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Mel Johnson

New Economic Marker

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While tending the posts on the Ballet Talk for Dancers board, a phrase hit me that I believed that we're seeing more and more lately. More than we ever used to. It was that students or their families ""can't afford"" classes or the insurance coverage to pay for dance-related injuries.

I ran a search on the quoted (note the double "s) phrase, and sure enough, the search wouldn't go before 2004. An ordinary search on "pas de cheval" ran right back to 2001. There are nine pages of hits and it isn't until the middle of page 5 that we get back to 2005. Of the pages before 2006, a lot of the "can't afford"s are about "I can't afford to miss more classes" or ballet schools "can't afford to do business that way". At 2006 and after, the "can't afford"s turn more into "My parents can't afford to send me to more classes" or "We can't afford the treatment because our insurance won't cover it."

I doubt very much that our demographics on the other board have changed in any significant way. Have I discovered something that Wall Street ought to be monitoring? :clapping:

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Mel, this is a great topic and very important -- not to mention being a rather ingenious use of the Google search engine for research purposes.

I've noticed a drop in younger adult students (that is, those generally at the lower end of the earning spectrum) in the school where I take class. Florida has been hard hit by the mortgage crisis and is already experiencing a net outward migration for the first time in (probably) a century, with people moving to lower-cost areas of the country. If you correct for the seasonal increase in jobs due to winter tourism, Florida is experiencing job loss as well and is, by some key indicators, already in recession.

I don't know about the kids. Tuition for the spring term is coming due right about now.

The school does have an admirable free and reduced-rate program for lower income families and also offers students and their families tickets to the company's professional performances at very low prices. This program depends upon private fund-raising among, which always declines during economic downturns.

It would be wonderful to hear from others with more direct experience about the effects of economic changes on ballet education. What's happening? What are the long-term effects for aboth the kids and for ballet in general? Have you seen this in the past?

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In my own experience, I've watched drop-in ballet classes go from an affordable $11.50/class in New York to upwards of $20/class, which limits it to once or twice a week (and usually not even that) for me.

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In my own experience, I've watched drop-in ballet classes go from an affordable $11.50/class in New York to upwards of $20/class, which limits it to once or twice a week (and usually not even that) for me.

This is true. New York real estate being what it is makes it hard for dance schools to exist in NYC and keep class prices down. That combined with the stagnant wages of so called ordinary people make it impossible for many to consider dance classes as an option

Back in "the day" there were many dance studios, some were sort of mom & pop operations. Dancers who retired could open a studio, charge reasonable prices and cultivate a following.

As a connected topic (forgive me if I stray) we waste a lot of potential in this country. Think of the kids in lousy schools who might have the ability to be great scientists, artists etc. We just don't have the political force of will to make sure that quality education is available to all. I've worked with inner city kids, as a dance teacher. There is a lot of untapped talent out there. I'm sure music, math and science teachers would say the same.

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If this is the reason that dancers are not pursuing a career or study then our style of "free enterprise" capitalism has completely failed.

With all these uber rich in nyc why are not more endowments/grants/gifts for the arts given... they are tax deductible too.

Our system is broken.

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It's not completely failed, I think, but it's not in good shape. Lots of factors would figure into it. What I find particularly appalling is the insurance angle. It's a real bad scene when an insurance company doesn't pay out on things for which its clients have paid to be covered.

I get the distinct recollection of Sir Wilfrid's line in Agatha Christie's marvelous Witness for the Prosecution:

"When this trial started he had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel."

EDITED TO ADD: And tax cuts for the wealthy have disincentivized deductible contributions to not-for-profits and other organizations.

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a rather ingenious use of the Google search engine for research purposes.

Actually, it wasn't a Google search that did it. It was Invision's own internal search engines for the boards. It reduces the size of the sample to the point where every datum becomes significant. At least, that's one way of taking statistics. The other way is to canvass a huge number of respondents, so that each datum becomes less important, but larger trends become evident. Of course, I would also wonder about the 1948 poll that showed Dewey beating Truman. In that poll, the responders were limited to people who had telephones. In 1948, that was a statistically significant number, and those who didn't were likely Truman voters. Not so now.

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Oh, I definetly know what you're talking about, Hans. I used to dance a couple times a week at an OK studio near my house for a good price. now, though, living on campus, prices are nearly double, and I refuse to spend more on dance lessons than I do on food in a given month. Maya may have chosen dance over food, but I like my Indian food, thank you :)

On another note. I was wondering, based on this discussion, about your knowledge about the number of physicians that understand dancers. I was considering looking into orthopedics, and when I went to my orthopedic doctor, he hadn't a clue about the differences between the body of a runner and the body of a ballet dancer, which obviously require different things. Do you feel that the physicians that do know this are adaquete?

Make a new topic if I'm flooding :)

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I have been fortunate that my son received 9 years of excellent training on full scholarship and is now dancing professionally. He went to summer programs at Miami, ABT, SFB and Chautauqua on full scholarship as well. As a single mother getting little to no support, there was no way that I could have paid for his lessons. For that I am grateful. Had I had a daughter just as talented, I would have had to pay her way, not to mention pointe shoes which gets to be expensive. (with boys, it is just a dance belt, ballet shoes, white T and black tights). There is no way I would have been able to afford paying for classes. While dancers are not in this profession to get rich, it takes a lot of riches to get them to a professional level.

