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Companies ready for a change


Hogmel
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I was wondering of all of the american companies, large or small, which ones are ready for a change of artistic direction? And for what reasons? 
 

i personally think Houston Ballet might be ripe for a change. Its a good company that just seems to fly under the radar a lot. It seems they stage a whole lot of Stanton Welch’s creation which might not be all that great... 

i am really curious to hear what you have to say ?  

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1 hour ago, Hogmel said:

I was wondering of all of the american companies, large or small, which ones are ready for a change of artistic direction? And for what reasons? 
 

I've been thinking about this, but for different reasons. Some companies are doing a great job mounting digital programs/subscriptions and some aren't. I'd single out SFB, PNB, Sarasota, and Boston as doing a great job. They're bringing in some revenue, keeping at least some dancers employed for some of the programs, and keeping donor interest high with a mix of pre-recorded and new performances, when possible.

Others seem to be limping along. ABT showed donors the Manon with Ferri/Bolle, but not much else of interest. Admittedly, they probably don't have much in the digital vault. NYCB has shown a huge amount of stuff and asked for donations each time, but why haven't they pursued the digital subscription mix that we see at SFB and PNB? Maybe that will happen. And some of this reflects union and copyright agreements on the things they do have, of course. 

We don't know numbers that are available to boards for donations, subscriptions, etc., but I'll bet those start to catch up with some artistic directors. 

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I had been a fairly frequent patron of California Ballet Company here in San Diego. It's one of the bigger companies here in town, at the Civic Center downtown. But I know that the current artistic director, Raul Salamanca, is, I think, the second in four years. The previous one was around for a very short time. I don't know much about either.  They haven't updated their IG since, I think, March, and they blanked out their website. I do worry that that company might be going under. Shame, since all my ballet going memories have been with them. 

I noticed a lot of companies doing their work online rather than in person, and considering our panddemic situation, it's an enjoyable alternative to in person ballet, but CBC never did this. Not sure if other local companies were better in this respect .

ETA: I did actually see SD Civic Youth Ballet's Nutcracker, and that was very good. But we need more in this town.

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I think that companies that had good quality video in their vaults before things all went sideways were in a much better position to launch streaming programs that groups that would have to start from scratch.  PNB  was lucky -- they made their decision early, and their performance venue (McCall Hall) had recent upgraded their recording equipment, so the company didn't have to make that investment as well. 

And while I don't know details, I know that many rights holders (individual artists, trusts and foundations) have been very generous with their materials -- the desire to keep dance in front of its audience has loosened some of their control.

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On 12/4/2020 at 11:18 AM, California said:

NYCB has shown a huge amount of stuff and asked for donations each time, but why haven't they pursued the digital subscription mix that we see at SFB and PNB? M

 

8 hours ago, sandik said:

And while I don't know details, I know that many rights holders (individual artists, trusts and foundations) have been very generous with their materials -- the desire to keep dance in front of its audience has loosened some of their control.

sandik points to one possible reason: it could be that the various rights holders and unions involved were willing to authorize making the videos available during the pandemic as a means of keeping the company and its repertory visible to the public and as a means of prompting donations, but weren't ready to negotiate a full-fledged paid digital subscription or pay-per-view offering. 

Or, the Board might have decided to pull out its collective checkbook and underwrite free digital programming as a public service during the pandemic. 

Or, the City of New York, which does provide substantial support to NYCB via the Department of Cultural Affairs' Cultural Institutions Group, might have encouraged free digital programming as a public service during the pandemic.

NYCB did send out a survey probing its audience on its willingness to pay for digital performances, and it could be that the results didn't surface much of an appetite for paid digital offerings.

It could be all or some or none of the above - just spitballing ...

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3 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

sandik points to one possible reason: it could be that the various rights holders and unions involved were willing to authorize making the videos available during the pandemic as a means of keeping the company and its repertory visible to the public and as a means of prompting donations, but weren't ready to negotiate a full-fledged paid digital subscription or pay-per-view offering. 

Or, the Board might have decided to pull out its collective checkbook and underwrite free digital programming as a public service during the pandemic. 

Or, the City of New York, which does provide substantial support to NYCB via the Department of Cultural Affairs' Cultural Institutions Group, might have encouraged free digital programming as a public service during the pandemic.

NYCB did send out a survey probing its audience on its willingness to pay for digital performances, and it could be that the results didn't surface much of an appetite for paid digital offerings.

