Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

NYC Ballet Cuts Corps as Deficit Widens


Recommended Posts

My take on the 101 to 90 cut wasn't so much that it was historically anomalous but that the cut -- depending on who will go at the end of season -- could have important ramifications for the future. IF the dismissals occur at the newer end of the corps (and we won't know that until the season is over), then the potential is there for a gap to show up in the future. It would be somewhat similar to a college athletic team having a bad recruiting year. You wouldn't notice it at first because the existing seniors, juniors and sophomores on the team would maintain the level of play. But as the freshmen class rises and you lose the upperclassmen, you might begin to see a gap in the team's performance as the bad recruiting year comes to the fore.

Moderators: If this is too speculative, please delete.

Link to comment
The Times story said that the company claims that its "average" of total dancers in the past 20 years has been 93 and these cuts take the company from 101 to 90. It's sad and unfortunate and I'm sure many are wondering if other cuts could have been made instead, but in the current context it's not exactly an outrageous scandal. And though I too think Kistler should have retired a few years ago I can't muster much energy for supporting the idea that Martins should have driven her out before she was ready to go--even to save money in a crisis. Yes, she is his wife, so one can cry "nepotism" but she is also is a great NYCB ballerina whose history is part of the company's history.

It would surely have been very hard for Martins to tell any principals what they must have read from many other sources. But that was his job. The company's history would not be so celebrated if many leading dancers had overstayed their welcome as long as they have. Put simply, Martins has abused his position, has arguably made it necessary to fire promising corps members in order to pay the salaries of underserving principals, and has undoubtedly cut into the company's current revenues by presenting those principals to a discerning New York public that years ago tired of them.

Link to comment
It would surely have been very hard for Martins to tell any principals what they must have read from many other sources. But that was his job. The company's history would not be so celebrated if many leading dancers had overstayed their welcome as long as they have. Put simply, Martins has abused his position, has arguably made it necessary to fire promising corps members in order to pay the salaries of underserving principals, and has undoubtedly cut into the company's current revenues by presenting those principals to a discerning New York public that years ago tired of them.

Allegra Kent in her book mentions the resentment she received from the NYCB staff when Mr. B kept her on the roster even when she wasn't dancing more than once or twice a season. Edward Villela also says in his book how much he appreciated being kept on the NYCB roster when he had career-ending injuries. Funny, back then it was called loyalty.

Link to comment

The money situation with the New York State Theater being renamed is understandable, but so are the feelings of being sold out... "state theater" sounds much more populist; named after a person who after all didn't found it but seems to have "bought" it, well... I don't know... shouldn't we all have known of Mr. Koch for years & years & years before the theater was named in his honor? If he goes broke too, perhaps they can change the name back some day...like the Mariinski/Kirov situation.... For how long was "in perpetuity" defined this time?

Link to comment

Drew, your comments make much sense to me (and I AM, on the whole, rather critical of capitalism :dunno: ).

This is an economic situation whose scope and seriousness go well beyond our personal disagreements about the structure of cultural philanthropy in this country, our value judgments on who or who should not be kept on or let go, etc. etc. etc.

Maybe the best thing we can do is call our local ballet company and ask: what can I do to help you in this difficult time?

Link to comment
My take on the 101 to 90 cut wasn't so much that it was historically anomalous but that the cut -- depending on who will go at the end of season -- could have important ramifications for the future. IF the dismissals occur at the newer end of the corps (and we won't know that until the season is over), then the potential is there for a gap to show up in the future.

Moderators: If this is too speculative, please delete.

This is precisely what I meant by "shortchanging the future."

Link to comment

However, I note that miliosr's post contains an important and responsible conditional: IF. We don't know who got the ax, but it could just as easily could be corps dancers who have not advanced as the directorate might wish as it could be those most lately hired, or a mix of the two categories. Seniority counts for relatively little in a ballet company, and sometimes can work against a dancer.

Link to comment
However, I note that miliosr's post contains an important and responsible conditional: IF. We don't know who got the ax, but it could just as easily could be corps dancers who have not advanced as the directorate might wish as it could be those most lately hired, or a mix of the two categories. Seniority counts for relatively little in a ballet company, and sometimes can work against a dancer.

Are there any union rules regarding who may be 'laid off' in a situation such as this? In the business world, companies frequently take the 'last in, first out' solution in order to avoid allegations of favoritism ("X didn't like me, that's why I got laid off.") Would Martins be free to make a value judgement regarding 'dead wood' in the corps de ballet, or are there guidelines he must follow?

Link to comment

Where things could get really sticky for management at City Ballet (and at the other large ballet companies) is in the next fiscal year -- 2009-10. If revenue (from the endowment, corporate donors and ticket sales) continues to plummet but labor and operating costs remain more or less fixed (which they will if you have a unionized workforce and you are tethered to a specific theater), then you are faced with the prospect of another round of cuts. Probably the worst case scenario would be along the lines of my "bad recruiting year" concept (and ViolinConcerto "shortchanging the future" idea) -- the current roster remains more-or-less static in terms of voluntary turnover (i.e. retirement) but the company cannot go above 90 dancers and, possibly, may have to trim the ranks again. Where this scenario could kill you is with the Class of 2009 from the school -- where do they go upon graduation if there are no slots?