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On another note. I was wondering, based on this discussion, about your knowledge about the number of physicians that understand dancers.

. . .

Make a new topic if I'm flooding :)

Not flooding. :) But the question about physicians is really more suited to BalletTalk for Dancers. I know, it's sometimes easy to forget which board you're reading.

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I believe Mel is correct, and printscess as well.

As the parent of a young dancer I believe that the cost of training a dancer has increased fairly significantly in the last few years. Despite the fact that my young dancer has been the fortunate recipient of a school scholarship, we are spending approximately $900 per month for related expenses such as transportation, pointe shoes, insurance etc. This is an exorbitant cost for many families. With the added cost of Summer Intensives (at $4,000 give or take airfare), which are no longer considered extraneous experiences, but rather essential components of training and exposure for a young dancer, the bank has been broken!

Based on what I've been told by my dancer's classmates, many of them are paying even more for training and related costs. Out of state/out of country students are spending that $900 in rent alone.

Many of the dancers my child grew up with have been discouraged from pursuing dance specifically for economic reasons. Families can't justify the sacrifices made which affect their entire family (other children included) to see their young dancer struggle to find work, all the while living in near poverty.

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About twenty years ago, I came up with an economic warning sign that only seems to have become more severe as time advances. We see the phenomenon of the children of the well-off performing for audiences made up of the really wealthy, who can afford multiple subscriptions to prime seats, and make donations to support the companies. The Ford Foundation Scholarships of the 60s actually tried to work against this trend, and they were still going when the first oil embargo in the 70s ate up that disposable corporate income. I don't advocate returning to the days when ballet companies were peopled with orphans, or worse, serfs, but you have to ask, "Is this economic, social and cultural progress?" (Mind you, I would make THE WORLD'S WORST Communist and a pretty bad Socialist.)

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I see the logos on the playbills for all the large corporations as the Met Opera. These corporations can afford to sponsor more education of emerging talent. Or any of those high net work fellas down on wall street. They have not a care or a sense of responsibility or guilt for their excesses as the robber barons did.

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I see the logos on the playbills for all the large corporations as the Met Opera. These corporations can afford to sponsor more education of emerging talent. Or any of those high net work fellas down on wall street. They have not a care or a sense of responsibility or guilt for their excesses as the robber barons did.

Yes, those 19th-c robber barons were intriguing in their contradictions, weren't they? Contemporary robber barons are so consistent in their identity as the scourge of humanity.

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At least Andrew Carnegie saw it as his obligation to give away as much of his money as he could before he died. Unfortunately for that plan, he was making more than he could ever give away, and sometimes his gifts were very quixotic - viz: Building a lake for Princeton University to improve the quality of the crew team when the University's President (Woodrow Wilson) wanted a new Sciences building.

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Unfortunately for that plan, he was making more than he could ever give away, and sometimes his gifts were very quixotic - viz: Building a lake for Princeton University to improve the quality of the crew team when the University's President (Woodrow Wilson) wanted a new Sciences building.
Indeed, one characteristic of even the most generous philanthropy (Gates's, for instance, and what Buffett is planning) is that the donor or his/her assigns are the ones who decide what is and what is not needed. This can be good or it can be bad. Baryshnikov seems pretty generous in providing resources to the dance commnity. Any others today?

As for dance lessons. The extremely talented will always get scholarship support. My concern is more for those who may not have the talent for significant professional careers, but who will benefit from the disciplined exposure to an activity that is healthy (for most), artistic, musical, and quite generally wonderful. Kids from economically deprived families often have access to beginner programs. It is heart-breaking to see them pushed out and made redundant as they get older. Even if these kids cannot become professional dancers, they are at the very least the ballet audiences of the future.

Edited for clarification on 2/8.

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Perhaps something along the line of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela might serve as a model in the US. Their recent Mahler Five was supposed to be top knotch. From the Carnegie Hall brouchure:

The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, founded in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, has continuously aimed to create new opportunities for Musical Excellence in Venezuela for the past 30 years. Heading a national system, the State Foundation for the Venezuelan System of Youth and Child Orchestras (FESNOJIV), this orchestra comprises more than 200 young musicians between the ages of 16 and 20, all products of a system that is of equal social, musical, and educational importance in Venezuela. The orchestra has worked with such conductors as Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle. They tour with their Music Director and colleague Gustavo Dudamel.

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It would be interesting to really know if the economy this year has effected the scholarships given by the summer programs. Summer programs are the bread and butter of so many ballet schools, as well as their companies. My guess is that they have been impacted. In this country, the USA, I do believe that not too many schools have sizable endowments.

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It would be interesting to really know if the economy this year has effected the scholarships given by the summer programs. Summer programs are the bread and butter of so many ballet schools, as well as their companies. My guess is that they have been impacted. In this country, the USA, I do believe that not too many schools have sizable endowments.

It is my guess that there will always be scholarships for the boys, although director of the programs may make the them for the higher levels. I am also guessing that whatever money was available for the girls may be given out if they have an interest in them for possible future employment, thereby narrowing the field to a precious few. :pinch:

:blink: The rise and fall of the stock market not only impacts the individual investor (I hate looking at my IRAs and my husband's 401K) but impacts the corporations who donate to the ballet companies. With less money to go around, the arts are the first to get cut.

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Perhaps something along the line of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela might serve as a model in the US.

Unlikely. The socio-economic models of the US and Venezuela are pretty far apart.

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