Food for Thought

Michael Kaiser, the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. wrote an interesting blog for The Huffington Post, yesterday titled, Why the Arts Dont Pay for Themselves.

Kaiser makes some interesting points, claiming that most industries improve worker productivity annually, thereby combating inflation. However, in the arts, says Kasier, “A Balanchine ballet that required 32 dancers in the 1950s still requires 32 dancers today.” Read the full blog here:

While Kaiser’s piece provides some insightful food for thought, there is uplifting news regarding support for the arts—specifically ballet. Attendance for the first week of New York City Ballet’s two-week season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center was up 7 percent as compared to the same time last year—despite the current economic climate and last week's rainy weather (the center is an amphitheater).

SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia J. White said in a statement that she attributes the success to NYCB’s program as well as several pre-performance events for children and families. “While it’s too soon to make any final determinations, we are cautiously optimistic that attendance will continue to be strong as we move into the ballet’s final week here at SPAC,” White added.

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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