Thursday, May 09, 2013

Is it time for Governor Cuomo to throw SPAC out of Saratoga Spa State Park and keep the New York City Ballet?


Fiscal uncertainties leave length of NYCB residency at SPAC in limbo

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — New York City Ballet is expected back next year, but fiscal uncertainties make the length of its Saratoga Performing Arts Center residency unclear.

The ballet, a SPAC mainstay, will be here just one week this summer, its shortest season ever.

About 125 people turned out for SPAC’s annual membership meeting at Saratoga Spa State Park’s Hall of Springs Wednesday.

“The company has not yet concluded negotiations with its labor unions,” SPAC Chairwoman Susan Phillips Read said. “So they can’t predict their costs for 2014. As a result, it’s difficult for them to make a commitment.”

The ballet had a three-week SPAC season for decades until financial woes forced a reduction to two weeks several years ago, and just one week this summer (July 9-13). It costs SPAC more than

$1 million annually to host the ballet, and a similar amount for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Read said SPAC and ballet officials probably won’t firm up plans for 2014 until early this July.

In the meantime, SPAC finds itself in the difficult position of lining up other dance companies, while waiting for a commitment from the city ballet.

“We have to worry that other companies will be committed elsewhere and not be available to us,” Read said.

To fill this year’s city ballet void, three other dance companies new to SPAC have been scheduled — National Ballet of Canada (July 16-18), Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (July 24-25) and Momix Botanica (Aug. 1). Continued...

In other action, members approved the election of three new SPAC board members to three-year terms. They are:

• Elizabeth Alexander — Co-owner of Hattie’s Restaurant and founder of Hattie’s annual Mardi Gras Gala that raised $75,000 for city ballet’s 2013 residency.

• Susan Dake — Wife of former SPAC Chairman Bill Dake and Stewart’s Foundation president. The Dakes are two of SPAC’s main benefactors.

• Gerry Golub — president of SPAC Action Council, SPAC’s largest volunteer fundraising arm. The Golub family owns the Price Chopper supermarket chain.

Two board members, Matt Bender and Dee Sarno, have stepped down.

Several other directors were re-elected to new terms. They are E. Stewart Jones Jr., Ed Mitzen, Nancy Touhey, Donald J. McCormack and Linda G. Toohey for three years, and Meyer Frucher for one year.

Also, SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White announced that three new members will be added to SPAC’s Walk of Fame, which honors people instrumental to the center’s history, growth and development. They are:

• Peter Martins — New York City Ballet master in chief, who has directed the ballet for 30 years.

• Dave Brubeck — The late jazz icon, who passed away in 2012, performed at SPAC’s annual jazz festival a record 13 times.

• Jane Wait and the late Newman E. “Pete” Wait who helped lead the effort to found SPAC by spearheading a local feasibility committee and raising seed money to get the arts center off the ground. Continued...

The 2013 season begins with the May 24 Battle of the Bands at the Spa Little Theatre and runs through the Saratoga Wine & Food Fall Ferrari Festival from Sept. 6-8.

Legendary singer Tony Bennett is one of the headliners for the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival on June 29-30.

One of the season’s signature events is the 150th Anniversary of Saratoga racing concert on Aug. 8, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with guest conductor Keith Lockhart.

A communitywide 150th anniversary of racing kickoff celebration, including fireworks, is slated for the SPAC grounds Friday, May 24.

“We had a record season last year,” White said. “We’ll break that record this year.”

For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to
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