It could be all or some or none of the above - just spitballing ...

I wonder if another reason - in respect of NYCB - might be that they wanted to reconcile their dedicated live audiences following the pandemic respite  - and convert possible new 'live' converts - ALL PRIOR to offering a seasonal digital slate wherein they could capitalise on other (new and old) international / national followers who in most likely instances would not be able to physically attend - as much as I'm certain they'd love to.   To my mind that would be prudent.  

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6 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

NYCB did send out a survey probing its audience on its willingness to pay for digital performances, and it could be that the results didn't surface much of an appetite for paid digital offerings.

It could be all or some or none of the above - just spitballing ...

I think that we're going to see a shift in what some companies think of as "their audience," to include people who do not attend in person, but are very interested in watching online.  I imagine that NYCB has been keeping the same kind of records that PNB has -- they've had digital subscribers from all 50 states, and a few foreign countries as well.  There are few things I want to take with me from the pandemic, but this kind of access is certainly one of them.

2 hours ago, meunier fan said:

I wonder if another reason - in respect of NYCB - might be that they wanted to reconcile their dedicated live audiences following the pandemic respite  - and convert possible new 'live' converts - ALL PRIOR to offering a seasonal digital slate wherein they could capitalise on other (new and old) international / national followers who in most likely instances would not be able to physically attend - as much as I'm certain they'd love to.   To my mind that would be prudent.  

Oooh, hadn't thought about the timing aspect.  Around here, since we're moving back into the theater in a fairly cautious way, the autumn season has a limited in-house schedule, but you can subscribe to streaming offerings in the autumn and possibly return to live performance after Nut.

I'm just hoping that after all the experiments that different organizations have been running, they take that information and really use it.

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25 minutes ago, sandik said:

I'm just hoping that after all the experiments that different organizations have been running, they take that information and really use it.

I also hope that the broader universe of private foundations and government arts organizations take an active role in fostering the further exploration of digital arts programming. There will need to be funding for everything—negotiating with rights holders; buying equipment and hiring people to use it; securing and scaling a distribution platform; marketing and audience development; developing supplementary educational materials for classroom use; commissioning works for camera, etc etc etc.

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14 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

sandik points to one possible reason: it could be that the various rights holders and unions involved were willing to authorize making the videos available during the pandemic as a means of keeping the company and its repertory visible to the public and as a means of prompting donations, but weren't ready to negotiate a full-fledged paid digital subscription or pay-per-view offering.

One of the things I've learned in recent years is just how much of a hold the various unions and rights holders have over the ballet companies. Nothing gets done without long negotiations and legal wrangling. If there is one thing the ballet world is not, it is "flexible". Kind of ironic.

One might think that the real possibility of a new revenue stream would be exciting for the dance world, but it seems to be too new and different a notion for many to know how to deal with it.

7 hours ago, sandik said:

I think that we're going to see a shift in what some companies think of as "their audience," to include people who do not attend in person, but are very interested in watching online.  I imagine that NYCB has been keeping the same kind of records that PNB has -- they've had digital subscribers from all 50 states, and a few foreign countries as well.  There are few things I want to take with me from the pandemic, but this kind of access is certainly one of them.

I really hope that's true. SFB hints that they are interested in this new digital subscription / pay-per-view audience, but live performances for a live audience are absolutely the main interest. So the question is: which of these companies is going to devote real resources to developing an online audience? So far, the strategy for many has been to post to YouTube and hope that the audience will find them. That just doesn't seem very sophisticated. The companies that get a real jump on this technology and digital audience relations may be the real survivors down the road.

I do like the idea of some kind of arts platform being developed that can be used by any and all dance companies. A one-stop shop.

Edited by pherank
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2 hours ago, pherank said:

I do like the idea of some kind of arts platform being developed that can be used by any and all dance companies. A one-stop shop.

So far I've seen a lot of promotion for Marquee TV, and for the PBS streaming stuff coming out of WNYC.  But I'm not sure that a majority of companies will want to surrender some of their brand to a shared platform.  Hoping I'm wrong!

