Ballet Making Cuts, Selling Building to Overcome Debts

by Gabe Bullard on March 22, 2011

Shorter seasons, fewer dancers and property sales are all steps the Louisville Ballet is taking to remain solvent.

Like many other arts organizations, the ballet has suffered from rises and falls in ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorships in the last few years. The company’s next season will feature four shows, rather than five, and at least two dancers have been cut. The ballet is also selling its building to the Fund for the Arts, then leasing it back.

“The only asset of true value we had is the building,” says board chair Cheryl Balkenhol. “It’s unfortunate that 20 some-odd years of slight budget overruns year over year has hurt us and got us into this situation.”

Balkenhol says with those precautions, the ballet is not at risk of bankruptcy, though deeper cuts or further financial troubles would put the ballet’s future in question.

“We feel very strongly that we want to be a producing organization and we want to be a professional company, which requires four productions a year and dancer contracts that are at least 30 weeks. I’m not sure that if we cut more we could do that. I don’t think it’s required to cut more, but if something should happen and we were to face that, I think we would be having different conversations.”

Balkenhol says the ballet and will likely run a deficit this year, but the new austerity measures are designed to give the company a surplus next year.

Balkenhol says the ballet is also looking into ways to improve ticket sales by attracting younger audiences. But she says modern performances have not been as successful as classics. WFPL will have more with the ballet’s artistic director later this week.

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