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March 26, 2020


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They are asking for money, I suspect, at least in part because they are continuing to pay dancers, musicians, stagehands, costume designers, security personnel, ushers and administrators.

While generous, it would be imprudent. Why should dancers, musicians, etc. be spared from going on Unemployment like everyone else?

Instead of employing tone-deaf begging to the masses, NYCB should personally solicit its largest donors with personal phone calls and personal letters. Keep it quiet until we all get past this COVID-19 crisis.

Every year we hear about how ticket sales only cover 50% of the cost of performances. No performances means no ticket sales, and it means that the other 50% that was raised to cover the performances won't be used. Dancers won't be wearing out 10 pairs of shoes each week. The company won't need to heat the theater to the extent that it does normally.

NYCB has a huge archive of performance videos. They video everything. Now is the time to get with the union and hash out a deal for distributing it by affordable subscription over the NYCB website. Then develop it into a stream of income the way the Royal Ballet does. The video product is already made to some extent. It is an asset that is not being used to its fullest.

I'm confused. The companies are paying their dancers etc. who are not working, which is a generous thing to do considering their precarious financial states. Nothing wrong with trying to raise money, even if the timing is not ideal. I'm not aware of the dancers complaining - what am I missing?

Right on, Haglund. I also find it amusing that an online ballet forum resumed its regular fund-raising campaign precisely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As if the ballet community is awash in cash nowadays.

Yeah, there's a real disconnect with reality.

Basically, now it looks like NYCB is begging for money so that it can continue to pay its dancers and staff instead of allowing them to go onto unemployment like the rest of the country. Generous, but not prudent.

The more I think about it, the more irate I get at NYCB's non-use of its performance videos as an income stream. If an organization just sits on its assets and refuses to utilize them to the fullest during the normal course of business or during a crisis, why should anyone give them more money? On this single issue, the union needs to get out of the way if, in fact, it is standing in the way. NYCB should be using this downtime to get that income stream going.

Exactly, Haglund. With so many ballet companies on other continents make online films of complete ballets available - and even the Metropolitan Opera right here in the USA - it's amazing just how non-caring are NYCB and ABT, in particular. The only films that we get from those two companies are umpteen dancers streaming their boring workouts. ABT has also given us a few tiny rehearsal clips but, c'mon guys, you can do better than that.

Halgund I agree that these companies are not taking full advantage of the streaming possibilities. ABT's Youtube account is putting out silly videos for children's ballet classes. ABT and NYCB must have a vast library of ballets on film to dip into.

"Tulsa Ballet's staff is sewing hospital masks."

Wow, just wow. Kudos to them! At the beginning of this nightmare, prompted by the civic-minded Christian Siriano, who DM'ed Gov. Cuomo with an offer to have his eleven seamstresses make surgical masks, I wondered whether maybe the NYCB costume shop could contribute by sewing masks and personal protective clothing for our overwhelmed hospitals. I mean - we are the epicenter.

Then I thought it was impractical. Now I see that it might not be.

Take a look at the Tulsa news video at this link: https://www.krmg.com/news/tulsa-ballet-uses-costume-scraps-make-masks-for-hospitals/a5JaKoAkRr3aQh0OjfhseK/

I might be in the minority for feeling as such, but I keep seeing certain ABT "stars" working out in their kitchens larger than my entire apt. and far fancier. Also, I see certain members even have families with swimming pools and private studios! And their lifestyles are far better than anything I can ever imagine in my lifetime. I am sure many are struggling but why not have "a dancers help dancers" fundraiser first, share the wealth and help their own before having many of us who are in far worse situations. Plus I see the Bloomberg name as a foundation for both companies in my Playbills, where is he and where are their mega donors like the Kochs?

We've decided to accept refunds from our local company for the remainder of this season's tix in lieu of donating. We feel our money is better spent by, to pick an example almost at random, buying a CSA from a local farmer that may soon be struggling to sell its produce with restaurant business down.

On the streaming front, at least the Bolshoi has stepped up with Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty in the last 24 hours.

A great idea, Shawn.

I’m sorry but as an unemployed person during this crisis, I have no sympathy for these dancers. They chose this profession, warts and all. If the companies were smart, they would stream past performances for a small fee. Instead they hold onto these performances with white knuckles like Gollum. WHY??

I totally agree. One ballet school I know of has reduced their tuition by half and is doing a full schedule of classes online. Most of the others are just avoiding talking about money and posting a few classes, I suppose hoping people will be satisfied paying for them. I’m a ballet parent and landlord to three foreign ballet dancers who are laid off. Two have gone home, and one may soon follow. I am making plans to do without their rent, but as far as I know tuition is still due.

