Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review: Carmen at the Lobero Theatre

Leila Drake and Ryan Camou in Carmen (photo: David Bazemore)

The Santa Barbara Independent reviews Carmen:

Carmen, presented by State Street Ballet

Lobero Theatre, October 19, 2007

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

Met with favorable reviews at its Hollywood premiere last summer, SSB’s Carmen is by far the company’s most ambitious and most dazzling ballet yet, choreographed by New York’s William Soleau and set to the original Georges Bizet score.

Read more of the review.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Company: More ballet company blogs! (And serious thoughts on the ballet business.)

Official ballet company blogs are starting to appear. Perhaps great minds think alike. Or more likely, this newfangled Internet technology's become so easy to use and pervasive that more people are finding out how useful it can be for their lives and businesses.

Check out the beautiful pictures on the Joffrey Ballet's blog, j-Pointe.

And check out Houston Ballet's newly minted En Pointe.

Why a blog for a ballet company?

Almost all art dance companies, and that includes modern and other forms of dance outside of ballet, depend on funding beyond ticket sales. For many companies, ticket sales don't even make up half their annual budgets, so many companies depend on grants and more importantly corporate and personal donations.

Why Does Anyone Give To The Ballet?

There's a saying in the charity development community: people don't give money to organizations. They give money to people they know. A company that depends on charitable contributions must always be reaching out to the community it serves so that people in the community feel that the company is an essential part of the community. They have to feel that life would be worse off if the company wasn't in town. Only then can a company start to build the kind of support to make it successful in the long term.

10 Ways Blogs Beat Newsletters

There are lots of ways to make this happen, and one essential piece is constant communication with the community. Traditionally, arts organizations have done this by sending newsletters reporting on the latest activities of the company, upcoming performances, and other information, but newsletters are expensive to print and mail, and impose a deadline for submissions that usually leads to a mad scramble before the deadline to throw something together.

Blogs are a better way to handle that communication:
  1. They're free.
  2. They can be updated any time.
  3. They're very easy to write and publish so you can always report the latest news and information.
  4. It's very easy to add video or pictures to blog posts. And if there's one thing the dance world has in excess, it's beautiful pictures of beautiful people doing beautiful things.

    Leila Drake and Yuan-Ming Chang in the Arabian dance from Nutcracker

  5. They can be read in many ways which makes it convenient for everyone. You may be reading this on the blog website. Or perhaps you subscribed through email, and this post is in your email reader. Or you may use the RSS feed to automatically fetch new updates.
  6. They're easy to pass around. Just copy the blog address and email it to your friends.
  7. An entire new demographic (the coveted 18 to mid-30s) that is woefully underrepresented in our audiences uses the Internet extensively and often exclusively. The Internet provides new ways for new people to discover our art, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. For a large number of people, the Internet is their only source of information: if a company doesn't have a website, it may as well not exist.
  8. Blogs can easily link to each other, as we did for the Joffrey and Houston Ballets, and this kind of referral, unknown in physical print media, is another avenue of discovery. How often have you stayed up a bit too late following interesting links from various websites?
  9. Many newspapers can be read on the Web as well: you can easily point your readers to reviews and features written by your local papers.
  10. Size doesn't matter. You no longer need a huge budget to put out a lavish newsletter or brochure: every company is now on equal footing as long as they're willing to put the time and effort into their blog.
Why People Don't Read Your Blog

Of course, just like perfect ballet technique (or feet), this technology is but a tool which can be used well or badly. An interested, knowledgeable, enthusiastic human still has to fill the blog with interesting and relevant information, and they have to do it regularly. Think about the websites you visit often: how many haven't posted any new information in a while?

They also have to do it with a sense of earnestness and authenticity that reflects the company and its place in the community. The last thing anyone wants to read is some sanitized, cookie-cutter template that tries to be everything to everyone. You are an integral part of your community. What is your unique identity in your community?

So there it is in an extra-large nutshell: how blog sites can help ballet (and other dance) companies. If you know of any other ballet company blog, feel free to send the link our way, and we'll add it to our list.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Feature: Carmen v4

You may already know that State Street Ballet is opening its 2007-2008 season this weekend with the Santa Barbara premiere of William Soleau's full-length Carmen with performances on Friday, October 19, 8pm and Sunday, October 21, 2pm at the Lobero Theatre.

You may even have seen our first Carmen with Jennifer Batbouta dancing our Gypsy protagonist in the original one-act version. Or perhaps you've seen us on tour with Silvia Rotaru in the lead role. You may even have been lucky enough to catch a one-time performance in Los Angeles with Corina Gill dancing Carmen.

Carmen v1: Jennifer Batbouta

But you've definitely never seen our newest Carmen. Coming a long way from a part-time corps role in Giselle when she joined us in 2004, Leila Drake is not only dancing Carmen for the first time, but the eponymous Gypsy is Leila's first ever principal role with SSB.

Carmen v2: Silvia Rotaru

Every dancer brings something different to a role, revealing new aspects of the character and taking the story in different directions. Avid ballet fans will watch multiple casts of a production because different dancers illuminate the ballet and show us new things only they can reveal.

Carmen v3: Corina Gill (supported by Yuan-Ming Chang)

What will Leila show us this weekend? Come to the show and find out for yourself! Endowed with long, flowing lines, extensive ballet training alloyed with years of modern dance, and the brains to graduate from UC Santa Barbara with dual majors, this Carmen will be unlike any other, and cannot be missed.

, Leila --- you will be amazing.