New York City Ballet fans who want to see the company at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for more than one week will have to wait at least two more years.
SPAC and company officials have agreed to a one-week season for 2014, they announced Friday, four days before the start of this year’s residency. Both sides said they’re working on restoring the season to two weeks in 2015, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.
This year’s residency, which features seven performances next week, culminating in the July 13 gala, is the ballet’s first one-week season in more than 40 years at the performing arts center. SPAC officials previously said they hoped to restore a two-week season next year.
“We got to a point within the last few weeks when it was clear that they weren’t going to know what their costs are for 2014,” said Susan Phillips Read, chairwoman of the SPAC Board of Directors. “We ran out of time.”
The ballet has been in labor negotiations for some time with the unions that represent orchestra members and dancers. SPAC needed to know where things stood in order to book other dance companies. This year, three dance companies other than the New York City Ballet are performing at SPAC: the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada and MOMIX Botanica.
“While we are continuing to look at ways to restore a longer residency for future seasons, it is a time-consuming process, and as it is essential for both organizations to begin planning their next calendar year of performances, we have decided to move forward with plans for a one-week season by NYCB at SPAC in 2014,” Marcia White, SPAC president and executive director, said in a statement.
SPAC and the ballet agreed SPAC would pay $1 million for the 2014 season, the same price as this year, Phillips Read said. Last year, SPAC paid $1.7 million for two weeks.
“I think everybody’s working in good faith,” she said. “I’m an optimist.”
Katherine Brown, the ballet’s executive director, said her organization wants to continue to take the stage at Saratoga.
“Since for many years the engagement has resulted in a financial shortfall for both NYCB and SPAC, which neither organization is able to sustain, we will continue to work with SPAC on a solution,” she said in a statement.
The ballet company’s season at SPAC has shrunk over the years — its longest residency was four weeks — because of the rising cost of putting on the shows and difficulty raising money in an economy where there are fewer donations to the arts. The erosion of the residency makes outspoken NYCB fan Lisa Mehigan “heartsick.”
“I think it’s a tragedy that we already have the best ballet company in the world and we are just going to let them go, or at least lose them for a week,” she said. “But nobody else seems to care.”
Putting other dance companies in the time slots the New York City Ballet used to fill is unsatisfying, Mehigan said.
“If you were going to have the Yankees there and then you decided to have the Marlins’ farm team, you might get upset about that if you’re a Yankees fan,” she said.
But while many people voice support for the residency, Mehigan said it has been difficult to mobilize members of the public to take action. She started a nonprofit organization, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and is waiting for federal approval of its nonprofit status so donors can take a federal tax deduction.
The group is named for the ballet company’s debut program at SPAC.
“If we lose it, shame on us,” she said of the residency.