Precisely my point, Sick. Films of performances exist. Can’t they set aside union rules in the USA and show actual performances online? Many of us would gladly pay a reasonable fer There could be, say, Ratmansky Full-length Ballets Week at ABT or “Peck Picks” Week at NYCB...or Sarasota Ballet could do a full week of Ashton Treasures.

I meant to write “fee”...not “fer.”

If the problem with NYCB not streaming its performances is the same old, same old, same old problem of the dancers' union demanding a share in the revenue, then the dancers' union needs to step aside. As we are seeing right now, NYCB dancers are compensated and cared for by their employer to the highest degree--they are being paid their wages while the rest of the country goes on unemployment. How many readers out there work for large corporations who are continuing to pay employees who are NOT working? Damn few, I would bet.

Doesn't the Balanchine Trust have lots of videos they could stream? For free, during the duration. For New York, dammit.


WWMBD? (What would Mr. B do?)

Yes they do, but they apparently don't see any value to sharing their trove. Basically they are myopic and are only concerned with how they'll get money from Peggy Podunk in West Dakota if she uses her iPhone to video it. The Mariinsky doesn't seemed worried about it, and they are mega-brand builders all over the globe.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying re-watching 20-something Diana Vishneva's superlative performance in Rubies as a guest with Paris Opera Ballet -- another of her great, great accomplishments. Marie Agnes, in her debut as the Tall Girl, isn't bad either. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51JELveLPkg But Vishneva, my lord, as one of the commenters said, she "played that boy like a violin."

A friend with some inside knowledge of ABT told me that the company had spent considerable effort to obtain the rights to their televised performances--but this was quite a few years ago. If this information is indeed true, then they've been sitting on a treasure trove. You can see a lot of clips on YouTube but it would be wonderful to see these tapes remastered and released on DVD. I have no idea at what stage this project is sitting in limbo, or why.

I believe the majority of these performances have already been released on DVD over the years (notably absent, of course, are the Makarova/Nagy Swan Lake and the Makarova/Baryshnikov Giselle). And there really aren't a huge number.

What about the quadruple bill that includes Kirkland and Baryshnikov in T&V? Not the fuzzy-shaky one on YouTube but a crisp & clear original. Or the Petipa evening with Raymonda highlights...or SB with Gregory as Aurora? Or Bujones et al in Ashton’s Patineurs? Rodeo? Billy the Kid? Oh, there are plenty of wonderful programs out there.

New York Theatre Ballet has graciously uploaded a bunch of its Tudor performances -- Soirée Musicale, Pas de Deux from Romeo & Juliet, Jardin aux Lilas, Dark Elegies, Judgment of Paris. Go to this link and click on the individual ballet you want to watch. https://nytb.org/calendar-and-tickets/livingroomseries

Ha! Look at this!


Of course, they do ask for donations, but it's still a magnanimous gesture, don't you think?

I just watched the clip on YouTube of Cynthia Gregory performing the Rose Adage from a Live from Lincoln Center telecast in 1979. Beautiful, but the video is so fuzzy it's like watching it through a sheet of Kleenex. If ABT now owns the rights to it, wouldn't it be wonderful to have it on DVD, sharp and clear?

Yes it would - but at this point in time it makes absolutely no sense. Three reasons come to mind: (1) not a good use of limited financial resources when these companies will be struggling to return to some degree of financial solvency; (2) DVD's are rapidly declining as a choice in consumer markets; (3) it would take many months to get these to market. The alternative - HD broadcast - would require the same investment in reprocessing these videos. And all of that presumes that the company has the rights to make them public and can get the consent of all the performers involved (including some estates).

Unfortunately the streaming option is not as simple as the dancers’ unions allowing the performances to be shown. Companies would also have to deal with the stage hands’ union, the musicians’ union, rights to the music (plus royalties) and rights to the choreography (plus royalties). Plus the theater that the performance was performed in usually owns the performance.

Yes, the devil is in the details. Those stage hands make more than the dancers. Not sure how anyone could claim rights to the music of Tschaikovsky that is in the public domain, but maybe they can.

Streaming may not be simple but it's doable. The problem is and always has been and always will be a fight to see who profits. If the unions and management can't come together, then they all deserve to fail.

Meanwhile, Kennedy Center got $25 million from the stimulus bill, $20 million of which was designated for staff compensation and benefits, and then they proceeded to layoff another 700 people. Hard as it may be to hear, you can't trust the arts with money any more than you can trust the military or the for-profit corporate sector.

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