Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley succeeds with ‘do-or-die’ fundraising effort
By Karen D’Souza
POSTED: 03/16/2015 06:00:07 AM PDT# COMMENTS| UPDATED: A DAY AGO
Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley successfully overshot its do-or-die fundraising goal over the weekend by almost $100,000. Many see it as a much-needed shot in the arm for the valley’s fragile art scene.
“The community does not want to lose another arts organization,” said Lisa Mallette, head of City Lights Theater Company. “People are willing to step up and ensure that this one remains strong and vital.”
The South Bay’s major resident dance company snagged $640,000, more than the $550,000 it needed to stay alive. With the emergency push behind it, ballet leaders said they intend to reboot its operation, including rebranding it: Silicon Valley Ballet.
Corps de Ballet members, from left, Alison Stroming, Grace Anne Powers and James Kopecky, practice during a company class taught by San Jose Ballet Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño, at Ballet San Jose in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) ( LiPo Ching )
“This campaign proves that people care about the ballet as much as we do and it gives us the ramp we need to get out ahead of the situation,” said ballet CEO Alan Hineline. “Finally there is some good news for the arts in the South Bay. We believe the ballet can be a rallying point for the city and the downtown.”
Withhttp://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site568/2015/0310/20150310__SJM-BALLET-0311~1_300.JPG many in the arts community still reeling over the loss of San Jose Rep, the fact that the ballet stayed afloat is the source of great relief. It was also seen as a vote of confidence that the valley, often knocked as an industry town interested only in high tech, also values the arts.
TEETERING ON THE EDGE
It’s also a refreshing outcome because it comes after a series of devastating losses in recent years.
The region has lost not only the Rep, which went under last year, but also Shakespeare Santa Cruz, which died in 2013 (before being reincarnated in a smaller form) and American Musical Theatre of San Jose, which perished in 2008.
Hineline, for one, has been pushing hard to buck the trend of local arts groups teetering on the edge.
“We know that the collapse of the Rep hurt everyone. A loss like that sends shock waves,” Hineline said. “We wanted to change that narrative, to change the ending of that story — and we did. Finally there is some good news for the arts in the South Bay.”
So, what made the ballet better positioned for survival than the Rep, which was also a beloved local institution?
One of the smartest moves the ballet made may have been making a public appeal over its fate, instead of slipping away quietly.
“The Rep went under without a word, which upset a lot of people,” said Andrew Bales, head of Symphony Silicon Valley. “The ballet made some noise and gave people a chance to have their say.”
Of course, this could be just a temporary reprieve. Ballet leaders must stay on their toes because there is another deadline looming. Company officials say they will need to raise $3.5 million by October to restructure the company’s business model and re-brand itself as Silicon Valley Ballet. The troupe, now led by ballet hotshot Jose Manuel Carreno, wants to raise its profile and reach out to a wider geographic audience.
The troubled company, which partnered with New York’s American Ballet Theatre in 2012, has weathered many fiscal crises over the years. Old debts have piled up, including a $500,000 tax bill, and the company’s biggest patron, John Fry, CEO of Fry’s Electronics, dialed back his patronage. The ballet has countered by cutting back, scrapping some performances and dropping live music accompaniment here and there. The budget for the organization, which includes 32 professional dancers and bustling school of 350 students, now stands at $5.6 million, down from a high of $8 million.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the harsh South Bay arts economy is the comparative wealth of groups in San Francisco and Berkeley. Yet local arts honchos suggest these struggles may simply be growing pains.
“The San Francisco art scene was built over 150 years, seeded in the Gold Rush,” said Randall King, head of San Jose Stage Company. “South Bay cultural resources have a relatively short history. We have built a competitive environment in a very limited timeline. We are younger, but no less valid or viable.”
Contact Karen D’Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at http://www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, and follow her at Twitter.com/karendsouza4.