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Going to the Ballet in a changed world

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This is a posting I have made on the British Ballet.co.uk web site. I hope others agree with me. I hope that New Yorkers will make a special effort to go to the ABT season in November.

"Some of us have, quite understandibly, felt uneasy about going to ballet etc givin the atrocities in New York. Dance etc seem rather trivial compared to what is going on in the world. Also some felt that it would be disrepectful for the dead if we still enjoyed our entertainmemts.

But I think people are wrong to take this view. Firstly this is exactly what the terrorists want us to do - to make us give up our way of life and to make us afraid. There is a old terrorist saying "kill one, scare a thousand" (in this case its "Kill thousands, scare a billion". I would not be pompous enough to say that going to the theatre is an act of defiance but it does send a message to the terrorist that we will not be intimidated.

But perhaps even more important is that the dramatic fall in tourism will result in major financial difficulties. This is particularly so for the Royal Ballet which is particularly dependant on tourism. So they need our patronage!

I note that on Broadway people are saying that going to the theatre is a civic duties. Things are so bad there that not even the Lion King sold out. 6 shows have already closed.

Shortly after the atrocities I booked my flight to New York (from London) on American Airlines for the ABT season in November. I will not be intimidated."

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Thanks, Eugene.

Things seem frozen here. There's an outpouring of money to charities and funds for the survivors, but people seem reluctant to spend. That, coupled with a fear of travel, will make things slow for awhile, I fear.

I hope people will attend performances if they are able to do so. In addition to all the reasons Eugene stated, it doesn't really make any sense, or do any good, NOT to.

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I notice that the Kennedy Center is offering 10% discount on next week's Suzanne Farrell Ensemble ballet tickets (see the KennCen's website for this announcement). I'm somewhat surprised that the KennCen feels compelled to do this; it tells me that tickets are not moving very well for the run. This despite the facts that (a) the run is in the relatively-small Eisenhower Theater (not the large Opera House) and (B) it follows on the heels of last seson's successful Balanchine Celebration. True, the Farrell Ensemble is not part of the regular subscription series...but still... Obviously, DC audiences are being careful with their money.

Like Eugene, I'm trying to maintain my spirits by planning to attend local ballet presentations. Heck, I just purchased my first Washington Ballet subscription series in twelve years! That says something! ;) On the other hand, I'll be traveling a lot less to see shows outside DC.

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I would imagine they'd have trouble selling Farrell with or without the current crisis if it's not on subscription. No stars, an unfamiliar repertory and not on subscription -- it was a gamble. (The repertory would not have been unfamiliar 15 years ago, but it is here, now.) There's no novelty, it's not a festival, nothing is packaged to sell (nothing is packagable) -- just workaday, serious repertory, like you'd get in a big city :) Personally, I give a tip of the hat for the Kennedy Center for taking the gamble. It seems that they're behind what Farrell is doing and are willing to build for the future.

I'll take the opportunity, especially now I know that tickets are cheap, to recommend this, and suggest, if it's possible, to try to see a program towards the beginning of the run and the same program at the end of the run. One of the most enlightening experiences in my balletgoing career was Farrell's first season, with the Washington Ballet (which has never looked better) where each night built, the dancers gained confidence from performance to performance, the whole thing caught on fire, and the last weekend was extraordinary. I didn't get the same sense last time in the Terrace; partly repertory, partly because she didn't have the same level of dancers. It takes a decade to build a company, but if you're interested in this sort of thing, it's fun to watch the building.

On the larger question that Eugene raised, all signs say that, at least in New York and Washington, people are not going to the theater. As of now, six Broadway shows, which were doing well before September 11th, are closing this week and more are expected.

I think part of it is that people aren't in the mood, or perhaps feel that art is frivolous? Maybe when the NFL takes to the field this Sunday people will think things are returning to normal :)

How do you all feel about going back to the ballet? The dancers have no choice; they have to rise to the occasion. Will we be there when they do?

[ 09-21-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Certainly the national mood is a bit grim right now but I suspect the reason people are holding back on the arts -- ballet and theater -- is not because they fear seeming trivial at a time of tragedy. They fear spending money. Recession is the greatest enemy of the full house and the fat underwriting budget. People are hanging on to their discretionary (read: entertainment, travel, home improvement) funds because unemployment is rising, their investments are sliding and they are worrying about their mortgages, kids' tuition etc. Those corporations that do support the arts are shifting their funds to benefit and relief donations right now. And people who do spend will save up for the best and the certain. They will buy one program but not two for Farrell or skip Farrell and wait for the Cubans or the Russians this season. They'll buy the Producers but not a new show because they won't see as many shows. I'm sitting on money that was supposed to go to new windows and waiting to hear about layoffs at my husband's office. Kiddo will see a lot less ballet this year. We'll be buying only one subscription, not two, for our company, etc. And it's not the smoking Pentagon rubble out my window that's causing this....

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Yes, I know one friend who had decided to donate her entire opera-going budget for the year to the United Way's September 11th Fund. She then realized that, as she works as a tour guide, she may not have any money for her rent let alone opera-going. she made a small donation and is watching her savings. I think a lot of other people will be feeling the pinch. Many industries are laying off a lot of workers. A lot of people are feeling uncertain about their future. The only field likely to hire a lot of new workers is the insurance industry. A close friend is a workers' compensation analyst, and two of her company's biggest customers were in the WTC. Her team have been working 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. without breaks since the disaster - and on the weekend as well. She doesn't get a penny in OT for this. She no longer has the time or the energy to attend arts events.

[ 09-22-2001: Message edited by: felursus ]

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I opted not to get my Nutcracker tickets this year and decided to make donations instead.

I think this attack came at the absolute worst time for America with the economy already on the brink, our President predicting a long war and the stock market reeling, the last thing on many people's minds is seemingly already over priced tickets.

I was shocked at some of the shows that closed, mostly because they were the tickets that were affordable.

Has there been much of an impact outside of the States?

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I've come a bit late for this thread, perhaps, but I would still go to the ballet. Not as an act of defiance to those who would frighten me into staying home, nor as a way of trying to single-handedly keep a company afloat. I would go to take my mind off of those horrific images of collapsing buildings and people falling to their deaths. There is much to be said in support of escapism.

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Tourism is obviously way down in NY, and that has a lot to do with Broadway shows closing.

Also, it's unbelievably difficult to get around NYC physically right now. All streets below Canal Street are still closed to cars and the Subways are a complete mess, with trains rerouted and stopping aimlessly between stations for much longer intervals than they actually roll anywhere. It took me 1 and 1/2 hours to get from W. 72d steet to Prince Street to attend a museum opening Thursday, which was nearly deserted, by the way. And cabs were nearly impossible to get at times even before this. No one in the City who doesn't have to go somewhere is going. The further uptown you get, the less this is true, but it's true all the same.

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