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Photo by Ernesto Galan, Courtesy of Boston Ballet

Funding for the arts has always been tenuous in the United States. With the current administration threatening to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, things are poised to become even more dire. In response, Boston Ballet principal John Lam created a video to showcase what dance means to his colleagues.

The dancers summarize their thoughts and feelings with a single word: strength, joy, perspective and more. It's a powerful reminder that art isn't a luxury, it's an essential part of what makes us human.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

March 20–21 marks Arts Advocacy Day, when cultural organizations and grassroots advocates meet with members of Congress in Washington, DC, to rally support for policies and public funding for the arts. And it’s a particularly urgent time. In addition to advocating for arts education policies and charitable tax deductions, these groups will be fighting to continue funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, which has been marked for elimination in President Trump’s recent budget proposal. While some consider the NEA a waste of taxpayer money, it’s worth noting that it distributes arts grants to every Congressional district in the U.S. and makes up only 0.004 percent of the federal budget (less than $0.50 per person, per year).

New York Theatre Ballet's Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez in Richard Alston's Such Longing. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy NYTB

While Trump’s budget proposal still faces a long road towards approval, the news has shaken many in the dance community, where budgets—especially among smaller, more regional organizations—are particularly fragile. In a curtain speech at a recent performance of New York Theatre Ballet, a company of 13 dancers, artistic director Diana Byer noted that, “dance has often been given short shrift in the overall funding picture, but we couldn’t live without the state and federal funding support we do get.” Larger and more financially stable organizations such as Lincoln Center have also issued statements, noting that the Endowment’s influence is so strong that “every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources.”

So what can you do? Dance/USA, a national partner for Arts Advocacy Day, is urging the dance community to contact their Congressional leaders through this form letter, which you can easily personalize if you prefer. Once you fill in the fields, the site will automatically send it to your Senators and Representatives. Dance/USA also recommends making appointments with lawmakers to talk about how the arts have made a positive impact in your community, and to show them by inviting them to visit your organization. For more information on how to get involved, click here.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

The 11 facets of the Lincoln Center campus are an enormous cultural asset to New York City, and the world. Taken individually, New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Chamber Music Society, Film Society, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts offer incredible programming and advancement for the arts, appreciated by approximately six million people annually. But it's unusual for all 11 organizations to work together for a specific cause, and today they did just that.

In an open letter, these leading arts organizations laid out their case for continued funding through the National Endowment for the Arts. The Trump administration has recently threatened to dismantle government funding for the arts, including the NEA. They point to the fact that art not only touches people's souls in an essential, yet unquantifiable way, but also offers concrete, measurable benefits—such as art therapy for veterans and new business investment in neighborhoods. The letter reiterates that the NEA costs each American tax payer less than one dollar per year, a statistic backed up by multiple sources.

Interestingly, Lincoln Center organizations receive far more funding from private donors than from public funding, yet the institution still feels that it's important to preserve the NEA. The letter states:

"Government helps in targeted ways at pivotal moments, for example, by providing early funding to get projects off the ground or helping to create or expand promising initiatives to achieve greater reach and impact. [...] But because it is so successful and its imprimatur so prestigious, every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources." [Emphasis ours.]

It's heartening to see major institutions, which don't lack in donor support, point out that smaller groups live and die by small grants from the NEA. While Lincoln Center certainly won't fold due to government budget cuts, thousands of smaller organizations very well could—including regional dance companies, new choreography projects and funding for residencies. And the 11 organizations at Lincoln Center think American society will be worse off for such a loss.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

 

Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes in Alexei Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty 2015. Photo courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

American Ballet Theatre isn't the only arts organization celebrating a major anniversary this season. This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts. Created in 1965, the NEA fosters arts creation and participation in the U.S. For dance, this means providing support for artists and companies to create new works, stage historic ones, promote dance education and appreciation in communities across the nation. and conduct research analyses on how people interact with the arts.

Some NEA-ballet connections:

  • In 1965, the NEA’s first ever grant saved ABT from a financial crisis that could have resulted in the company’s collapse.
  • Fifty years later, the NEA still funds ABT productions. Alexei Ratmansky’s 2015 version of The Sleeping Beauty received a $90,000 grant from the NEA. ABT provided educational workshops to local school children in conjunction with the performances as a result of NEA support.
  • San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet (to name just a few) all received government arts grants in 2015.

The agency recently released three reports about arts participation in America from 2002-2012. We plucked some of the dance-related findings out of the comprehensive mix.

The Statistics:

  • In 2012, women comprised nearly two thirds of ballet audiences. This gender gap is greater than in all other arts.
  • About 80 percent of ballet audiences were comprised of white adults.
  • Adults with family incomes of less than 20K had the lowest ballet attendance, but adults with family incomes of over 150K had the second lowest.
  • Arts education occurs more commonly in schools than outside of them—except dance education.
  • Reasons people cited for not attending arts events: didn’t have time, cost was too high, were not able to access performances, had no one to go with.

The data raises many questions—why do so few men attend ballets while so few women create them? How do we make performances more accessible and cost effective? Why doesn’t ballet draw diverse audiences? Through the answers, we may find solutions to reversing dwindling arts participation.

 

From When the Going Gets Tough, NEA. Courtesy of the NEA

 

For more info on NEA grants plus its history, programs and studies, go to https://www.arts.gov/.

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

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