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There were a couple of things I noticed yesterday at PNB's Sleeping Beauty, which reminded me of a thread from 2002 re: marketing to a younger audience:

  • When I walked into the building, I heard amplified dance music -- I wondered if someone's boom box was paying a kamikaze visit -- and when I went up the main staircase, there was a big sign for an Italian line of children's shoes, Lelli Kelly, and a group of little girls wearing Lelli Kelly shoes dancing to aforementioned music on a low platform. I only got a glance, because there was a pretty big crowd watching, among them lots of interested little girls who had come for the matinee.
  • In addition, there were what I guess were ads for Lelli Kelly on the silent TV monitors in the inner lobbies and section balconies. (Normally these show donor lists, note who will speak at post-performance Q&A's, advertise upcoming program, etc.) As long as they remain silent, this is a clever and non-obtrusive use of space to generate revenue, in my opinion, because the audience isn't held hostage waiting for instructions on how to evacuate the building in an emergency, for example.

There were two secondary effects. The first, blatantly obvious one that I never noticed before is that the average age of the adults drops, as more parents bring their young children to matinees of ballets like Sleeping Beauty. There were two extra matinees in the run, with both Saturday and Sunday each weekend. And when I went to get a ticket yesterday, the final performance, I was told the entire Second Tier was sold out, and there were practically no pairs of Orchestra seats left, even in the two side sections. (I forgot to look to see how full the First Tier was.) And on a gorgeous, 65+ degree sunny Sunday, a rarity at this time of year, several thousand people opted to be indoors for over three hours, catching sun breaks at intermissions.

The second was the number of children in the donor lounge, all of them well-behaved, and some well-behaved preteens without accompanying adults. (In an effort to encourage people to up their donations, PNB gave out some one-day passes to the lounge, so there were more of us.) I think this is a great trend, particularly at a matinee. It's never too early to train donors. (Although I was amused when the five-year-old in the pretty pink brimmed garden hat at the table next to me told her father, who had asked, that the donated Dilletante chocolate truffle she had chosen tasted like candle wax :))

What I hope will be a great success is the new "8 Encores" program scheduled for June 11 at 6:30 pm. The program consists of one-act ballets, short pieces, and excerpts from longer ballets from throughout the season, and features work that got great buzz. For those who weren't able to see the works during the regular season or for those who loved the works and don't want to wait a few years for the revivals, this is a great opportunity:

  • Rubies (Stravinsky/Balanchine, "Jewels," Jun 2006)
  • Kiss (Part/Marshall, "Valentine," Feb 2006)
  • In the Night (Pas de Deux) (Chopin/Robbins, "Director's Choice," Sep-Oct 2005)
  • Jardi Tancat (del Mar Bonet+traditional/Duato, "Past, Present, and Future," Nov 2005)
  • Nine Sinatra Songs (Pas de Deux) (Sinatra/Tharp, "Valentine," Feb 2006)
  • Time and Other Matter (Pas de Deux) (Lang/Dumais, "Points of View, Apr 2006)
  • Mopey (CPE Bach+The Cramps/Goecke, "Past, Present, and Future," Nov 2005)
  • Red Angels (Einhorn/Dove, "Valentine," Feb 2006)

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...What I hope will be a great success is the new "8 Encores" program scheduled for June 11 at 6:30 pm. The program consists of one-act ballets, short pieces, and excerpts from longer ballets from throughout the season, and features work that got great buzz. For those who weren't able to see the works during the regular season or for those who loved the works and don't want to wait a few years for the revivals, this is a great opportunity.

This seems a brilliant idea on PNB's part. Not only for the $'s, but for good will. I hope a lot of companies are paying attention. Some might consider fancying it up as a season's closing gala. There could be the occasional problem for companies like ABT that depend somewhat on guest stars who might be otherwise engaged (Acosta, Vishneva), but hardly insurmountable, especially if the AD chose (was capable of choosing) the program wisely. Reviews so far for PNB's season would suggest there's going to be a lot of those don't-want-to-waiters!

Please, Helene, let us all know how it turns out.

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A great topic to revive, helene. Like drb, I like the "8 Encores" idea, though I think I'd add something new as well -- or a preview of something fplanned for next season. ("7 Encores and a Preview"?)

