Money Talks

For ballet companies to survive increasingly difficult financial times, many are looking to endowment funds as the answer. An endowment is donated money that an organization cannot generally access, but which
generates interest that can be used toward the budget each year.

According to Dance/USA, 24 of the 30 largest ballet and modern companies in America reported endowment funds in 2003. Many more have them on wish lists. The idea is that smaller institutions that lack endowments are more susceptible to unforeseen cash-flow problems—which forced Oakland Ballet to close its doors in January.

“The entire community is being impacted by what happened at Oakland Ballet,” says Karen Brown, its
former artistic director. “But if you’ve got an endowment, then you can draw on that to help bridge the gap of your cash flow. If you don’t have that, then you are going to go under. That’s just the bottom line.”

Terrence Orr, artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, says the company’s $10 million endowment helped during the hard times in 2004. “I think that’s probably one of the things that kept us afloat, or we might not have made it either,” Orr says.

In April, Atlanta Ballet started a study of how much it could expect to raise from the local community. Other medium-sized companies, such as Louisville Ballet and Richmond Ballet, have smaller endowments—in the
thousands—with goals of making them larger.

So far though, it’s the big companies that have been most successful at growing endowments. Houston Ballet’s $53 million endowment, for example, pays 12 percent of the company’s $16 million yearly budget.
In 2002, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater also effectively raised about $60 million for a new building and endowment fund.

New York City Ballet launched the largest endowment campaign in dance history in 2000, with an end goal of $80 million, only to be topped last year by San Francisco Ballet, which announced its goal of $85 million by 2008.

The trouble with endowments is that they take time, effort and even, yes, money to raise. And not all companies have the resources to make them a priority. Still, smaller companies are finding ways to show their communities that their institutions deserve secure futures.

“People have to understand and value what you do and [think] that you deserve a long life before they’re going to give you an endowment,” says Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett. “I think we are there.”

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less