As things stand now, we'll have NYCB for summer 2005. Herb will leave in 2006 but any contract with NYCB for summer 2006 and beyond will have already been negotiated--or not. Additionally, Herb stated in one recent interview that he thinks he might like to stay on and assist with programming and fund-raising, even after he has formally retired...as those are his strengths and the parts of the job that he enjoys. Saints preserve us!!!!

Folks, I couldn't possibly make this stuff up.

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Taking NYCB for granted is probably something we have all been guilty of at one time or another. I did for a while in the late 80s...I would pass thru the lobby, check the programme and casting, say "Wow, that looks great..." and then go to the opera. Because I knew, or assumed, that NYCB would always be there and I could see those ballets and the dancers I loved any time. But for the last 8 or 9 years, NYCB has come first. I don't buy advance opera tickets until I've seen the NYCB schedule; all other aspects of life get put on hold or ignored while the NYCB season is on.

We can see from what's happening in Saratoga that what we assume will always be there can suddenly be taken away.

As far as "declining standards" at NYCB goes, funny story: we were at a dinner party 6 years ago and my partner remarked that we had been to NYCB the night before. Another guest immediately began whining, "Oh, it is so awful there...it got so bad we had to stop going." I asked, "When was the last time you were there?" The answer: 1979!!

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I think what Oberon wrote about taking a company for granted is very true -- it's the hardest thing that any director faces, I think, and it's true regardless of repertory. It's understandable, too. It's hard for fans to think, "Ah, Serenade" again -- or "Swan Lake," "Giselle," whatever -- it's my civic duty to attend or the company may go belly up and won't be here next year." As Oberon noted, this often doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the program or the dancers. It could be dancers and a ballet we love. We have to go Christmas shopping tonight, and we can catch it next season.

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What I don't understand is who do they think is going to be

replacing NYCB? What 21 consecutive spectator events will

each attract 3000 people in July? What are the crowds like

for the Philadelphia Orchestra? On the SPAC website they've

posted ticket sales as of July 5, and NYCB has brought in

more than twice the money Phil Orch has.

Or would they rather see the theater dark. It is all so

distressing. :)

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Yes - that Other NY State Funded summer theater -----

Not only the Joffrey --- The National Ballet of Canada

was there every summer for two weeks, John Clifford's

Los Angeles Ballet, Villella and Company, Cranko's

Stutgartt ( Yes - Cragun and Haydee in Taming of the

Shrew) Pennsylvania Ballet, Nureyev and Friends...etc

all the Modern companies - Graham, Taylor,Cunningham,

Pilobolus, all in the 70s and 80s. And Aaron Copeland

conducting....etc etc. Artpark was terrific and had a huge

dance audience. It whet my appetite for more - that's

when I started going to Saratoga too, and as I craved more

I finally moved to NY. :rolleyes: And live happily ever after.

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Possibly this has been mentioned in the past but I had a conversation several years ago with a shop owner in Saratoga and she told me that ( in her opinion) the people of Saratoga hated the rock concerts when they were at SPAC because the concert audience was so bad mannered. They did not shop, eat or stay in Saratoga. They came listened and trashed the place and then left. I won't say what trashing the place entailed but you can use your imagination.

As for the next generation of ballet lovers... my daughter and her college friends are meeting at the Gala this Saturday for the fourth year in a row. Every year more of her friends want to come. She has been going to the gala for the past eight years. We also attend as a family several times during the three weeks. We make the drive back an forth and it is 1 1/2 hours away when there is no traffic. If we travel instead of staying in Saratoga we can see more ballets.

I hope the NYCB is able to outlive the Great HC! The Opera is already gone, the Orchestra had better watch it's back, they could be next.

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Joining this late....but spent a good portion of last week in the Saratoga area and took in 2 performances....Wed eve and Thursday matinee...in part because it is my favorite place to see NYCB (we are NYC subscribers), and also because I wanted to "do my part" re: ticket sales. An observation and a comment:

In a radio advertisement for the season, it was not ONCE mentioned that Balanchine choreography was featured in the programs (despite the anniversary!)

I found the local/Albany press coverage provided great insight (although I admit that most of the coverage was along my anti-SPAC board line), and particularly enjoyed the Sunday paper suggestions for fund raising (I believe it was the Post Standard).

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