Finances force Oakland Ballet Company to postpone performances

Photo courtesy of: Oakland Ballet Company

Photo courtesy of: Oakland Ballet Company

In light of recent financial difficulties, the Oakland Ballet Company’s board of directors decided to postpone this spring’s Diaghilev Imagery program until funding needs are met.

Diaghilev Imagery, a reimagining of works commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev in the early 20th century, was originally set to run from May 18-20 at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland. The OBC faces fiscal troubles after selling fewer tickets for the 2011 performance of The Nutcracker and receiving less money than expected during fundraising efforts.

OBC board members say fewer ticket sales for The Nutcracker in 2011 contributed to the current deficit. (Photo courtesy of: Oakland Ballet Company)

The company added a fifth performance to their December run of the The Nutcracker, but still sold 1,000 fewer tickets than in 2010.

In an email, OBC Board Chair and President Roz Perazzo said performing arts as a whole have suffered a decrease in funding in recent years.

“In response to the economic crisis, funders have changed their priority to economic development and education, and individual contributors have significantly reduced or stopped their donations,” she wrote.

The lapse in ticket sales and donations contributed to a budget deficit for 2011 of approximately 15 percent of the company’s $600,000 annual budget, according to a press release.

Outreach and special funding programs enabled the OBC to still donate nearly 2,000 tickets for The Nutcracker to low-income Oakland school students and their families in addition to underserved community members. The company also performed short outreach performances at eight low-income Oakland schools — an increase from 2010.

This is not the first time the OBC has struggled in a poor economy. The 47-year old company canceled an entire season in 2004 due to financial problems, raised enough money to perform again in 2005, but succumbed to closure in 2006, according to the company’s website. The OBC reopened in 2007.

Perazzo said the group returned under the artistic direction of founder Ronn Guidi as “a start-up of a ballet company with a long history of artistic excellence.” Perazzo said the previous cancelations and temporary closures have not affected the OBC’s current financial situation.

 The OBC is also not the only ballet company in the nation, or even the Bay Area, facing budget issues and change. The New York City Ballet, one of the most famous ballet companies in the United States, projected a $6 million deficit on a $62 million operating budget during April, 2011. Locally, Ballet San Jose both shortened its 2011 fall schedule and recently announced changes in administrative and artistic leadership.

The OBC plans to reduce the number of performances of The Nutcracker in 2012, running just on December 22 and 23. The group is also organizing an individual donor campaign called “1,000 for $50” to encourage community members to give 1,000 donations of $50 to raise the $50,000 needed to put on Diaghilev Imagery.

“Many small contributions from the community can make a huge difference in supporting OBC’s mission to provide ballet that is exciting, vibrant, and accessible,” Perazzo wrote. “OBC’s board of directors is optimistic about 2012 and intends to present the program Diaghilev Imagery when the organization is able to financially support it.”

The ballet’s planned May 5 gala fundraiser at the Kaiser Center Auditorium, Saturday ballet classes and summer boot camp have not been impacted by the deficit.

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