I've also noticed a trend of turning the lobby into a (mostly) subtle advertising space for sponsors, usually financial institutions in our area. More traditionally, the ballet companies bring merchandise from their stores. (Nutcrackers, anyone?) At the Warsaw Opera House last year a group of beautiful young women in evening gowns offered samples of chocolate. I could find no connection,however, between the product and the opera being presented.

In our area, I see a difficulty with the one-day donor lounge passes. The lounge is for high-ticket donors to the performing arts center rather than to individual companies. The theater is, in a sense, competing for donor funds with the two ballet companies and the opera company that rent space there.

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Here's one that I managed to miss all year, but looking on Oregon Ballet Theatre's site for something else, I came across a great marketing idea:

Who's Your Dancer?

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to Portland this year to see the Company, and sadly, my cousin is getting married during the run of Swan Lake. So I missed a campaign where for each program, there is a featured dancer. A poster of that dancer is distributed across Portland, and whenever people see a new poster, they are directed to the website, where there's an interview with the featured dancer.

What's clear is how much the dancers feel part of a community in Portland.

Check out the link, and click on a photo to read about the featured dancer.

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I saw this when I was in Portland a couple of weeks ago for their spring program. A big chunk of the interview runs in the printed program, along with the swanky photos.

Pacific Northwest Ballet did a similar kind of "get to know the dancers" campaign several years ago (I think it was around 2000-2001) -- the bios in the program had more general questions (something along the lines of "what's your passion") and with each program they would focus on a specific dancer, including comments from the artistic directors, but it didn't get as far as bus advertising. That would have been quite something!

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I think what's brilliant about the "Who's Your Dancer?" campaign is that it brings people from the community to the website and to the theater. I think it's great to have the info in the program to "clinch" the people who show up, but it's critical to get them to buy tickets and feel invested in the company in the first place, as the company shows that the dancers are invested in their community.

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Chatting during last night's intermission at NYCB, as we were comparing our own casting wish lists, the idea of turning a night over to "us" came up. A museum executive said, "We're always reaching to increase community outreach," suggesting this could be an effective good hook for NYCB.

As one with my own very definite ideas, I think it would be worth a try. At least once.

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I wonder if small, free outdoor performances of excerpts (by both schools and companies) during summer (and spring and autumn if the climate allows) would help get people to the theaters. Having students dance would ensure that parents and friends would attend, and if the company performs a bit, too, it might whet others' appetites for the full-length ballets.

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During the dance boom of the '70s, after the New York Shakespeare Festival had packed its trunks and departed, the Delacorte in Central Park was turned over to two(?) weeks of free dance programs. Most contained at least one classical piece. And it was all free of charge. Some of my not-yet-faded memories include Patty McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous (as he then spelled it) in the Corsaire pdd, and Cynthia Harvey (with ???) in the Act III pdd from Sleeping Beauty. The most enchanting modern piece I recall was Pauline Koner's joyful Dance for Girls with Long Hair.

As municipal services were cut to bare bones, the festival was eliminated. And the dance boom petered out.

More recently we have Summerstage, which is sometimes "donation suggested", and sometimes pay-for-entrance. But it is not solely a dance event, and usually presents only one company per program.

There are also festivals in Lower Manhattan, where in recent years I've seen Mark Morris, but again, these present a sprinkling of dance among other musical programs.

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The Joffrey is presenting Come Dance With Us June 13-18 -- a week of free events in the Chicago's Millenium Park, including stage performances, a premiere of a piece choreographed in the Crowne Fountain , lessons, stretch classes, and an ice-cream social. Basically, it sounds like a huge celebration of dance that should generate some buzz!

Also, I just received a mailing announcing a program change for next season, in response to the warm reception of this season's Cool Vibrations program. Instead of Founder's Gold (Fanfarita, Gamelan, Sea Shadow, Suite Saint Saëns), we'll get Light Rain , a compendium of short works with a pizazz factor (my words, not theirs). Included will be Light Rain, White Widow, a Pilobolus piece, Arpino's Valentine, and a couple of other short works. Seems like there's a trend afoot.

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Thanks, treefrog. "Come Dance With Us" sounds hugely ambitioius and logistically difficult, but there are a lots of ideas that other dance companies in smaller cities might use.

I can think of several companies around here who might benefit -- if the relevant staff ever stayed around long enough to do them more than once. :)

"Get to know your dancers" campaigns ought to be especially suited to smaller cities. The stories, personalities, and images of the dancers can be a quite accessible entry-way into ballet for a large potential audience who may be intimidated by the art itself.

