Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The end of BDC??? =(

So I recently read a pretty disturbing article from the New York Times about the possible closure of Broadway Dance Center in New York City. To tell the truth, when I read the headline I was astonished. Even though I realize that arts organizations all around the country are struggling for various reasons I never thought that an organization such as this would have that problem. For many dancers the BDC is the dance studio of all dance studios. It offers over 320 classes per week to over 3,000 students and is the place to learn from new and exciting teachers I In the field. I went there for the first time in the 10th grade with some students from my dance studio and was just in awe of the experience that I was having. Whether it is true or not I felt like this was the place to be if you wanted to do anything with dance on stage professionally (besides in a ballet company). I also had the opportunity to take classes there again in college and in many ways the impact was the same. To me any place that would inspire a dance teacher to load a bunch of 12-15 year old kids into her R.V. and drive form Charlotte,NC to NYC just to take classes is special.
BDC's problems stem from the fact that the New York City real estate sector is ridiculously competitive and almost cutthroat and unfortunately for them BDC has a prime location overlooking central park. Their most recent landlord wants to "develop" more and as a result is pretty much trying to force them to move through petty building restrictions a violations. Condsidering that it would cost them 3.4 million to move, this is not a viable option. As we talked about in class it is not only non-profit arts orgs that struggle these days and this is a perfect example. In some ways BDC is hindered by the fact that they are for profit since many non-profits in their area (Alvin ailey dance for example) have been able to move into lovely new facilities through grants and donations. I personally think that its really sad that these large profit driven real estate people are able to railroad and arts organization such as this, especially one that has been established for many years. Since court battles have now begun between BDC and their landlords it will in many ways be up to the government to decide whether the arts are worth protecting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

PBT and Colorado Ballet

It seems that although many arts organizations have financial problems these days there have been an interesting number of those that have been city ballet theatres. Whether the problems stem from debt or the unhappiness of employees, it seems like someone is doing something wrong here. Two of the most recent examples include the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Colorado Ballet. In the case of the Pittsburgh ballet the problems stem from the fact that the orchestra has recently gone on strike and a new executive director has just been hired. As a result not only does the incoming director have to deal with all of the normal issues that come with a new job, but he also has the added difficulty of mending ties with the orchestra and figuring out where everyone stands. The Colorado Ballet on the other hand faces extreme financial difficulties such that even the recent 4.5 million dollars raised leave them with one million dollars of debt. They also have to struggle with their community perception because of this debt which means getting board members with the right amount of resources and clout to bring in large donations is even more difficult. In addition, many cities only have one premier ballet company which can be good in the sense that it is easier to garner local support but negative in the sense that if something does happen to the organization, the community would be left with nothing. Even though these two organizations face different challenges it just seems like to me that these are the types of problems that all organizations face and many of them don't seem to be taking the necessary steps to prevent them.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Dance Notation Bureau...going down the drain?

Today in the New York Times there was an article about the problems that the Dance Notation Bureau has been having as of late. The organization itself is responsible for preserving material that can be used in the reconstruction of dance. In the same way that we can open a score and play a symphony by Bach or set a play by Shakespeare, the Dance Notation Bureau helps make this possible for dance. Most recently 5 of their 6 full time employees were laid off (everyone but the librarian) making it so that the only positive is that the library can still run so the organization is still technically up and running. The biggest reason that the job cuts were so drastic is that the board and most other employees were not aware of the dire financial sittuation that the Bureau was in. There was also a series of events that made their financial situation worse than just a decrease in donations, but because of faulty board action and lack of good bookkeeping these factors were all allowed to compound. As of today the bureau is running on volunteer support and trying to restructure in order to make the best of the resources that it does still have.
I think that this case is a perfect example of how improper board control and lack of financial managment can cause the demise of an organization. It's great to have an awesome mission and to be doing good things in the commumity or for your art, but if you don't have the proper business practices in place to sustain it then it doesn't really matter. It also shows that while it may seem that events like this happen all of a sudden it really takes a combination of things over a period of time. As a result it is important to have contingency plans and funds in place and to maintain proper checks and accountability in all parts of the organization.
The loss of the Dance Notation Bureau would be a huge loss for the dance world, considering that organizations like this are the only way that the works can be preserved forever and accurately. Since dance is constantly struggling to "prove its worth" as far as research and educational viability it is extrememly important for dance to be a reproducable art form.

