Look to the skies to see how many people will turn out for the New York City Ballet this week at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The weeklong NYCB residency — the shortest in the company’s more than 40-year history at SPAC — starts tonight, and between now and its completion Saturday, many of ballet-goers will buy tickets the night of the show.
Given this summer’s rainy track record, most of them likely will check the forecast before they commit to sitting on the lawn or taking certain seats in the amphitheater, which has a roof but no walls. On Monday, the forecast showed the best days to stay dry might be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with tonight and Wednesday looking more like a gamble, said Dan DePodwin, a meteorologist at Accuweather.com.
SPAC officials tout this year’s program of seven performances in five days and hope ballet fans will buy tickets anyway and sit in the amphitheater or brave a few drops on the lawn.
“Weather is always a factor, but in the end, if you want to support the arts, it’s important to come whether the weather is good or not,” said Marcia White, SPAC president and executive director. “I think the ticket sales really are based on the relationship that we all have with the New York City Ballet.”
In addition to the weather, the effect of the shortened season remains to be seen. The ballet’s season has been whittled down over the years from an original four weeks to three and then, in 2009, to two. This year it is reduced to one week because of the rising cost for SPAC to hire the ballet.
Last year, ballet attendance was 35,399, a number White believes she’ll see again this year even with the shorter season.
“I think our ticket sales will remain constant,” she said.
Advance ticket sales for the Ballet Gala: “The Ruby Ball” are higher than usual, White said. The event raises funds to support the ballet’s summer residency in Saratoga Springs.
The gala features special guest Edward Villella, a former NYCB principal dancer and founder of the Miami City Ballet. The evening includes a performance of George Balanchine’s “Rubies,” for which Villella originated the lead role in 1967 while at the New York City Ballet.
Other nights have special events as well.
Pre-performance events throughout the week include American Girl Night, talks with New York City Ballet experts and children’s workshops with dancers.
People who arrive early also get the best lawn seats and picnic spots.
Many people come around 6 p.m. to set up their chairs and blankets, White said.
The current forecast calls for spotty thunderstorms tonight that might last between 20 and 45 minutes, DePodwin said. “I don’t think everyone sees rainfall” from those scattered storms, he said.
The National Weather Service is calling for a 20 percent chance of rain and says some of the storms could produce heavy rain.
Wednesday evening is the most likely to have thunderstorms, with some “on the stronger side,” DePodwin said. The storms could produce small hail and gusty winds as well as heavy rain, according to the National Weather Service, which calls for a 60 percent chance of precipitation but says it’s most likely to happen before the 8 p.m. showtime.
Thursday’s chance of showers is expected to be earlier in the day, potentially raining on the matinee but leaving the evening free for a nice lawn picnic.
“I think by Thursday evening, there’s basically no chance of rainfall,” DePodwin said.
The humidity also is expected to break Friday, with a high of 80 expected during the day and no precipitation forecast, leading to a “refreshing” day, he said.
This far out, Saturday’s weather is less certain, but it has a good chance of being dry, he said.
SPAC continues its dance season through the beginning of next month with the National Ballet of Canada next week, Aspen Santa Fe the week after and Momix Botanica on Aug. 1.
Ticket sales for those events, particularly Momix Botanica and National Ballet of Canada’s “Giselle,” are going well, White said.
“I think people are excited to have a combination of some companies that have never been here before.”