Can Ballet San Jose Bounce Back?

June 30, 2015

Can Ballet San Jose Bounce Back?

The company must raise money and rethink programming to keep its doors open

Ballet San Jose in company class. Photo by Alejandro Gomez, Courtesy Ballet San Jose.

It’s been a whirlwind year for Ballet San Jose. The company, with a history of well-publicized leadership and financial problems, is struggling once again.

In early 2015, BSJ’s board quietly raised $580,000 to cover immediate debts. “We were at a point where the company had to decide if we were going to close or try to find a way to move forward,” says CEO Alan Hineline.

During its highly publicized Bridge to the Future campaign in March, the company took to social media to raise $550,000. For 10 days, supporters campaigned online, posting dance videos to draw attention. The plea worked: With the help of last-minute funding from San Jose’s Arts Commission, BSJ surpassed its goal, raising $640,000, and was able to finish its season.

Now, the company is in its final phase, Fund for the Future, with a goal of raising $2.5 million by October to become financially stable. Hineline says the company had been living week to week to make payroll and pay vendors. With 32 full-time dancers, two apprentices and an annual budget of $5.6 million, cash flow has been a constant issue. “I know at the beginning of each week how much we are in shortfall, and we have to raise that cash by the end of each week,” he says. “That’s not a position we want to be in. It’s no way to do business.”

If this stage of fundraising is successful, the $4 million total would allow the staff to plan seasons much further in advance. As of press time, Hineline declined to comment on the future of the company’s repertoire or roster of dancers. But it seems as though BSJ will scale back. In the spring, the company announced that three full-length productions, Swan Lake, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Coppélia—including choreography rights, costumes and sets—were for sale. And in September, BSJ will become Silicon Valley Ballet to solidify its home in the heart of the tech community.

“What these campaigns have done for us, besides get us desperately needed cash flow, was help raise awareness of the organization, to start a conversation with the community and amplify our relationship with the city,” says Hineline. “We still have cash flow issues each week that we have to address, but I feel cautiously optimistic.” —Mary Ellen Hunt