Monday, October 10, 2005

camille

On sat I went to see the theatrical production of Camille at the Roundhouse theater in Bethesda. Overall I found it to be really interesting ,but mostly because I was going in as a complete amateur having not previously known the story. After seeing this show I began to think of the ways that I as a non-theater person judges whether a play is good. I think that it is really important to be able to hash out these kinds of criteria because its great for a piece of art to be perceived as successful by the experts in its genre but it may be another thing for that same piece of art to appeal to the masses. As an arts manager this discrepancy could be very important. For myself and theater it comes down to a few key things. It is important to me to be able to look past the actor get lost in the character. In other words I have to feel like I'm not watching a person performing a part. Having a cool set often helps, however some productions don't need it as much as others. I also have to be engaged in the story line instead of just trying to get to the end to see what happens. Overall I thought that the acting in Camille was believable. The theater itself has a setup that is both classic and contemporary at the same time but not quite as contemporary as say woolly mammoth, so the set was interesting and I really like that they used lighting to interact with the set and words to let us know what was going on. The only thing that I didn't like was the turning point in the story itself. I didn't think that the reasons that the father gave were compelling enough for Marguerite to give up on her "great love" so easily. If anything that fact bothered me the most and maybe the way that it played out was more a fault of the adaptation than the story itself. In the end I give it 3.5 stars out of 5 =)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Nasher Museum of Art

Not only was this past weekend Homecoming at my alma mater, Duke University, but it was also the Grand Opening of the brand spanking new Nasher Museum of Art at the university. Made possible by a huge donation from Duke alum Ray Nasher, the Museum features new works, pieces from personal collections, and some of the classics. Although the museum is located smack in between Duke's two campuses and is owned my the University it will also play a huge role in enhancing the arts for the city of Durham. The fact that Durham is not the largest of cities means that it isn't as likely that a premier museum would be picked for that area, so it is interesting that with the added help of Duke that this is now possible. This new opening also brings up questions of how it will respond to both its Duke community and its Durham community and how the museum will structure itself so that it has input from all of its constituents especially students. Given its affiliation with the school it is not at the same risk as a more "start-up " type museum, but it will be important to make sure that it thrives if not only to show that something on this scale can be done in an area like Durham. Here is an article about the opening:

http://www.herald-sun.com/durham/4-652695.html

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How far is too far?

A recent article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1578376,00.html) told of a dance that was judged to be too explicit (rape,violence,murder) for young viewers to see. This dance performed by the Royal Ballet is called "the lesson" and basically depicts a psychotic dance teacher that abuses, rapes and kills his students. As a result of these strong themes the Ballet company decided not to offer it during any matinee times instead replacing it in the program with a ballet of lesser controversy. Despite these changes there are no public warnings about the content for those that may be attending the nighttime shows. While I think that the idea of this ballet is interesting in itself there are a couple of other issues that I wanted to raise. The first is that it seems interesting that a ballet is being in many ways censored. I wonder why they chose not to simply post a warning or a description of the ballet and let people decide for themselves whether it is appropriate for their children(not that I am saying that rape should be appropriate for children). There is a also a concern that perhaps some of the ballet's artistic merits may be overshadowed by the fact that this is being billed as a violent showing. Another point of discussion is the extent to which may forms of art that were once considered only high art are now subject to the same standard as other mass arts like television, movies, and mainstream music, in the fact that they too are subject to regulation as far as age appropriateness and posted warnings or ratings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

back to our own reality

A recent article commented on the fact that the new fall tv line ups for the major networks include less reality tv than in the past. Apparently this means that America has begun to tire of reality tv. It is true that many reality tv shows barely survive their first season, but I think that this change of focus says less about the reality tv itself and more about the possibility that maybe we are finally being creative again in our writing and production of sitcoms and dramas. There was a while when it just seemed like there was nothing good on tv and thus we resorted to putting wacky people in weird situations and watching how they dealt with it. Of course this brings in the question of just how "unscripted" are most of these reality programs anyway. I personally think that most producers mold the shows to be whatever will get the most ratings. Speaking of ratings Danny Bonaduce was recently on ABC's "The View" talking about his reality show where he is scarily aggressive, fights with his wife, shows their marriage counseling, talks about slitting his wrists, and shoots up steroids. He said he just wanted to make the best tv show and showing all of those things in his life made the best tv. When this is tv we have a serious problem. Don't get me wrong the reality shows that I watch, I love, and think that my tv viewing wouldn't be quite as pleasurable without them. As a result I say "to each his own", but I am glad that we now have at least a few more options.