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5 hours ago, sandik said:

So far I've seen a lot of promotion for Marquee TV

Much of the content on Marquee TV is also available on DVD or was previously available via theater livestreams / broadcast TV, although it appears to be acquiring some content from performing arts companies / venues that isn't streamable elsewhere, e.g.,  from the Washington Ballet, Glyndebourne (the concert series but not the operas, apparently), and Arlington's Signature Theater. Marquee TV also offers "ticketed," i.e., pay-per-view events. There's nothing wrong with a service that streams content also available to consumers on DVD (hello, Netflix!) but it's not (again, yet) a platform that relies on acquired original or exclusive content. By "original" I don't mean new dance works or operas, but rather performances that are only available via its service—e.g., a major ballet company's "digital season." From what I've been able to glean scanning its catalogue, its competitor Medici TV takes a similar "from DVD / broadcast / livestream to on demand" approach, with some exclusive streaming content, e.g., performances from Switzerland's Verbier Festival.

So, I can imagine a service that commissions a digital season from a performing arts company for an attractive flat fee; or underwrites a major new production; or fosters collaborations between, say, a filmmaker or a visual artist with a dance company with the right to stream what it commissioned exclusively either in perpetuity or for some predefined period of time. The performing arts company might secure some ancillary rights—e.g., the right to make some of the content available to donors, to release it on DVD at some future date, or to make it available to schools or public libraries. Frankly, if I were a publicly-minded foundation or consortium of foundations and publicly-funded arts agencies, I'd be thinking of ways to support the performing arts' digital future that frees companies and venues of the financial and administrative burden of operating their own bespoke digital distribution platforms or from locking their content up behind a for-profit platform's paywall.

Something closer to a shared platform is EU-sponsored OperaVision, which streams recent performances by smaller European opera houses for free over a three-to-six month period. There are exceptions, but most of its content isn't available elsewhere. Some of it does eventually end up on DVD or on another streaming platform. 

Another model is Seattle's own OntheBoards.TV, which has leveraged presentations from its own theater (plus similar venues in Portland, Austin, and New York) to get works from an array of contemporary artists up on a paid platform. On the Boards is non-profit, so it receives some funding from both foundations and government sources.

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11 hours ago, pherank said:

One of the things I've learned in recent years is just how much of a hold the various unions and rights holders have over the ballet companies. Nothing gets done without long negotiations and legal wrangling.

To be clear, I'm all in favor of unions and collective bargaining in the performing arts. Everyone has a right to fair compensation and a safe and respectful workplace. I think artists and stagehands have a right to negotiate how they will be compensated for work that's made available via means other than live performance.

Rights holders are a more complicated issue. Creators should be compensated for their work, but existing copyright regimes sometime operate to facilitate behavior that can stymie the public interest. 

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On 12/4/2020 at 8:39 AM, Hogmel said:

I was wondering of all of the american companies, large or small, which ones are ready for a change of artistic direction? And for what reasons? 
 

i personally think Houston Ballet might be ripe for a change. Its a good company that just seems to fly under the radar a lot. It seems they stage a whole lot of Stanton Welch’s creation which might not be all that great... 

i am really curious to hear what you have to say ?  

Houston Ballet for sure. It's lavishly funded but it has no national profile. I'm hard pressed to even describe its repertory. Perhaps they'll just coast along until Connor Walsh is ready to take over?

I would put the Joffrey Ballet in second place. During his lifetime, the late Robert Joffrey worked ceaselessly to give the company an unique repertory. How wonderful would it be if the Joffrey was still the repository for all those Massine revivals? Instead, it's like a mild San Francisco Ballet.

Los Angeles Ballet would be my third place. What is the point of this company? It slogs along with no discernible purpose and not much funding. (Don't know if you could replace the artistic directors as they and the company may be one and the same.)

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8 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

...So, I can imagine a service that commissions a digital season from a performing arts company for an attractive flat fee; or underwrites a major new production; or fosters collaborations between, say, a filmmaker or a visual artist with a dance company with the right to stream what it commissioned exclusively either in perpetuity or for some predefined period of time. The performing arts company might secure some ancillary rights—e.g., the right to make some of the content available to donors, to release it on DVD at some future date, or to make it available to schools or public libraries. Frankly, if I were a publicly-minded foundation or consortium of foundations...

All good examples of how a shared Arts platform is actually doable, if enough companies devote some of their staff and funds to the purpose. And get some major player in the broadcast realm to get on board.

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20 minutes ago, miliosr said:

Houston Ballet for sure. It's lavishly funded but it has no national profile. I'm hard pressed to even describe its repertory. Perhaps they'll just coast along until Connor Walsh is ready to take over?

I would put the Joffrey Ballet in second place. During his lifetime, the late Robert Joffrey worked ceaselessly to give the company an unique repertory. How wonderful would it be if the Joffrey was still the repository for all those Massine revivals? Instead, it's like a mild San Francisco Ballet.

