Fans react to SPAC’s modern dance
Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:17 AM EST
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Modern dance is a welcome addition, but Saratoga Performing Arts Center should find other ways to strengthen its summer program, too, dance enthusiasts said Wednesday.
SPAC will host Mark Morris Dance Group on July 20 and 21 and Paul Taylor Dance Company on June 11 to fill the void from New York City Ballet’s shortened season, down from three weeks to two.
"These are two very important dance companies," said Denise Warner Limoli, a Skidmore College associate professor of dance. "It’s good to know SPAC is branching out. If you’re going to bring it, it’s good to draw from the top of the list."
The Morris group will have three performances, two evenings and one matinee, after city ballet’s two-week residency concludes. But it’s only two days.
"That’s awkward," Warner Limoli said. "It’s important that the public knows SPAC is committed to dance. I’d love to see them fill the schedule. Two-and-a-half weeks is less than three."
She said SPAC should try to get another ballet company to supplement New York City Ballet, even if it’s for a limited engagement or with a smaller number of dancers. She previously danced with American Ballet Theater, also based in New York.
"It would be spectacular," she said. "They’ve got some of the best dancers in the world. A small group of them is nothing to sneeze at."
Morris and Taylor have both visited Skidmore before and have performed at the Spa Little Theater. This will be their first time at SPAC’s amphitheater.
"It’s marvelous to have the opportunity to present modern dance on the main stage," said Mary DiSanto-Rose, Skidmore’s dance department chair. "I like the diversity. I hope they (SPAC) offer even more."
She expressed concern, however, that the 5,000-seat amphitheater might be overwhelming, because a crowd of 1,000 is considered good for a typical modern dance performance.
DiSanto-Rose said she doesn’t think two ballet companies, city ballet plus another, would pose a conflict at all. With proper planning, fans could spend several days in Saratoga Springs, watching one company perform and then the other.
"I don’t think one would take away from the other," she said. "It makes a nice package."
City ballet and SPAC reached a mutual agreement for a shortened 2009 season. SPAC typically lost about $1 million per year during the ballet’s three-week season. Likewise, the ballet is facing a $5.5 million deficit this season and announced recently that 11 dancers’ contracts won’t be renewed next year.
Avid ballet fan Louise Goldstein of Saratoga Springs said she’s disappointed about the reduced number of performances overall.
"Instead of another week of dance, it’s going to be two nights and one matinee," she said. "What’s going to happen on those other nights in July? It’s a loss for SPAC in a year when we should be trying to attract all the tourists we can. I have nothing against modern dance. I think they should be in the Little Theater. I hope the house sells out, but I would be shocked."
Spa City resident John DeMarco said, "I would prefer to have a three-week ballet season, but I understand the circumstances in this economy."
SPAC needs to grow beyond regional marketing and try to sell itself internationally, such as the famed Spoleto Music Festival in Italy, he said, perhaps partnering with other venues such as Tanglewood.
"You’ve got to advertise in Europe," he said. "It would be expensive. But then people would come from all over. That would draw the numbers."