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Why no ballet in Chicago?

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Treefrog found this one for us, from the Chicago Tribune.

Find out the Chicago Tribune's take on why heavyweight (sic) dance companies don't visit Chicago.

Here's a sample:

But why does ABT perform at the Kennedy and in Orange County? "Because they have the funders who are willing to support dance," Kallish says.

All about `priorities'

Michael Kaiser, the widely respected administrator credited with saving ABT in the '90s who now serves as president of the Kennedy Center, agrees: "It gets down to priorities. We've decided ballet is important."

He adds that the interruption in ABT presentation in Chicago probably hasn't helped. "I believe that what brings in revenue in ballet is consistently bringing in the same companies to build an audience. Dance is like opera. You can't become a fan by listening to CDs." (Even the Kennedy hasn't managed a visit from the expensive New York City Ballet in recent years, Kaiser notes, because of the complexities of orchestral contracts.)

The article has some very good, specific reasons why one particular city hasn't been able to bring in "big time" ballet. Any comments from Chicagoans? What about others -- how is your city doing?

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I would be curious to hear opinions from those in cities with first rate ballet companies. Do those cities (Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Boston) have outside ballet troupes tour there to the same extent as before these companies rose in the nineties? I bet not.

Chicago now has Joffrey, and perhaps some of the drop off is due to a support the home team mentality, at least until Joffrey sponsors out of towners to help build an audience.

Of course there is always our government's decision to drop the dance touring program support and other arts related cuts..........

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I'd like very much to hear from people in the cities mbjerk mentioned as well, and I think he raises an excellent point. I know in Washington, the National Ballet did not survive the Kennedy Center -- not just because of the competition, but because, as one of my friends explained to me, people didn't want to go to Lisner Auditorium any more after the Opera House was built. (Lisner is the George Washington University auditorium. It's not ideal for dance, and it's hard to imagine how a company would stage "Swan Lake" there, although the big touring companies in the 1950s and 1960s did.)

Having the Center has made things difficult for Washington Ballet as well.

(And your comment about government decisions is a good point, too.)

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In San Francisco we have seen a drop off in the number and frequency of other major ballet companies performing because of the lack of venue. In the mid-nineties, the Opera added a January season. This had traditionally been the time given to ABT and other touring ballet companies to perform in the War Memorial Opera House. Now, companies must make do with the much smaller venues of Yerba Buena Center and Zellerbach Hall. Neither venue is an ideal place for large dance companies: they're small.

So, here in SF, the loss of a suitable venue becasue of the success of a local organization has curtailed the ability of outside companies to perform here.

That said, the Bolshoi is coming this next year.

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Originally posted by mbjerk

Chicago now has Joffrey, and perhaps some of the drop off is due to a support the home team mentality,

I think there is a lot of truth to this comment. But in-between Joffrey performances, there are other companies turing in Chicago. Bolshoi Ballet in November. Eifman Ballet in March. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in April. Shanghai Ballet of China in October. Georgian State Dance Company in November. Dance Cuba in February. Peking Opera in April. Momix in November. Twyla Tharp Dance in January.

And of course Hubbard Street Dance has their 25th anniversary celebration with 3 weeks of performances in March/April.

There is also DanceAfrica Chicago featuring performances by local and international African Dance troupes. And Dance Chicago festival spans 4 weeks in November/December and features some of our best local/regional dance companies including Joffrey, Hubbard Street 2, River North Dance and many many more.


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On the link page, there's an article about Peter Boal's small "troupe" going to perform in London. He makes a comment that as much as Peter Martin's would love to bring the company (NYCB) to London, they can't.

It's strange how some companies that used to tour a lot now hardly ever do for a variety of reasons. It's actually sad. Maybe they should do what corporations do, create satellite schools and companies in different cities.

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I agree -- it is sad. NYCB used to come to Washington three weeks each season. It made a huge difference to us -- showing a model of choreography and dancing at the highest level -- and there was a very enthusiastic audience for the company, and Balanchine, that drifted away when the Center began to feed it a steady diet of regional companies.

Touring is expensive, but with all the fundraising going on, it's a shame the company can't take some of that money to tour. San Francisco Ballet, which is getting quite large, manages to tour quite often.

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NYCB has the added problem of the agreement with there orchestra which makes it impossible to tour.

San Francisco Ballet has specific grants to tour. They also have a board that believes touring is a vital experience for a healthy company and therefore find the support for it.

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Paris has the POB, but not so many big foreign ballet companies tour there: the Kirov will be coming soon, but it makes many years it hasn't been to Paris, the Royal Ballet last come about 9 or 10 years ago... In fact not many theaters in Paris besides the Paris Opera program some ballet (a little bit on the Chatelet and the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and that's about all), there are theaters outside Paris showing some ballet but they are smaller and probably don't have a big enough budget to invite prestigious companies.

About touring: a good idea might be to develop exchanges, as what was done last season between the SFB and the POB (the SFB performing in Paris and the POB performing in San Francisco). It's less expensive than "normal" tours because both companies lent their theaters to each other, and also the SFB performances were in the

season's subscriptions for the Paris Opera (and vice-versa) so they were sure to have a minimum of audience (and benefitted from the publicity in the POB brochure). I had had the opportunity to talk with a former member of the board of the SFB who had been involved in organizing that exchange; it had required a lot of work and, as LMCtech wrote, there was a strong will of the board to organize tours. Himself said that, when arriving on the board, coming from a corporate environment, he was wondering about the interest of touring, because financially it's often not profitable, but realized later that it was good for the reputation of the company, for the dancers' training, and for the atmosphere inside the company (the dancers feeling closer to each other in tours, having the feeling to be the representatives of their company and their home town).

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I do not think that the reason BIG American companies do not tour in Chicago is because of a lack of approprite venue. I do not agree that Chicago is somehow getting unfairly shafted when it comes to seeing large American touring companies.

To define terms: the BIG American companies are: ABT, NYCB, PNB, SFB, Houston, Joffrey and maybe one or two more, if you would like to include them.

How many of these companies tour to the cities containing other BIG companies (with the exception of coming to NYC, which is a different story entirely)? Does ABT perform in San Francisco? Does PNB perform in Houston? I may be mistaken, I do not think so. Places where these BIG companies usually tour to (Orange County, D.C., ect.) seem to be places without another of the BIG American companies in residence.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this: market saturation, logistics, money, ect., all in different proportions depending on the situation. I think that low on the list of reasons is a lack of suitable facility. If anything, that would be the easiest difficulty to work around, only requiring accomodation when deciding on number of shows and selcting repertory. Harder to work around would be a lack of potential sales and high overheads for example.

I think that it would be a mistake to think that, as this article suggests, if Chicago had a large multi use facility, that these BIG American companies would be falling over themselves to perform in Chicago.

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