Deficits Force Cuts to Season and Company at Ballet West

Classic Arts News   Deficits Force Cuts to Season and Company at Ballet West
Ballet West has announced plans to drop its fall repertory program and reduce the number of dancers in the company, among other budget cuts, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The Salt Lake City-based company will reduce the number of dancers from 40 to 35, and cut their contracts from 38 weeks to 35. Steven Davis, president of the Ballet West dancers' association, told the Tribune that dancers were losing more than 10 percent of their salaries.

Ballet West has posted operating deficits for the past three seasons, with a shorfall of $320,000 in 2003-04. Although ticket sales and donations have risen slightly, and the company's reputation was boosted by critical acclaim from performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, the budget has suffered from the rising costs of health insurance, workers' compensation, and live orchestras.

According to Ballet West executive director Jhann Jacobs, programs such as the fall repertory, which typically involve three separate works performed together, are expensive to produce. Each ballet creates costs for lighting, sets, acquisitions, and choreographers. In addition, Ballet West's fall repertory programs do not typically draw a large audience.

Full-length ballets, such as this month's Cinderella and next season's new production of Romeo and Juliet have fewer expenses, as well as selling more tickets and being easier to market.

In 2005-06, the company's season will begin with The Nutcracker, a tactic that many other companies, including the New York City Ballet, use. The company is planning to move its fund-raising events to coincide with the popular Christmas production.

Board chair Carol Carter told the paper that with these budget cuts in place, the company needs 24 months to stabilize financially; officials hope to eventually resume the full season schedule.

Ballet West's capital campaign for a new building will not be affected by the cuts, and will continue as planned. "It's like any business," Carter said. "Success in one department does not relieve the need to balance the budget in another area. The building is needed for the future of the company, but we have to operate in the black."

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