Los Angeles Ballet would be my third place. What is the point of this company? It slogs along with no discernible purpose and not much funding. (Don't know if you could replace the artistic directors as they and the company may be one and the same.)

I don't disagree with these statements. But I suppose one could argue that any company that's been following the same model exclusively for years is in need of some level of shaking up. No one's artistic vision is that sweeping and original.   😉

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17 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Another model is Seattle's own OntheBoards.TV, which has leveraged presentations from its own theater (plus similar venues in Portland, Austin, and New York) to get works from an array of contemporary artists up on a paid platform. On the Boards is non-profit, so it receives some funding from both foundations and government sources.

On the Boards does an excellent job with the project, which has given really impressive exposure to companies that wouldn't always have that kind of attention.  

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On 7/10/2021 at 5:56 PM, pherank said:

I don't disagree with these statements. But I suppose one could argue that any company that's been following the same model exclusively for years is in need of some level of shaking up. No one's artistic vision is that sweeping and original.   😉

Which also suggests that a change in artistic director(s) might not solve the problems some of these companies have.

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On 7/17/2021 at 4:07 PM, miliosr said:

Which also suggests that a change in artistic director(s) might not solve the problems some of these companies have.

Sad, but true. I have to say though, many of these "problems" have to do with changes, and or conflicts, in society as a whole. Some of the criticism of the companies has made it sound like the ballet world is the last bastion of White European Patriarchal Conservatism, or some such thing. But the diversification issues, and the love of hierarchy/status and tradition (not to mention cult-of-personality) is to be found all over the place. And these things get us in trouble.

Whether we're talking about governments, sports, the military, or the supposedly "cutting edge" tech industry, there's a lot of non-diverse, male-centered, family-unfriendly things going on in the human world. That's what we have to work with.

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Some of these ballet companies have problems that extend beyond the events of recent years and reach back to the "glory years" of the Dance Boom of the 60s and 70s. The "boom" could just as easily be described as a "bubble" given how many companies came into being without having a clear reason for being other than someone thought a particular city should have a ballet company.

During the pandemic, I bought old issues of Dance Magazine from the 70s and the 80s. Reading those back issues, it's amazing to see how many companies didn't make it because they had no realistic artistic and business plans (or even a realistic view of the city in which they were performing.) The "boom" is long gone but there are still a lot of companies from that era hanging around and still trying to find the way forward.

 

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On 7/9/2021 at 12:02 PM, meunier fan said:

I wonder if another reason - in respect of NYCB - might be that they wanted to reconcile their dedicated live audiences following the pandemic respite  - and convert possible new 'live' converts - ALL PRIOR to offering a seasonal digital slate wherein they could capitalise on other (new and old) international / national followers who in most likely instances would not be able to physically attend - as much as I'm certain they'd love to.   To my mind that would be prudent.  

By all means the companies should not abandon digital access, and indeed should move forward with it and capitalize on it, but if the pandemic has proved anything, it's that finally this art form lives in live performance.

Many thanks, Hogmel, for starting this very interesting topic!

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On 7/10/2021 at 6:32 PM, miliosr said:

Houston Ballet for sure. It's lavishly funded but it has no national profile. I'm hard pressed to even describe its repertory. Perhaps they'll just coast along until Connor Walsh is ready to take over?

I would put the Joffrey Ballet in second place. During his lifetime, the late Robert Joffrey worked ceaselessly to give the company an unique repertory. How wonderful would it be if the Joffrey was still the repository for all those Massine revivals? Instead, it's like a mild San Francisco Ballet.

Los Angeles Ballet would be my third place. What is the point of this company? It slogs along with no discernible purpose and not much funding. (Don't know if you could replace the artistic directors as they and the company may be one and the same.)

Connor Walsh or maybe Jared Matthews? Right now, he is the assistant AD of the Estonian national ballet … i always felt he could come back to Houston eventually…

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11 hours ago, Hogmel said:

Connor Walsh or maybe Jared Matthews? Right now, he is the assistant AD of the Estonian national ballet … i always felt he could come back to Houston eventually…

Jared Matthews would be a contender for sure. But Connor Walsh seems to me to be the face of the organization. He's their biggest star and has been for what seems like forever. As challenging as it is for me to summarize Houston Ballet's repertory, Walsh has appeared in everything and has all the resulting national and international connections.

Edited by miliosr
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