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Dancing Around Each Other

As Saratoga begins to buttress itself for the summer rush, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Save the Ballet are independently working on ways to improve attendance at the New York City Ballet this summer.

Save the Ballet wants an ongoing role guarding the local interests of the New York City Ballet, complementing SPAC’s efforts, to ensure that the New York City Ballet’s annual residency is secure for years to come. The group has collected petitions and ticket pledges, and was instrumental in getting the attention of state legislative leadership to protect the ballet’s 39-year summer residency from ending in 2005. For now, however, it is uncertain how Save the Ballet will be involved, if at all, in SPAC’s considerations.

Save the Ballet committee member Jennifer Leidig said the group has what SPAC needs: community support. “We also want, desperately, to be seen as a source of support for SPAC and a resource for the board of directors to come to if they need to make an educated decision,” she said.

“We’re planning to communicate with the people who have expressed interest,” said Helen Edelman, SPAC’s marketing-and-public-relations director. She hopes to announce SPAC’s new “extensive tactical plan” for community outreach that awaits the board’s approval. Part of that plan, she said, will include contacting the people who signed approximately $130,000 in ticket pledges collected by Save the Ballet.

SPAC has also hired Sawchuk Brown Associates, a public-relations firm in Albany, as consultants, Edelman said, to work “through some community relations and government relations plans with us,” adding that the contract would “be expiring fairly soon.”

Now that the ballet is back on the schedule for 2005, some people working to secure the ballet’s presence are scratching their heads, wondering where the money to hire a public-relations firm came from, if SPAC’s financial trouble is what partly caused the board to question the viability of the New York City Ballet at SPAC in the first place [“Unhappy Feet,” Art Murmur, Feb. 19]. And although she could not say how much the firm was being paid for its services, Edelman did say the money was coming out of SPAC’s “promotional budget.” Just the same, Save the Ballet member John DeMarco pointed out that the promotional efforts may have helped the public understand SPAC better, which he thinks is a good thing.

Radio and television stations are helping by donating media time and the free production of promotional spots to SPAC “so that we can extend our reach in the community,” Edelman said. That could help reach more people, but Save the Ballet says SPAC could be doing more, and believes they can help with community-oriented efforts, such as tapping into volunteers.

Save the Ballet is now moving into the second phase of its existence; it is newly incorporated and hopes to have its nonprofit status soon. One of its goals is to establish a substantial endowment to support the New York City Ballet in Saratoga Springs. Leidig said the group intends to continue “making sure that New York City Ballet’s future is secure and the priorities of the community are upheld.”

DeMarco is hopeful this year’s attendance will increase because the ballet is “more in the forefront of people’s minds,” and he hopes Save the Ballet’s efforts will help that even more.

—Ashley Hahn

Author, Author

New York's Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was all smiles last Saturday (April 24) at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, as she prepared to sign copies of the just-released paperback edition of her hit memoir, Living History. Folks had to pick up tickets for this event the previous Monday (April 19), which they happily did, judging from the reported turnout. Oh, and they had to buy a book, because the senator wasn't signing anything else.

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