Ballet West imposes one-week furloughs

Published February 7, 2009 10:09 am
Budget woes » Unpaid leave for office staff.
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Ballet West will close the curtain on its office for one week in April in an attempt to stay ahead of the economic downturn, the dance company announced Friday.

The move is part of a trend impacting performing arts groups locally and nationwide, who are scaling back productions for smaller performances, cutting season schedules or laying-off artists or administrative staff.

"It's a pro-active move on our part," said Jodie Fisher, Ballet West's public relations manager. "With so many companies folding or having to cut back, we feel we can just take this move rather than let people go. We'd rather take measures now."

The one-week furlough for administrative staff during the week of April 13 through 17 was announced the same time as the company's 2009-10 season, which includes a full-length classic story ballet, "Swan Lake," newly conceived by artistic director Adam Sklute, as well as a program of George Balanchine's works. Ballet West has no plans to scale back its current season, or upcoming productions, Fisher said.

Ballet West relies on contributions that make up approximately 60 percent of its revenue, with ticket sales filling out the remaining 40 percent, Fisher said. That ratio may provide Ballet West with a greater financial cushion than other dance companies nationwide. Mimi Kent, marketing director for Sacramento Ballet, said the company based in California's capital relies on ticket sales for 80 percent of its total revenue, and has had to cut its schedule and cancel big shows.

In Florida, the Miami City Ballet announced Tuesday it would cut eight dancers from its troupe of 53, while at the beginning of the month the Orlando Ballet said it would cut its expensive productions by Russian choreographer George Balanchine in favor of scaled-down works.

Bené Arnold, interim chair of the University of Utah's ballet department, expressed her confidence in the stability of the Utah ballet company. She was ballet mistress at Ballet West under its founder, Willam F. Christensen, from the mid-1960s until 1975. "I know the people in the company very well," Arnold said, "and know they will make the adjustments they need to make because we cannot afford to lose any art companies endeavors in this state."

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