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SPAC extends ballet's 2015 season

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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New York City Ballet will perform George Ballanchine's "Who Cares?" with music by George Gershwin this summer at SPAC.
New York City Ballet will perform George Ballanchine's "Who Cares?" with music by George Gershwin this summer at SPAC.

At a glance

A glimpse at the New York City Ballet’s 2014 SPAC residency:

• The company will launch its 2014 Saratoga season July 8, performing 14 ballets over the course of the week.

• The showcase will include classics by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins and contemporary ballets choreographed by Peter Martins, Mauro Bigonzetti and Angelin Preljocaj.

• The July 12 gala will feature works by the British choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Liam Scarlett, as well as “Union Jack” — Balanchine’s tribute to all things British.

— Dancers with the New York City Ballet will take up residence in the Spa City for two weeks next year, extending their stay for the first time since the Saratoga Performing Arts Center shortened their schedule in 2013.

In reaching an agreement to extend the stay next year, SPAC’s Board of Directors cited their ability to work with the renowned company to make the financing work for both organizations in 2015 — the year before the ballet’s 50th anniversary of performing in the Saratoga Spa State Park. The announcement comes three weeks before the ballet’s first of seven dates at SPAC this summer and less than a month before its gala, which serves as a crucial fundraiser for the company’s performances.

“There are a lot of factors,” said Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director. “We’ve been working together very closely over the past two years to find a model we can support.”

Peter Martins, the ballet’s master in chief, credited SPAC for helping work out a solution to extend next year’s season. He said spending two weeks in Saratoga next summer will be an excellent way to celebrate the storied partnership between the ballet and the performing arts center.

At one point, the ballet’s residency in Saratoga Springs lasted four weeks during the summer. But in 1978, it was reduced by a week and then by another in 2009.

“The New York City Ballet treasures its historic partnership with SPAC, and we are thrilled to restore our residency to two weeks for the 2015 season,” he said. “The company has spent nearly 50 years at SPAC, building a loyal audience in the Capital Region, and we are very grateful for their support.”

The ballet also recently resolved outstanding contracts with three labor unions. But spokesman Rob Daniels said the agreements had no bearing on whether the company would return for two weeks in 2015.

“Rather, indeed it was a cooperative effort, both SPAC and [the ballet] have committed to additional fundraising to make the two-week residency possible, and we are thrilled to be able to expand the residency,” he said in an email.

Hosting the ballet for two weeks will cost roughly $2.2 million, only 40 percent of which is covered by ticket prices. Susan Phillips Read, chairwoman of SPAC’s board of directors, said both organizations have worked toward getting a better financial footing and finding efficiencies that will allow their fundraising to cover the remaining cost.

“We’ve been working toward this on a very consistence basis over the last two years — ever since we made the decision to go to one week,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging.”

Both White and Read stressed a need for fans to support the ballet at the box office and during fundraisers. White said attendance at the ballet was up 10 percent last year over 2012 and she’s hoping the performances this summer will bring even greater crowds. “The best way to celebrate this announcement is to come see the ballet in 2014,” she said.

White said part of the effort to bolster attendance will be to market the ballet outside the Capital Region. She remains confident, however, that SPAC will extend the two weeks of residency through the 2016 season.

“We have some ideas on how to work together to raise funds,” she said. “Those kind of efforts have to be stronger than ever.”

Likewise, Daniels said the ballet is hopeful its two-week residency will continue through the 50th anniversary. He said the success of fundraising will help dictate how long the ballet can keep its stay at two weeks.

“This is a one-year agreement for 2015, but [the ballet] and SPAC are hopeful that the engagement will be two weeks in 2016 as well,” he said. “This will depend on successful fundraising.”

 
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