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Not quite in the same vein, but a potential resource for ballet companies. . .

The show's producer claims there was no monetary gain, but a recent audience of a live theatrical performance ("Stomp"), were subjected to a live commercial (The New York Times). How different is this from Kevin McKenzie's curtain speech on Monday -- opening night -- thanking the individual and corporate sponsors, including "American Airlines, American Ballet Theater's official airline"? Okay, Monday was a gala, and such curtain speeches have become de rigueur. I can easily envision a day in the not-too-distant future when, as the house lights dim, a bevy of corps dancers does a little number to praise the glories of Exxon-Mobil's pioneering of greener energy, Red Lobster's seasonal specials, or the softness of Charmin.

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Re: Free outdoor performances

I think it depends on the market and the company. Ohio Ballet did a free show each summer. As the company was shutting down the idea was floated that instead of hooking people the community expected the free summer show came and saw it, got their fix and then didnt feel the need to see the ballet until the next summers free program.

On the other hand San Francisco Ballet performs at Sterns Grove each summer they draw a huge crowd, and havent seemed to have problems with it.

who knows.

I really do like what OBT has done with their get to know your dancers and OBT Exposed ideas. It seems like an exciting energized place to be. Quite the vibe to create huh? Someones doing their job, really well.

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Kevin McKenzie's curtain speech on Monday -- opening night -- thanking the individual and corporate sponsors, including "American Airlines, American Ballet Theater's official airline"?

I think its interesting to see how ABT is positioning itself. Who ever is in marketing and that side of management is focusing the company's energy past its local market, at least for the moment. I published a post in my blog yesterday on ABT's new partnership with Payless Shoes, they are going to start stocking a new line of ABT ballet shoes in their stores nationwide.

Obviously I dont have even a smidgen of all the info there is to know but from the outside it looks like ABT trying to play ball with the big boys (the other day I was surprised to see a nice full page add in Real Simple, a womens magazine). Maybe they've refocused to a national level and that explains the recent loss of local market feel?

Blog Entry - ABT and Payless Shoes team up

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Re: "refocusing" to the national level. This may be connected to the challenge grants ABT has receivd to establish a number of residencies around the country. Here's a LINK to the news story and discussion:


Given the amount of time and money they have to devote to touring, and lack of a home theater (plus extensive competition) in New York City, this may be the only way for ABT to go. Good luck to them!

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I agree with Hans, and searching around, have so far found a page for Pennsylvania Ballet amongst others... and yup, some dancers as well.

I think though, for dancers - some would use them personally, some publicly for marketing. The line could be difficult to draw.

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Today I went to an art exhibition at Experience Music Project, which was founded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, as a museum dedicated to American popular music, and which is housed in what in my opinion is a sadly disappointing Frank Gehry building.

The exhibition was called "DoubleTake: From Money Monet to Lichtenstein" [was that a Freudian slip or what?] and consists of a series of paintings from Allen's private art collection, which were grouped in two's, three's, or four's, based on one or more specific similarities, although the pieces were from different periods, movements, and sometimes media.

When entering the exhibit, my friends and I first were given little devices which looked like a cell phones on lanyards, with instructions to dial "100" and hit the green right arrow, and to listen to the introduction and instructions for use as if it were a cell phone. Next we were taken to a small screening room full of Gehry-designed benches, where we saw an eye-opening short film.

In the background of the set were a number of paintings from the collection on the "back" wall, with singles and duos faced the camera/audience to comment on the painting on the invisible wall. There were the usual reactions: a pretentious young yuppie explaining to the woman he was with that anyone with half a brain would understand the painting, while she made a face to show she had no idea what he was talking about; a middle-aged woman dressed in orange and brown who commented that the colors in the painting didn't go together, while her husband rolled his eyes and responded "you should know," two teenagers looking like they were about to make the "whatever" sign, etc.

All of the people started talking until David Hyde Pierce called on them to be quiet and played off of his snobby Niles character. The curator of the show, Paul Tucker, joined him, and asked his opinions. After giving an airy intellectual speech, and using the first pair of paintings in the exhibit -- Renoir's "The Reader" and Lichtenstein's "The Kiss" -- as an example, Tucker stopped him by saying, "That is what you know. Tell me what you think."

