News

Are Ballet Companies Making Too Much Money From The Nutcracker?

Love it or hate it, come December, The Nutcracker is ubiquitous. It's easy to wonder whether it's sustainable to keep performing the same holiday classic year after year, or to spend millions of dollars reinventing it for new productions. But believe it or not, the show's popularity is only growing.

Every year, Dance/USA conducts a Nutcracker Survey on its member companies, compiling data about ticket sales, attendance and more. The organization just reported on the state of the Nutcracker for the first time since 2008, and the data shows just how much the ballet's prevalence has grown in the past 10 years—and how much companies have come to rely on it as a revenue source:


Houston Ballet's Melody Mennite in the company's new Nutcracker production. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet.

In 2017, member companies made a total of $51 million in Nutcracker ticket sales.

That's quite a jump from only $30 million in 2008. (Which, granted, was a difficult financial year for the arts.)

Nutcracker sales represent 48% of surveyed companies' overall season revenues.

As compared to 22-25% of total season revenue in 2008. This means dependence on Nutcracker sales has more than doubled.

Nutcracker attendance has increased by 14% since 2008.

That's more than 83,000 additional people.

Average Nutcracker ticket prices have almost doubled since 2008. 

On average, the most expensive tickets in 2017 were $147 and the cheapest were $28.

Companies are performing 29% more Nutcracker shows than they were in 2008. 

That's an average of two extra performances.

Though it's a good sign that more people are attending the ballet, as Dance/USA points out, it's a little concerning that companies are putting so many of their eggs in one basket by relying so heavily on Nutcracker sales for their overall revenue. Our wish for 2019? Similar enthusiasm for non-Nutcracker performances.

The Creative Process
Rehearsal of Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy Performa.

Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet, offers tips for creating a more body-positive studio experience:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox