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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Articles: Ballet, not bombs

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Thank you, pavlova. Good article. While I was reading it I heard on CNN that while the Senate is working on getting the stimulus bill passed, the President and his family are at a BALLET at the Kennedy Center! :D

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That was a great article!


One of the problems that always comes up when the government funds any kind of art, however, is that some people will always see the funded art as complete junk. You see this all the time with things like sculpture, etc., or even performance art, when there's some butt-ugly hunk of metal or some strange person flopping around screaming on a stage. When people find out it was funded by tax dollars, they're horrified! Personally, I don't think the government is in a position to judge what is good or bad art, and I think we should pump more money into it, as suggested in the article. Heck, I'm not even qualified to judge whether a work of art is "good" or not, but that's kind of the nature of art, isn't it?


So how do we get past the problem of people with different artistic tastes agreeing to fund the stuff? I don't know - we seem to do OK getting lots of other stuff funded (obsolete fighter planes, etc., as noted in the article) that many people think is dumb (but others think is essential). Why not ballet? Music? Sculpture? Any ideas?

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I liked this article.


It is true that tastes differ.

(and, you know, there actually are people who feel that they need not pay taxes for schools because they have no children....:()


I suppose fighter planes get funded because people are afraid.

Fear will get people to do many things they otherwise would not.



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I think there are myriad issues within the bigger issue here to consider, and Ballet Talk for Dancers cannot for obvious reasons, do politics. BUT, what we can all agree on and all support and do, is to write to our congresspersons and elected officials about how important the arts in general are to us and to future generations. :yes:

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I am concerned about the suggestion that government money be given out without merit-based review. I expect the outcome would be a lot of arts organizations being paid well, but without necessarily much positive impact on the rest of society. It's quite possible that artists wouldn't even benefit much if at all --- after all, artists are NOT the ones who would be employed in building a new climate-controlled wing for gallery space.


Another problem here is that many ballet organizations today are not very competitive in the merit-based granting process. By that, I mean they are unable to show widespread value to society at large for the dollars spent on them --- especially underprivileged segments of society. A government windfall on companies like this could end up looking a lot like a government bailout of GM and Chrysler.


Ballet can and should become a lot more competitive in this regard.


I am also concerned about the author's assumption of corporation (life-sucking) vs. art (life-giving). The fact is that all the art institutions mentioned by the author are (non-profit) corporations involving large numbers of people working together for a common goal --- just like for-profit corporations. Ballet is inherently a corporate art, and I'm OK with that.


But we need to realize that large-scale arts institutions today suck up the vast majority of art funding and can have the effect of starving most artists outside those institutions. In the plan mentioned above, small-time and individual artists would simply not be eligible for government funding --- the art museum would get a lot of money to collect and display expensive paintings from the past, but the painter making paintings today would get nothing. The same is true of ballet --- most ballet companies invest little or nothing in new works or the artists creating them. Would we be willing to spend millions on painters if their main aim was a continuous reproduction of the Mona Lisa?


Here's another idea on funding artists: most ballet companies pay only a small fraction of their budget to dancers. Note that if you hire 40 dancers for $50K/yr in salary and benefits, that's "only" $2m, which is a small fraction of the kinds of budgets 40-member companies typically use. If ballet companies spent less on other things, they could end up spending a far greater fraction of their money on artists. That would include (for example) spending less on costumes, sets, theaters, hotels and airlines. The shows would have to rely more on quality dancing and choreograph, and less on the costumes and sets. Dance companies would have to give up dreams of being "world renowned," tour less and focus more on building community in their home markets. But it is all possible. The end result would be more working artists being paid, and more meaningful impact on and connections with the local community.

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