The Latest: Has Ballet Bounced Back?
The rosters at major companies are growing.
Artistic director Gil Boggs (right) leads a Colorado Ballet rehearsal. Photo courtesy Colorado Ballet.
The recession in 2008–09 took a major toll on U.S. dance companies of all sizes, genres and geographic locations. Some shortened their programming and cut staff members. Many had to downsize their troupes.
But the 2014–15 season suggests that many ballet companies’ finances are on the upswing. Colorado Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Boston Ballet have all expanded their rosters this year. Still, Amy Fitterer, executive director of Dance/USA, which gathers dance company statistics annually, warns that it’s too soon to tell if the dance world has had an economic turnaround. “I’m still hearing from companies, especially those with budgets under $1.5 million, that they are struggling,” she says.
Boston Ballet’s Mikko Nissinen is seeing positive steps forward. When he became artistic director in 2001, the company roster reached 54 dancers. “Then around 2008 we had to take one step backwards to move forward. The smallest we got was 43,” he says. This year, he reached his longtime goal as artistic director: Boston Ballet now employs 70 dancers, including nine in the second company. This gives him flexibility to do full-scale ballets without overworking the corps, and the company opened its season with 16 performances of his new Swan Lake. “Every artistic decision is also a financial decision,” he says.
At Colorado Ballet, artistic director Gil Boggs has upped the studio company roster to 22 from 16. He says he’s not fiscally ready to add dancers to the main company, but hopes it’s in the near future. “When we expand our corps, we have to take a hard look at the financial commitment that requires. Right now we’re committed to being fiscally responsible.” Last year, the company saw record ticket sales. “If that continues,” Boggs says, “the money would be used to increase the company size.” That’s what every company is hoping for: to turn back the recession clock and jump-start growth.