Moderators: Again, if this is too speculative, please delete.

Link to comment

If Darci had agreed to leave at the end of the Spring 09 season, perhaps that would have saved the jobs of one or two (or more) corps members. She must be among the highest paid company members. (Maybe all the corps members' jobs could have been saved if all of the "dead wood" principals retired.) I presume Darci is also being paid an additional salary for her work as a teacher at SAB, so her principal contract is apparently not her sole source of income. I guess that the other side of the argument is that nobody should have to be a martyr in order to save someone else's job, and the company is merely showing loyalty to those who have long relationships with the company. It's an interesting moral question, though, I think.

Link to comment
Where this scenario could kill you is with the Class of 2009 from the school -- where do they go upon graduation if there are no slots?

The corps reduction is likely to create more opportunities for apprentices to dance in the short run. But, because an apprentice can only remain apprentice for so long - can only dance so many times before the company has to make a decision on a contract - the crunch will come later, six months to a year after the reduction.

This entire thing at NYCB can be healthy if it's done contructively. If done dysfunctionally, that's another thing. They can easily reduce the corps by ten dancers. It's all a question of who it involves.

In comparison to the scale of economic distress going on elsewhere in NYC right now the company is comparatively lucky. This is not on a par with GM, CitiBank, Merrill Lynch. Now there are folks who are really sweating -- it's an issue of whether those institutions are going to survive. At City Ballet, it's an issue of pulling in the belt. Audiences have actually been very good this year, amazingly good, compared to what's going on in the City at large.

In NYC, if you go into Bergdorf's or Barney's right now, the stores are empty! Three or four people walking around an empty floor! You walk past restaurants and very often there are one or two tables of patrons (out of thirty tables), the rest of the place empty! Bars, restaurants and furniture stores on Amsterdam Avenue in the 70's and 80's are shuttered and closed and more will be closing. Cab drivers tell you they are taking home about 50% of what they did a year ago. Meanwhile, at City Ballet this week, Tues., Wed. and Thurs., the concourse was full of people during the entr'actes. I'm quite surprised by how well they are doing.

MP

Link to comment
Meanwhile, at City Ballet this week, Tues., Wed. and Thurs., the concourse was full of people during the entr'actes. I'm quite surprised by how well they are doing.

I found the same at San Francisco Ballet several weeks ago, the thought crossed my mind that many of those attending are season ticket holders that bought their tickets before things got so bad. I think major companies will get a sense of how the economy is effecting them when they begin the push for next season subscriptions.

In the programs, reading the list of donors and counting the major companies that have been in the news with layoffs and worse does not bode well.

Perhaps bart expresses it best....

Maybe the best thing we can do is call our local ballet company and ask: what can I do to help you in this difficult time?
Link to comment
My own work place is falling about my ears and I'm guessing that must be true of many on this web site. I dread to think what is going to happen even to major arts organizations in this country in the coming years--but Martins does not remotely seem to me to be the villain here. And informing each corps member individually is a heck of a lot classier than letting them know by mail or (as has happened with staff at my work place) a group meeting.

I couldn't agree more, Drew. I'm sure there are some things NYCB management could have done better, and money that could have been better spent (as is doubtless true of Miami City Ballet and other companies that are having to cut back) as well. It is also a characteristic of contemporary American capitalism to turn to layoffs as a first rather than a last resort. But based on the information we have I don't see any evidence of dastardly behavior on the part of Martins.

Link to comment
My own work place is falling about my ears and I'm guessing that must be true of many on this web site. I dread to think what is going to happen even to major arts organizations in this country in the coming years--but Martins does not remotely seem to me to be the villain here. And informing each corps member individually is a heck of a lot classier than letting them know by mail or (as has happened with staff at my work place) a group meeting.

I couldn't agree more, Drew. I'm sure there are some things NYCB management could have done better, and money that could have been better spent (as is doubtless true of Miami City Ballet and other companies that are having to cut back) as well. It is also a characteristic of contemporary American capitalism to turn to layoffs as a first rather than a last resort. But based on the information we have I don't see any evidence of dastardly behavior on the part of Martins.

Those are wise words, as were Bart's, and my "abused his position" last night was too strong. I certainly didn't mean to suggest "dastardly behavior" or that Martins is a "villian." I do think he's made the situation worse.

Link to comment
In comparison to the scale of economic distress going on elsewhere in NYC right now the company is comparatively lucky. This is not on a par with GM, CitiBank, Merrill Lynch. Now there are folks who are really sweating -- it's an issue of whether those institutions are going to survive. At City Ballet, it's an issue of pulling in the belt. Audiences have actually been very good this year, amazingly good, compared to what's going on in the City at large.

In NYC, if you go into Bergdorf's or Barney's right now, the stores are empty! Three or four people walking around an empty floor! You walk past restaurants and very often there are one or two tables of patrons (out of thirty tables), the rest of the place empty! Bars, restaurants and furniture stores on Amsterdam Avenue in the 70's and 80's are shuttered and closed and more will be closing. Cab drivers tell you they are taking home about 50% of what they did a year ago. Meanwhile, at City Ballet this week, Tues., Wed. and Thurs., the concourse was full of people during the entr'actes. I'm quite surprised by how well they are doing.

Thanks, Michael, for putting this in perspective for those of us who are not there. Several people have mentioned that the surprisingly large audiences for top ballet companies has a lot to do with subscriptions that were purchased last spring or summer. Is that your impression about NYCB, too?
Link to comment

I don't know a lot about the internal turmoils of the direction and fallowing of the current crisis in ballet in NYC. But...as per our city of the never ending sunshine, I could tell that audiences attendance has improved impressively to both the MCB and CCBM performances. I still can't get to the point of understand how cutting off the human aspect of the art form will save anything. Cut the props, cut the orchestra, recycle old costumes, cut the ushers, cut the diabolic administrative apparatus...but please, live the kids...The boys and girls were very enjoyable when they danced at the old, comfy Jackie Gleason, way before the ambitious Grey monster-(AKA Carnival Center) made its triumphant way-(without a parking facility of its own)-to seat in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard, like it or not...

What about PR...? I've said this before, but as a part of the largest/most diverse Educational College in the Country-(Miami Dade College)- I NEVER get to see any little piece of paper announcing performances for ANYTHING...ballet, opera or the like. One of the most proliferative schools at my college is the New School of The Arts, which i would assume would be interested in watch some stuff...well...did anybody has invited them,,,? Like this we're not going anywhere.

Link to comment
Miami City Ballet also elected to chop away at the corps. Very sad all around.
And they informed the dancers by mail, according to the Miami Herald.

To give Peter Martins credit, he (1) spoke personally to the dancers involved and (2) took a pay cut himself. Good for him.

Cheers to THAT.

Link to comment
It would surely have been very hard for Martins to tell any principals what they must have read from many other sources. But that was his job. The company's history would not be so celebrated if many leading dancers had overstayed their welcome as long as they have. Put simply, Martins has abused his position, has arguably made it necessary to fire promising corps members in order to pay the salaries of underserving principals, and has undoubtedly cut into the company's current revenues by presenting those principals to a discerning New York public that years ago tired of them.

Attempting to use microsoft so hope this gets through...

I, of course, agree KFW. Certainly we can all identify dead wood principals. Three come to mind who currently lack the skills to have even a prayer of getting into the Company's Corps. Two are, of course, members of the BMIC's family: Darci (one could of course see the Allegra Kent excuse for keeping her on... if it didn't mean axing a number of corps dancers) and her stepson Nilas. And the perpetual question that is Borree...

I wonder how many corps dancers could be saved if they all did the "noble thing" for the Company that has paid them all these years?

Link to comment
However, I note that miliosr's post contains an important and responsible conditional: IF. We don't know who got the ax, but it could just as easily could be corps dancers who have not advanced as the directorate might wish as it could be those most lately hired, or a mix of the two categories. Seniority counts for relatively little in a ballet company, and sometimes can work against a dancer.

If memory serves me right, a contract does not require a reason not to be renewed. The only difference is that the fifth-year-corps has negotiated through AGMA that they must be given a years notice. Anyone under that can be terminated after Saratoga when their contract expires.

Link to comment
I, of course, agree KFW. Certainly we can all identify dead wood principals. Three come to mind who currently lack the skills to have even a prayer of getting into the Company's Corps.
And then there's Jennie Somogyi, a dancer I've admired. But her rep this season was only two roles (that's less than Darci's), neither classical. Will she ever recover enough to assume a ballerina's share of the workload? I'd hate to lose her, but her value to the company must be considered.
I wonder how many corps dancers could be saved if they all did the "noble thing" for the Company that has paid them all these years?
Probably close to a one-to-one ratio, since a) much of the cost of carrying a company member is in benefits such as health and disability insurance and per diems, which are the same across the board; and b) a senior corps dancer's salary is probably considerably higher than you suspect.

Welcome back, drb! Good to see you!

Link to comment
I wonder how many corps dancers could be saved if they all did the "noble thing" for the Company that has paid them all these years?
Probably close to a one-to-one ratio, since a) much of the cost of carrying a company member is in benefits such as health and disability insurance and per diems, which are the same across the board; and b) a senior corps dancer's salary is probably considerably higher than you suspect.

That's assuming the affected were senior dancers.

Link to comment

There are 59 dancers on the current corps member list. This seems huge to most of us, since it's bigger than the number of dancers of ALL ranks at all but the top three companies in the U.S.

In perceptage terms, the announced reductions will have a major impact on the corps, given the huge repertory the company dances. They have to do so much covering and substituting as it is, in case of injury or other indisposition.

Given that, what impacts on the corps dancers themselves do ou anticipate? Will repertory be affected, possibly reducing the number of huge-cast ballets?

Link to comment
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...