At that point, Tucker lead Hyde Pierce into a discussion of several factors to look for in examining a painting, including color, composition, and content. Hyde Pierce was still able to express intellectually-based observations, but they became his, and clearly not the only way to look at the pieces. By the end of the four-five minute discussion, a groundwork had been laid for an audience that had, perhaps, wandered into the exhibit from one on popular music and might not have been familiar with art. The narration on the audio device continued along the same vein. For example, in a pairing of Degas' "Woman Seated in Front of a Piano" and Eric Fischl's 2004 "Krefeld Project: Bedroom #6," in dicussing placement, the curator described how the subject(s) were similarly placed off-center and the way an element in the picture -- a piano in the first, a headboard in the second -- cut off the subject's at the neck.

The message that "it is within each observer's ability to comprehend" by using a basic framework, complemented by the use of a comparative method, and supplemented with the audio device in which the obvious enthusiasm of the narrator reading the curator's text, in which a color might be described in the vernacular and called "fantastic," was effective, if the families huddled in discussion and debate were any indication. The text never talked down to the listener, but assumed that a number of people attending the show were popular music fans who did not know about art and, if adults, might be afraid of it (or looking stupid in front of their children.)

The groupings were"

* Renoir "The Reader" (1877)/Lichtenstein "The Kiss" (1962)

* Degas "Woman Seated in Front of a Piano" (1882-5)/Fischl "Krefeld Project: Bedroom #6" (2004)

* Cezanne "Mt. Saint Victoire" (1888-9)/Bayer "Metamorphosis" (1936)/Goldin "Stromboli at Dwan, Italy" (1996)

* Gauguin "Autumn at Pont-Aven" (1888)/Struth "Paradise 14 Yakushima, Japan" (1999)

* Gauguin "Maternity (II)" (1899)/Yanobe "Atom Suit Project: Desert" (1998)

* Brueghel, the Younger "The Five Senses: Sight" (ca. 1625)/Seurat "The Models" (1888)/Picasso "Four Brothers" (1921)

* Canaletto "The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South-East from Saint Eustace to the New Rialto Buildings" (ca. 1738)/Turner "Depositing of John Bellini's Three Pictures in the Church of the Redeemer, Venice" (1841)/Manet "View in Venice -- The Grand Canal" (1874)/Monet "The Grand Canal, Venice" (1908)

v* an Gogh "Orchard with Peach Trees in Blossom" (1888)/Ernst "Landscape with Lake and Chimeras" (ca. 1940)

* Signac "Concarneau. Morning Calm. Opus 219 (Larghetto)" (1891)/Rothko "Yellow over Purple" (1956)

* Monet "Rouen Cathedral. Facade. (Afternoon Effect)" (1894)/Johns "Numbers (1963-78)

* Monet "The Mula Palace" (1908)/Richter "Candle" (1982)

* Monet "Water Lilies" (1919)/de Kooning "Untitled XII" (1975)

I think it would be great if a number of educational performances could be created for ballet. (NYCB used to have one lecture/demo/performance matinee a year during the Winter Season.) One in which the stylistic and compositional similaries of the dance and the music from different periods could be explored and explained, to give people a framework of how to view ballet.

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Thanks, helene, for that report. It sounds fascinating -- to a degree that only Microsoft money could accomplish! Although my personal preference is to wander around museums in silence, I can defintiely see the appeal of this kind of educational display.

I think it would be great if a number of educational performances could be created for ballet.
Yes! In going over the "race" thread, which often brings up charges of "elitism" against ballet, I began thinking (and actually just posted something) about how allienating and scarey the arts can seem to people, especially young people, who may not have had much of a background from school or family. What we might call "philistinism" in our culture is all too often a result of cultural deprivation which produces fear and alienation from the unfamiliar and a clinging to simpler, more popular art forms that are more easily accessible and familiar. When something appears to ignore us, or intimidates us, we simply won't go.

So far, ballet companies seem to be doing very little to attract new, young audiences to ballet beyond pumping up the athleticism and making the choreography more relevant and modem and the costumes skimpier. With an occasional free concert in the park thrown in. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see someone like a Paul Allen fund a long-term program for a major ballet company in which a completely uncompromised rep could be explained and made less threatenting to new audiences (at prices they can actually afford!)?

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