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Schools Subsidize Companies

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There has been a recent thread from parents struggling to pay for ballet training for their children. It is well known that many professional companies with affiliated schools subsidize their company's (money-losing) operations with profits from their schools --- especially summer program profits. What are the ethical ramifications of this practice?

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Yes, you are right! Many companies do use their schools to hoist sagging budgets. However, there is nothing unethical about a good pre-pro school that is offering excellent training, regardless of whether they are making money for the associated company or not.


As to summer programs, the same rules apply. Ethics do not come into play as long as the program does not imply or state that by attending the summer program or year-round program, a dancer is guaranteed a future spot in the company or some other such benefit and then the program does not deliver. (Of course, this is assuming that they offer excellent training to all those from whom they accept tuition.)


I realize that there is much discussion about some of the large programs that accept huge numbers of dancers each summer into a variety of programs or sites. Every dancer and their parents needs to weigh any such program carefully to determine if the program is the best value for the money, suits the dancer's needs, offers exceptional training, etc. But, I see nothing unethical about the practice of offering good training to a large audience.


Realistic expectations by those attending cannot always be guaranteed, however, and I think that the problems arise when those who attend such programs have unrealistic expectations about what their attendance at the program might mean to their potential ballet career. :wink:

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I believe this topic is better suited to Cross Talk, so, I'm moving it there. :wink:

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However, when both the school AND the company lose money, somebody put on the Johnny Ray album, 'cause that's "Cry"!


"Whin yore sweetheart/Sends a letter/To your wii--iife..."

(now THAT's 'Cry'!)

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I don't see as unethical either, but rather as a very smart practice on the part of ballet companies.


It's the capitalistic system doing its job. You have a product to sell - ballet training - we, the consumers, are glad to pay for it. As long as you're not selling us a bogus product, we're happy. If by selling that product, you are also able to finance your other operation - the ballet company - then you've made a smart deal.


Of course no one will buy it if it's not offered at fair market value. And we can decide that with our dollars. Some products are a better bargain than others. :wink:


There's nothing wrong with ballet being a money-making business, in fact, it darn well better be!

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Just to add my two cents - I ditto balletbooster's response and vagansmom's capitilist ;) post, too!


Budget woes do not necessarily create ill-gotten, or even misbegotten, summer programs or schools... One could even include in this the "trainee" positions that are offered by various companies across, at least, America. Isn't it better to give someone an opportunity to prove themselves than to say "Sorry, we have not got a cent to spare this year and due to economic woes, and political leanings, we are barely able to exist so we can't possibly hire enough apprentices or dancers to fill our ranks..."? Granted, I digress however the concept that the programs offered by various companies are, in not so many words, their illicit gains seems tenuous, for the most part.


Yes, almost everyone wishes that American Ballet Theatre would be able to restart their own school, but other than this company, in America, what other companies are we talking about?

Edited by BW
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I agree with what's been stated here, especially the point that ballet should be a money-making business. While money is clearly not the main object, dancers have to survive on something! And I don't think any teacher, dancer, or artistic institution should ever have to apologize for making a profit. I don't think unreasonably high fees should be charged for classes or tickets, but then again, it seems to me that they rarely (if ever) are. In addition, most schools that I've heard of have a scholarship program of some sort so that it isn't only the wealthy who are allowed to receive ballet lessons.

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People seem to be saying it's OK to charge what the market will bear, that's capitalism. However, this type of situation does not happen in a competetive market. In such a market, a company sheds money-losing operations because if they don't, someone else will undercut them. I suppose that ballet is not very competetive becuase there is usually only one major ballet organization in a given area --- and often there are zero.

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That's true...and another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of ballet is based on money-losing operations. Even when there are two major ballet companies, as in the case of NYCB and ABT there doesn't seem to be as much competition as in the business world because the two have different audiences to a large extent. But I think we can agree that regardless of competition, ballet schools and companies are not exactly rolling in money, and especially that if ballet companies cut all their money-losing operations, many would cease to exist and those that remained would hardly perform at all.

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My experience in business is that almost all profitable businesses have money losing operations somewhere. These may be new lines of business or lines of business that are favorites of the directors or serve in some way to define the business. Only when the overall business has some financial crisis are these money losing operations threatened.


I would say that ballet companies are wise to have ballet schools as both a revenue source and profit center.


As to the ethical question, for me the issue is choice. If people have the choice of not going to the school, then I don’t see an ethical problem

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Donors are normally expected to pay for the bulk of professional company costs --- it's not really a money-losing operation once they're taken into account. I find it quite reasonable to expect donors to support the costs --- if they want to see ballet produced, they can give money to make it happen.


But parents of ballet students? This would be analogous to a major research university (Harvard, for example) taking its tuition money and spending it on a research agenda that has nothing to do with educating the students who are paying. In reality, research universities pay professors to teach from the tuition pot; but if they want to conduct research, they need to get external grants. I cannot think of even one research university that diverts educational funds to research --- if such a thing happened, there would surely be an outcry from the parents of the students who are going into mega-debt for their kids' educations.

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Same goes for attending a research university for undergraduate education, rather than an undergraduate-only college.

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Yes, but ballet companies sell tickets (hopefully :) ). Therefore, they don't use only money from students--they have a source of income and use their schools as a means of getting by, not funding the entire operation, especially when you consider that ballet schools are not exactly profitable.

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I guess I still don't really understand your point, Citibob. I'm still struggling to understand how it's ethically wrong for a ballet company to use profits from their SI to fund some of their company expenses.


If I, as a parent, were giving money for my daughter's training at an SI but she wasn't getting that product, then I'd have cause to complain. But she IS getting the training. I know when I buy any product anywhere, its average cost is really about 60% of the price I actually pay. I expect the mark-up. I don't ask where the profits are going. Why would I ask in the case of my daughter's training?


Like any product, some SI's are offered at lower prices than others for what I'd view as equivalent training. Like choosing any big ticket product, I consider many factors in making my final choice. I may go for the bigger, splashier product because I happen to like its colors better. Or because name recognition is important to me. Or I may go for the sale item because I can't afford anything else. Or I might really take my time, do my homework and choose the product that will provide the most durability over the long haul.


But I still never ask the sellers what they do with their profits.

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