SPAC attendance up slightly in 2012
Ballet, orchestra fail to capitalize on renewed support
COLONIE Attendance at Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet shows fell 4 percent this summer, even as fans tried to mobilize support upon learning the ballet’s two-week residency will be reduced to one week next year.
But Saratoga Performing Arts Center still pulled off a classical season that pleased officials, with attendance up 1 percent overall and ticket sale revenue up 14 percent because of higher prices and more people buying amphitheater seats instead of lawn tickets.
And next year, the National Ballet of Canada and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will supplement the dance season, SPAC officials announced Thursday at their board meeting, held at the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The National Ballet of Canada will present four performances from July 16 to 18; the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will take the stage three times on July 24 and 25. New York City Ballet will perform seven shows from July 9 to 13, so the dance season will span three weeks.
SPAC officials are still working on getting the New York City Ballet to come back for two weeks in 2014. The performing arts center in July announced it would truncate the ballet company’s residency next year because of increased costs to bring the ballet here.
“The problem has been, they lose too much money at SPAC, and we cannot afford to cover all their losses with the fee,” said Marcia White, SPAC president and executive director.
This summer, SPAC saw a $2 million deficit between what it paid the two resident companies and what it got in ticket sales. The ballet generated $991,122 in ticket sales, while the orchestra’s ticket sales totaled $969,879. Both of those figures were higher than last year, even though attendance was down, officials said.
Attendance this year for the ballet was 35,399, with 34,318 attending orchestra performances.
White said she sat down with New York City Ballet Director Peter Martins over the summer to discuss the situation.
“We both have the same goal, which is to restore a two-week residency by 2014,” she said Thursday.
The New York City Ballet once had a four-week residency at SPAC. It was reduced to three weeks several years ago, then whittled down to two weeks in 2009.
On the plus side, Live Nation, which promotes popular music concerts at SPAC, had a blockbuster season, enjoying its second-highest revenue since it took over concerts at SPAC 13 years ago, officials said. That resulted in SPAC getting $1.1 million.
The Freihofer Jazz Festival also enjoyed a 28 percent hike in attendance compared with 2011.
SPAC officials are excited about the two new ballet companies, each of which has something to bring to the table, White said. The National Ballet of Canada will perform the classic story ballet “Giselle.” It will be the first time it has been staged at SPAC, because the ballet is not in the New York City Ballet’s repertoire.
Aspen Santa Fe is “the hot new company on the block,” she said.
Meanwhile, a committee of people concerned about the ballet’s shrinking season has filed paperwork to form a charitable 501(c)(3) organization. The organization, Midsummer Night’s Dream, is headed by Lisa Mehigan, a founding member of the original Save the Ballet group in 2004. She aims to raise money to keep the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC.
Mehigan is still developing a website and plans to start fundraising soon. The money would be given to SPAC specifically to support the two companies, and if SPAC broke off its relationship with the companies, the money would be given directly to the companies, she said.
“It is not affiliated with SPAC,” she said. “However, it will support SPAC in that the money that we raise for that purpose will probably go to SPAC.”
Mehigan, who was a partner in an advertising agency until December 2011, started the organization because she thinks SPAC could do a better job if it hired a professional fundraiser “with contacts that go far beyond this region.”
She plans to do that, although because of the expense, the person would need to be part-time at first. She also believes there are more grants for which SPAC could apply.
White said she’s glad ballet fans are passionate about keeping the New York City Ballet here.
“Our board is just as passionate, and I am, as well,” she said. “It’s an organization that, at the end, we want the same thing.”