NEWS: Los Angeles Ballet Fails…again

After talking with a few anonymous sources, I can finally confirm a few things… Rumors and stories have been circulating the ballet world about Los Angeles Ballet’s shocking news. Los Angeles Ballet just laid off a handful of dancers, 5 to be exact… and a ballet mistress due to the lack of budgeting… or lack of funding… This news was delivered less than 48 hours before their season contracts were to begin… New Contracts that were part time or hourly were given to the remaining company members. Additionally, the fourth program was pulled from their season- making their season go from September to March. I am not 100% sure, but legally I think these dancers are entitled to more than a the $1,000 severance they were given (less than two weeks worth of corps pay)… but now these dancers are unemployed until next season- most dancers will not even be able to audition until January… They also had a contract for someone from Italy, but laid him off as well…. So good luck getting out of a Los Angeles lease, well if he can’t find another work visa ASAP… I guess being deported works…  right?

More Irony? Well, not irony, but straight out bull$h!t… they let go of promoted apprentices and corps members but hired 6 new dancers… one being their daughter…. *super side eye* Family Nepotism Plays Again* And I get that new hires are cheap labor… buuuuuuut still, this is a load of poop being dropped on you at the last possible minute. (Not the most professional visual, but as I sit here I am like dumbfounded. Honestly, I didn’t even want to believe it…)  But, everyone in management must have known what was coming because the Artistic Directors’ son went to Boston last minute. *side eye* well, some major serious side eye* How he got into Boston Ballet, that is another major question because I have seen the men in BB corps… and I have seen Erik dance…  I really do wonder how he got hired, truthfully, I wouldn’t be surprised if a back deal was cut for Colleen to set Balanchine Ballets for cheap. But, that is just me speculating…

So, where did this come from? Los Angeles ballet was unavailable for a quote. They referred me to their PR company, whom which I spoke to someone but she was on vacation playing tennis…

Let’s review… Los Angeles Ballet is going now have to give back money to season ticket holders… So that is another expense from cutting the third program (Coppelia) and pushing the Balanchine Program up. Instead of pulling weekends from theaters, they pulled a show. Well, that may be super great but doesn’t matter  because it is a huge cost to cut. They could have easily restructured the company and re-arranged the priorities for their budgets. While most ballet companies gain debt over each season, it is usually also traded from loan to loan. SFB and ABT are pretty stellar at that. You can read their financial reviews, because all non-profits usually are required transparency. But, I do wonder how much the ADs of LAB make… Seriously- I’m dumfounded… Because when ABT was going through a financial struggle, the entire company, staff, etc took salary cuts to afford not laying off dancers… I couldn’t find their financial report on their website… which is funny because most major companies makes it readily available… If I were a donor… I would ask to see it ASAP/

So- how does an established company like Los Angeles ballet go from being a rising new company to a crumbling establishment? The simple answer: Money Management. It is extremely costly to run a ballet company, especially when it competes in the Los Angeles dance scene against other major established ballet schools… Ballet schools support the company… and well frankly, there is better training in Los Angeles then LAB School. So, not having a strong school structure is difficult…

They also took on a massive season last year with staging all new full-length ballets that cost. (ie: costume rentals, set rentals, extra hours of rehearsal etc) They should have stuck with the Balanchine Ballets they are good at… No costumes, no sets… They don’t perform with a live orchestra so they don’t have that major expense… but they do pay for a music director… maybe to speed up or slow down the CDs? Not sure… When a ballet company goes under there are a few people who are to blame… The easiest to blame is the board of directors… It is funny because most Boards are made up of non-ballet community members… They are either well connected within a community, or they can afford to be patrons of ballet… A good board also has extremely smart business savvy people.

The Artistic Staff usually tries to blame the regular staff… ie: development (aka fundraising), the box office (ticket sales), or other managers because they do create the budget in which the ballet company works… And though it might seem like their fault, it really boils down to the Artistic Director… (I know, I seem to beat up a lot on this position) but it is their job as the head to guide the entire company. While the Regular staff might be the legs of a company, and the dancers are the heart and blood of the company… The head leads the company and usually endorses new ballets, new innovative works, and pushes for their own personal choices… Ironically, most artistic directors don’t have a degree in business or know how to run a business… Their current executive director is Julie Whittaker- who has had the position since the inception of LAB.

So… a little bit about LA BALLET…. Founded in 2004 by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary… the ballet company was primed to be a rising star… but like most ballet companies in Los Angeles, it seems Los Angeles has fallen to the Ballet Curse of LA. Every ballet company in Los Angeles results in folding…. While I don’t think LAB is going to be folding this season, their choices have cost them senior corps members. So, when you think loyalty matters… money matters more at LAB.

Here is something to think about… and I hope the board of LA Ballet reads this… 
While you all might think ballet is beautiful and wonderful… at the heart of it all, ballet is a business… And you have to be business savvy to be an Artistic Director… This was not like PA Ballet’s cleaning house because a new look was being developed… This was just pure stupidity and poor planning… Not to mention bad marketing… And while I have tried in the past to partner with Los Angeles Ballet… their lack of communication is awful… But just remember… most Artistic Directors are to blame when a company folds… I mean look at Silicon Valley… they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the company alive but they insisted on staging a brand new Giselle…. I hope you consult more… and consult with people who know ballet inside and out… as well as know business inside and out. Before you go out and let go of dancers… You should really ask yourselves… Who is really to blame? And from an outsider looking in… I think I can safely point the finger at the Artistic Directors of Los Angeles Ballet…

If you are one of the dancers from Los Angeles Ballet who was let go… contact me, and I will let you know of any job openings I hear of… I’m sorry that this BS happened to you, and once again #balletpolitics strike again…

All of my sources have asked to remain anonymous.

(Photo from Los Angeles Ballet’s Media Hub:  LAB in Giselle (2016 season); Photo: Reed Hutchinson http://losangelesballet.org)

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LET ME BE A SWAN… any swan… company contracts

 

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I have been illustrating corps pictures on Insta to prove ethnic dancers aren’t going to distract from the corps…. #justsayin

 

 

The waiting game… From January until May, sometimes even longer, dancers ages 17ish-22ish wait anxiously for the ultimate business goal: A CONTRACT. For some dancers, there is an additional layer of stress; they are waiting for their college acceptances as their backup plans. It is a scary moment. Usually, these dancers are at professional schools attached to companies like San Francisco Ballet School or Miami City Ballet School, and they are waiting to hear from that company. In addition to waiting for that company to possibly give them a contract, most dancers also auditioned for a million other companies and summer programs, just in case…. It is a scary thing, but it is a part of this career, here in the US in particular.

For dancers who are waiting for a contract there are three common contracts that dancers are waiting for:
1. Corps de ballet: Basically to be invited into the main company is a dream come true, and this is probably the most coveted contract because it is the best paid of the three. If you haven’t danced with a company or completed an apprenticeship year somewhere, this contract is hard to land. Most dancers who are going after corps contracts have completed a rigorous ballet education, finished a traineeship program, and completed an apprentice year at a company. Most dancers who move into corps positions have all this, but there are always the exceptions…. On occasion, and mostly during Nutcracker top students from the school are pulled as fillers to step in for injured or overworked dancers, and on occasion if a dancer performs well under the stress, the schedule, and the stamina factor… A dancer can be given a contract to the corps the following spring… This usually happens in larger companies.
2. Apprenticeship: A coveted spot to spend a year with the company, and basically, you are part of the company except you are the access… You have to work ten times harder to prove you can “fit in” to the company life. The apprentice year for a ballet dancer is hard because you don’t’ know exactly where you fit in. You are kind of in the company, but not really. You have to learn the entire repertory without actually being sat down with, or guided through. Half the time it is via video, by yourself in a studio, trying to see what girl is girl number 10 in snow, and that’s that.
3. Studio Company/ 2nd Company: A lot of companies have now implemented the studio company/second company which is kind of a joke… it is basically 10-20 dancers who double up in the corps de ballet without having to be paid as much. The only place that really has a studio company is ABT. Their second company performs a lot, and is used to try new choreographers out, and for dancers to build performance qualities across different styles of movement.

Numbers…. There are tons of dancers out there… Maybe too many dancers… The industry right now is so oversaturated with talent, that there aren’t enough jobs to accommodate them. This is mostly because the audience and general public for ballet aren’t buying tickets. So, if you think about it there are tons of places where dancers start out…. Quoting my old post “Too Many Claras”

FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.

A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.

A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career that feeds into a company. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college career.

A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent on the artistic side. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat: BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.

A Ballet School is a place for children to study pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.

With that being said, no matter what school you are at… you are at a school. In the top level, there are maybe 8-16 girls… Of those 8-16 girls, they will usually all get into summer programs… Or at least, half. From there, in the upper level of a summer course, or even the top two levels there will range anywhere between 40-100 girls. Of those girls, 20 might be asked to stay year round. Once you are year-round at a pre-professional school in the top level there might be twelve girls… of those twelve, 4-8 will be asked to join the trainee program… In the trainee program there will be about 12 girls, of those twelve, generously, 3 girls will be asked to join as apprentices… Of those three girls, maybe 1 will join the company… Yes, the odds are that slim, but luckily in America there are hundreds of companies. This is why teachers say it is a privilege to be a ballerina because company contracts are so scarce.

There are hundreds of companies that fuel America’s ballet needs. Unfortunately, that also hinders companies. It means donors are dividing the money in the community, and that is how favorite companies and styles are developed.

There is no guarantee that a ballet dancer will go pro or not… The only insurance you can really get for your child is a good ballet education, at a good school… And in America, there are tons of those… But for those who are serious about ballet, the seriousness of getting a contract is a big deal… And you have to be prepared times ten. It isn’t like college where you put your dream school, backup schools, and safety schools… In fact, it isn’t even like summer programs… When it comes to contracts you go where they want you, and where they can pay you.

When it comes to contracts there are two types contracts… there are union contracts and non-union contracts… Ideally, you want a union contract as it protects the interests of the dancer… It also keeps you from being one of those dancers who are underpaid, overworked, and dancing on injuries. Your contract is so important because it outlines time off, rehearsals standards, how much you can actually dance in a day, and so forth… A good contract will be 10+ pages… A bad contract is two-three pages, and is vague….

So for those of you in the waiting game… Good luck! And for those of you who are embarking on your journey to get a contract…. Keep your heads high, and keep pushing to be the best.

xoxo,
a Ballet Education
INSTA: aballeteducation