The Bay Pointe Ballet was founded in South San Francisco four years ago as a performing company and dance school. This particular staging of “Coppelia,” a happy tale of mistaken identity, folly and love, and toys which come to life, received an award for choreographer Bruce Steivel. We were looking forward to it, but it was not to be.
Thanks to quick work by president David Nyman, a replacement was found in the male quartet The Diamonds, and patrons arrived on the appointed night to enjoy an evening of great music. Even patrons expecting the ballet weren’t disappointed.
So. Crisis averted. But I can’t help thinking about the struggles and setbacks of a fledgling ballet company. What happened to cause them to be in such financial straits? They didn’t give us details, but it doesn’t take much imagination to think what might have gone wrong. It is the same thing that all kinds of artistic companies are struggling with all over the country: not enough money to support the quality offerings all good companies hope to offer.
Attendance at live performances is falling; the audiences that are faithful are graying and the younger generation has other things to do. Even wealthy donors can give only so much, and available grant money must be shared among numerous worthy applicants. But our email and postboxes are full of requests for food for hungry families and resources for medical research. How do we choose whether to feed the body or the artistic soul? We have financial issues of our own.
But I picture a young ballerina who has known since she was six that she wanted to dance. Her weekly dance lessons became daily; the dance studio became literally her second home. Her parents made sacrifices to pay for all that dancing, which was not cheap. She put her long hair up in a bun and practiced until her feet were bleeding and her muscles hurt. She auditioned multiple times until finally all that hard physical work paid off; she was hired by a small ballet company! More practice, limited social life, competition for solo spots were all worth it. She was dancing, and even getting paid for it!
Then came the sad word: furlough. There was not enough money to support her lifelong dreams. She’d better find a spot as a teacher, or even go into another line of work for a while. As a society, we are lessened by the artistic disappearance of this lovely child. And she isn’t the only one.