Do Ballet Companies Make (Financial) Sense?

The arts are desperately underfunded in this country, and programs big and small rely on philanthropy to stay afloat. Ballet companies rarely earn enough income to break even, so philanthropy is essential to their continuation. While this is a less-than-ideal way to scrape by, we (readers and staff) all probably agree that it's worth the fundraising hustle in order to keep seeing and presenting great art. In the meantime we can work to change the way art is funded in the U.S.

But what if someone played devil's advocate and questioned, in strictly economic terms, whether it makes sense for ballet companies to keep existing as money-losing institutions? Angela Ma--Pointe reader, ballet dancer and Harvard student extraordinaire--did just that, and her answer was published in the Harvard Economics Review. 

Ma notes that ballet companies are beholden to a double bottom-line: They have "dual economic and artistic obligations." Ballet companies are non-profits that exist to share art, not make a profit. To that end, Ma argues, it is economically acceptable for them to be money-losing organizations. She says that "the implication of this 'double bottom line' for ballet companies is that they are justified in pursuing various opportunities that advance one cause at the cost of the other. The monetary loss incurred by companies that advance their artistic mission but expend more resources than are recouped is accounted for by the social benefit of bringing the mission to fruition."

Translation: Yes, ballet companies make economic sense. Check out the rest of Ma's thoughtful article here

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

2020 Stars of the Corps: American Ballet Theatre's Wanyue Qiao

When the curtain opens on Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, there are two women onstage, wearing striped pants and tops, and sneakers. By the end, after almost 40 minutes of high-intensity dancing, they've stripped down to red leotards, their fists lifted victoriously. Wanyue Qiao danced one of these athletic superwomen last year during American Ballet Theatre's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was her first major role, after three years in the corps, and she couldn't have been more fierce. "To be honest, I had never done this kind of dance before, and I wasn't sure if it was my style," she says. Tharp encouraged her, and helped her to find her warrior side. "She showed not just her strength, coordination and ability, but courage," says ballet master Susan Jones, who assisted Tharp in the staging.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Butternut Squash Takes Center Stage This Fall—Plus, 2 Easy Recipes

Whether it's cubed and roasted or puréed into a comforting soup, butternut squash takes center stage this fall. The flavorful seasonal favorite is an excellent nutritional choice for dancers. Here's what's packed into one serving:

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks