Ballet’s future at SPAC still uncertainThursday, June 28, 2012By Lee Coleman (Contact) , Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact) Gazette ReporterText Size: A A AAdvertisement
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Officials at Saratoga Performing Arts Center expect to announce in about two weeks the fate of the 2013 New York City Ballet season.Until then, they’re tight-lipped as negotiations continue with the ballet, which is scheduled to start its two-week 2012 season July 10.SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White said the ballet will be back next year, but she is not sure “to what extent.”Rumors that the season might be cut to just one week have disheartened fans who fought for the ballet to stay when its season was threatened in 2005.“I just can’t believe it,” said Louise Goldstein, who was involved with Save the Ballet in 2004 and 2005.She said that the ballet helped build SPAC, and SPAC now boosts the entire area by bringing people who fill hotels, eat at restaurants, buy fuel and shop at stores. “It’s a whole industry now here. It’s not just one company.”Ballet fan Lisa Mehigan of Saratoga Springs said she is willing to set up a charity organization to raise more money to keep the ballet at SPAC if need be.“I’m willing to do almost anything to help,” said Mehigan, who also was involved with the original grass-roots Save the Ballet group, which raised $40,000 and was instrumental in keeping the 2005 season intact.Mehigan, Goldstein and several other people are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens. If future ballet seasons are threatened, they plan to connect with other ballet fans during this year’s season and get an effort going, Goldstein said.“It’s been very informal on Facebook so far,” she said.SPAC was built in part to be a summer home for the ballet, back when it was under the direction of the legendary George Balanchine. The performing arts center hosted its first ballet summer season in 1966, the year it opened.“This is our resident company,” White said.For many years the season was three weeks long, but in 2009 it was shortened to two weeks for financial reasons.Growing costs make it difficult to bring the ballet back each summer, White said, noting it now costs SPAC $180,000 per performance. Ticket sales cover about a third of that, and the organization’s independent fundraising makes up the rest.But with the ballet fees rising, White said it’s difficult to raise more money from donors in the struggling economy or to hike ticket prices and still attract patrons.“You can’t expect the public to cover the cost,” she said.At SPAC’s annual membership meeting in May, outgoing board chairman William Dake hinted that the ballet’s future at SPAC might be in jeopardy.The ballet raised its fee by about $100,000 this year and is proposing a $200,000 hike next year as it negotiates with SPAC, he said then.This week, White wouldn’t disclose numbers that are currently being negotiated.Dake said last month that SPAC officials considered cutting next year’s ballet season from two weeks to one, but the ballet company said that would lower the cost by only one-quarter.SPAC paid the ballet $1.57 million in fees in 2011, compared with $1.43 million in 2010 and $1.54 million in 2009, the first year the ballet switched to a two-week stand at SPAC. In 2008, SPAC paid the ballet $1.84 million for the last of its three-week seasons.