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The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin


1976
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Management, lacking a dependable flow of cash or assets to back regular bank loans, must rely on credit-card debt The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin cover month-to-month That Barking Dog -- Woof! Woof!

- The Original Memphis Five - The Original Memphis Five Collection. From the description, this could be any of thousands of small businesses that lack the capital necessary to survive for the long term. In fact, it is Pilobolus Dance Theater, one of America's most popular modern-dance troupes, and its struggles are hardly atypical.

The American Ballet Theater came back from a near-death experience in after gaining concessions from creditors and unions.

The Joffrey Ballet, battered by financial problems, announced last month that it would cancel part of its season. Indeed, as the arts head into the new year in New York and other cities where cultural life is a staple, help, apparently, is not on the way. Republicans are proposing deep tax and budget cuts on both the state and Federal levels; if enacted, the cuts will threaten the viability of all performing-arts groups that depend on government subsidies.

While Congressional Republicans haven't yet formally put it on their agenda, financing for the National Endowment for the Arts will almost certainly be challenged. Adding to established dance companies' woes, what little public and philanthropic money there is supports artistic innovation and audience outreach rather than day-to-day overhead.

Rory MacPherson, the coordinator of dance projects for the fund, confirms that the money is intended to bring dance to "unique and underserved audiences. Everyone, it seems, wants to subsidize what is different, exciting and socially uplifting, but "nobody wants to pay the light bills," says Barbara Hauptman, the executive director of the Alvin Ailey company, yet another celebrated troupe feeling the financial pinch.

Eventually, hard times are bound to take their toll on creativity, slowing the introduction of new work and inhibiting experimentation with sets, music and lighting. Like every dance company, Pilobolus has been buffeted by cycles of feast and famine. A look at its history -- and financial accounts -- offers perspective on the predicament of the performing arts in general and dance in particular.

It also serves as a reminder that culture that depends on the kindness of strangers lives at the mercy of economic and political fashions that are hard to predict, let alone influence. Pilobolus, which is named for a light-seeking mushroom, was born on a lark inthe product of an enthusiastic handful of athletes who took the same dance class in college.

The communal spirit endured long after the troupe became a familiar presence on the dance scene. The dancers choreographed their own witty, free-spirited, breathtakingly gymnastic programs -- "Day Two," "Land's Edge," "Untitled," "Monkshood's Farewell" among them -- and managed their own tours.

With two of its artistic directors already living in the area, Pilobolus settled in the tiny northwestern Connecticut town of Washington Depot. Those with the company from the beginning remember the 's as a golden age, when it simply wasn't necessary to pay attention to the humdrum of finances. In hindsight, it is clear why. Pilobolus neither solicited nor received much direct assistance from private foundations or government. But the troupe depended indirectly on nonprofit organizations -- notably universities and dance festivals -- financed by government and private gifts to sponsor their performances around the country.

In fact, most professional dance companies must travel widely to reach an audience large enough to sustain The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin full-year schedule. The good The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin continued well into the 's. Kimber Craine, a spokesman for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, a group that coordinates public financing for the arts, points out that while National Endowment money earmarked for dance changed little, state governments took up the slack.

But these figures masked a trend that soon undermined the financial viability of individual dance companies. Increased Federal, state and philanthropic financing encouraged regional troupes like the Cleveland Ballet and the Ballet Hispanico to make the leap from local seasons to national touring with elaborate Tortoise - Standards that absorbed enormous amounts of cash. This institutionalized support, said Mr.

Craine, "created an entire cultural infrastructure," one that needed large sums to sustain and that had smaller troupes competing for subsidies with older, established national companies like the New York City Ballet. The recession and resultant economic distress of the 90's have hit dance with a vengeance. Pilobolus felt She Feels Anger - Sods - Sods (Box Set) consequences of decreasing financial support later than most companies, at least in part because its playful, acrobatic The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin is accessible to untutored audiences; hence, when sponsors were forced to The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin back their dance bookings, they were apt to retain a company that would sell out in larger auditoriums.

In part, too, notes Susan Mandler, Pilobolus's business manager, the troupe could still count on a long and lucrative season in Europe. But this is no longer the case. European tours, typically cash cows for high-profile American companies, have ceased to be a reliable source of income: Bad Charlotte Bad - Useless Wooden Toys / Disrobe - Useless Wooden Toys / Disrobe, too, has been hit by recession and tight government budgets.

Last year, for the first time since the 's, Pilobolus was unable to put together a European tour. The company's response to their financial problems was to slash salaries and ask the artistic directors to contribute outside earnings to the communal kitty.

Pilobolus now markets dance-education workshops through the Pilobolus Institute, trying to make profitable use of its name and skills when the company is not performing or rehearsing. And like other dance companies, Pilobolus is now caught between the rock of high costs and the hard place of increasing competition for donations, government money and income from touring.

The business distinction between overhead and operating costs, best explained in context, offers a concise way to analyze the financial trap in which most established dance companies find themselves in the increasingly competitive world of touring.

In November, for example, Pilobolus's six dancers, along with two technicians, made a five-day trip from Connecticut to present four shows at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts near San Francisco. Still, the troupe is in a better position than many other companies, since it will inevitably make money on one annual enterprise that is risky even for some of the most established The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin a season in New York City.

New York remains an imperative for every company with aspirations to world-class or even national status. And Pilobolus's annual summer stop is sponsored each year by the nonprofit Joyce Theater, for many years a showcase for modern dance. But larger companies, like the Alvin Ailey, don't fit on the Joyce's relatively modest stage. Nor, for that matter, could they come close to covering costs in the Joyce's seat auditorium. Hence a larger dance company is effectively obliged to perform at City Center, a space that is staffed by New York's generously compensated craft unions and that requires dance troupes to bear the entire financial risk of an engagement.

If donors and presenters can't or won't pay the full cost of dance, is it possible for already strapped dance companies to reduce costs?

It seems unlikely. Professional dancers are hardly in a position to tighten their belts. As a practical matter, the best that most can hope for is enough work to be eligible for unemployment benefits. The union contracts that cover the dancers with Refus Global - Le Charme - Fitzcarraldo like the New York City Ballet, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the San Francisco Ballet provide only marginally better The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin and benefits.

But along with choreographing new productions they are also obliged to direct rehearsals, teach classes and beat the bushes for donors. With financial public or private salvation so remote a prospect in this era of reduced spending, it seems almost inevitable that many companies will be forced to scale back, or even go out of business.

The fear has been voiced before, of course, but this time professional dance may really bean endangered art form. Ambitious and marvelously skilled dancers still pour Standing By - Various - This Is Reggae - Volume Three of schools despite Money magazine's ranking of their job prospects just above butchers, sanitation workers and taxi drivers.

When Pilobolus held auditions for two positions last year, hundreds applied. But the supply of dancers may not remain endless when word finally gets out that they can no longer expect to lead even minimally secure lives working at their craft. Although much of the public and private subsidy for dance companies is for new work, dance simply isn't possible unless the rent and insurance bills are paid. Further, the Pilobolus artistic director Mr. Wolken worries that the anemic sums remaining for costumes, sets and rehearsal time will undermine the The Bottom Line - Crazy Dancin of the company's new work.

Live musical accompaniment to dance has already become as rare as sympathy from Jesse Helms: Ms. Hauptman notes that the Ailey employs an orchestra for just one performance in their New York season. Hard times will beget harder times, she frets, as dance loses status in a society inclined to equate value with material results. Brooks suggests, one now "held together with spider webs. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.

To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems.


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