The Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s (SPAC) abrupt announcement of its plan to cut the 2018 season of New York City Ballet (NYCB) from two weeks to one week has left many long time ballet devotees feeling shell shocked.
In spite of SPAC’s new President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol’s stated commitment to the strengthening of SPAC, this abrupt slash in the annual NYCB season is hardly evidence of any real commitment at all.
Do we need to be reminded of the spectacular history of SPAC’s founding? It was George Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein and Nelson Rockefeller, giants all, who brought SPAC into being. That the Philadelphia Orchestra was later added made the new endeavor shine brighter. Do we need to be reminded that NYCB was and remains one of only a handful of the world’s greatest ballet companies?
With an unmatched repertory and dancers of extraordinary virtuosity — to say nothing of a superb orchestra — it makes me shake my head in disbelief that every time there’s a question of financing at SPAC, it’s NYCB that gets shown the door.
And what about that financing? A recent press release from the SPAC board vigorously applauds the fact that for another year, SPAC has broken even financially. Broken even. And yet we can no longer afford a second week of ballet. How does this make any sense? And please, could we have some explanation for why there’s never the slightest mention of a cut in the three-week Philadelphia Orchestra season? What’s so precious about the orchestra that’s not precious about world- renowned NYCB?
SPAC and its decades-long presentation of NYCB has made Saratoga the envy and the icon of the dance world.
Presenting the city ballet for only a week is a slippery slope toward eventually presenting no city ballet at all — and a betrayal of SPAC’s founders.
The writer is the former owner of the Adelphi Hotel.