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Dancers "sponsored by"

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Calliope, I did an interview with a dancer -- not an ABT member -- a few years ago who I can best describe as being in the social circle of a major donor (since deceased) who had two or three dancers he particularly admired and paid their salaries.

It's certainly a debatable question. One the one hand, if a company wants to get the best stars and can't afford them, is it okay to turn to donors and say, "We need $25,000 to hire Dancer X. Can you come up with it?" There are questions, of course, as to what that does to the home team, but that's another issue.

On the other hand, what if I've won the lottery and want to see Dancer X. He or she may be over the hill, or trained in a completely different style -- or, in the opinion of the company director, not good enough. One would hope that, in that case, the director would say, gosh, thanks, but wouldn't you like to donate to a new wing of the studio instead?

I think part of it may be that onceuponatime people gave money to the arts because they believed in the arts, and because of noblesse oblige. That's dead too now, mostly. Now people want to see their name on something -- the back of a seat, in some opera houses. Or "This new ballet has been brought to you by"....and so, I suppose, it's easier to get money if you think that your $10,000 (or whatever) is buying a particular performance.

I wonder, though, if the marketeers are making assumptions, and trying to sell the performances, where another road would work just as surely, if it were properly explained.

I am really afraid we will live to see a ballet where the dancers wear baseball caps with "Pepsi" on them, or Sominex really will present "Sleeping Beauty" -- and Carabosse will give Aurora a spindle in the shape of a Sominex tablet, with the words of the brand writ large upon it.

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That's a good one. And then there are the deodorant companies -- I remember hearing about, though never seeing, a TV commercial in the 1970s with Farrell and Martins (!!!), the latter saying, "In our line of work, we get very sweaty." Secret might make a good sponsor for LaBayadere -- all that skulking about -- and Right Guard might want to take out an option on all those nonstop highenergy "ballets".

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Sponsoring dancers and performances is as old as dance itself (Tsars, dukes, ballerina's jewels coming from adoring fans at court, casting pressures from royal whims...). This is nothing new.

This started as a way to raise general operating funds when dance started going out of vogue - late 1980's - and AIDS, etc. became the place to give. Adopt a Dancer campaigns to buy pointe shoes for a specific dancer allowed donors to see their contributions onstage as well as build personal relationships with the company.

Finally, please bear with artistic directors to a point. They have a tremendous obstacle in raising the monies to present what you all love onstage. Raising even fifty thousand dollars is not easy and takes so much time away from a director's love - working in the studio with dancers. Also, when you see companies paying tens of millions to place their logo on stadiums or in movies, the temptation is great.

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I know it's been an ongoing practice, but as Alexandra mentioned earlier, people used to give without having to have their name attached. It would be nice of a company to not feel as though they have to put people's names as sponsors. I understand the reason for needing the funds, it's just a sad commentary that people feel the need to be recognized for a donation. I wonder if the dancer's have any say in it?

Having said that, is ABT's defection from AGMA (the union) also allowing them to do this?

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It is my understanding that - at least in smaller/regional companies - sponsorship can also come in the form of housing, travel, and expense subsidies.

Isn't it also common practice for guest artists to be sponsored?

If sponsorship is becoming more commonplace, does that open the door for wealthy families to subsidize the contracts of sons/daughters who might not otherwise be offered company positions? Or does that practice already exist in other forms?


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Alexandra, if I recall correctly, the deodorant commercial featured Peter Martins and Allegra Kent costumed for (and dancing?) "Tschaikovsky pas," with the Mazurka music from Swan Lake superimposed. It was edited with MTV sensibility, cut into so many small pieces that not a step -- let alone a phrase -- was discernable. :eek: I also assumed that the royalties from that display went directly to the dancers, not their employer.

I think the "sponsored by" credits are merely a way to acknowledge the "most generous" (or publicity-starved) donors. Personally, I find it vulgar and out of line with the spirit of giving, but if it loosens purse strings, it's a small enough irritant to forgive.

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I'm of two minds about dancers being sponsored corporately, with a mention in the program. I think it's a bit tacky, but it certainly beats the old-fashioned way, with sugar daddies supporting their girlfriends' careers in the nineteenth century, and they certainly didn't want program credit, because their wives would find out! Or worse, if they were underwriting more than one and they didn't know about one another!;)

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Would that it were merely corporate acknowledgments!

I cite a recent ABT playbill before me, substituting initials for the names of actual human donors:

Ms. Ananiashvili's performance was underwritten by N.E. and W.R.

Mr. Carreno's peformance was underwritten by N.E. and W.R.

Mr. Corella's performance was underwritten by M., P., and L.R.

Ms. Dvorovenko's performance was underwritten by Dr. & Mrs. K.


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I suspect that many donors respond with larger gifts when they have an opportunity to link their names directly to that of a principal dancer. I am so very impressed! Not. But I am grateful.

ABT has been doing this for a couple of years now. At first, the only "underwritten" dancer was Nina Ananiashvili, then Susan Jaffe and (I think) Julio Bocca. Perhaps ABT will find itself in a position where it feels compelled to promote everyone to principal status in order to pull in the really big bucks.

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