Two weeks earlier, on March 11, the company's board of trustees had announced that financial debts would force the company to close. Immediately afterward, the dedicated troupe of dancers, musicians and stagecrews promised to work for free for the two-week period surrounding their current program in hopes of garnering enough public support in that time to offset their financial troubles. The result, according to Pennsylvania Ballet spokesperson Luise Moskowitz, was "overwhelming." By March 24 and the end of the 11-day run of the "Bravo! Balanchine and Tudor" performances at the Shubert Theater, volunteers working for the "Save the Ballet" campaign had received donations from the public beyond their goal of $1 million. The company plans to ask corporations to match the donations with $1.5 million in grants, in an effort to reach the $2.5 million total they need to continue operations in this fiscal year. Moskowitz said the ballet hopes the corporations will respond and match the response of the public. "That's been the whole idea of this -- if we could raise a million dollars from the community and say 'Philadelphia really wants this company,' it would encourage foundations to support us, to come forward," Moskowitz said this week. · The public response has been beyond anything ballet officials had expected. "We've met our goal, we've surpassed our goal, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of that money is $25 checks from Joe and Jane Philadelphia," Moskowitz said. And ballet-goers were as pleased as ballet officials last week. Dorothy Weisbord of Wynnewood, who said she has been coming to the ballet for "many years," called Sunday's performance "inspired." "It would have been a tragedy for the city to lose [the Ballet]," Weisbord said. "I feel very proud of the city, that people came out to support the ballet." Besides the volunteers who normally work for the company, several other community members stepped forward to help save the ballet, answering the hotline that was set up for donations and helping with the organization involved in such a frantic last-minute campaign. "We've had students, we've had housewives, people who work for churches, all kinds of people," Moskowitz said Sunday. "We've had accountants coming in after working full days to help with all the numbers we've had to deal with." Fund-raising action will continue this week. The plans include business benefits and a raffle of high-fashion clothing, pricey jewelry and gifts held today at the Shops at the Bellevue. But the public has not been the only ones who have shown their support for the company. Members of the entire ballet troupe refused to accept the board's decision earlier this month that they must fold. Instead, said Moskowitz, the dancers, the musicians, the stagehands, the ushers and the box office workers have all been working unpaid. Rits Capuano, a ballet usher for four seasons, volunteered at the Shubert Theater the two weeks of the "Balanchine and Tudor" program. She said she was "glad to be a part" of the ballet's revival. "I feel we've acomplished something," Capuano said. "I would throughly miss the ballet if it wasn't here. The city needs it, not only the city but everyone." Capuano said she felt it is important for youngsters growing up to be able to experience the ballet in the Philadelphia. · Christopher d'Amboise, the artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the man who came up with the "Save the Ballet" campaign, delivered the good news at Sunday afternoon's performance to an anxious audience. After the orchestra stopped tuning and the lights dimmed, d'Amboise, who is from Manhattan, stepped before the curtain and praised the people of Philadelphia. He then announced that "we've surpassed our goal" and was met with a full minute of roaring applause and shouts of joy. He praised the public effort made to save the company. "The people have been coming out -- people who don't like ballet, people who've never been to ballet," d'Amboise said. He added that fundraising efforts are not over, and invited more of the community to "join with the family and stay with us for the future." He ended his speech by thanking the community. Moskowitz, a 1987 University graduate, points to d'Amboise's dedication as a driving force behind the troupe's resolve to save the ballet. Choreographer d'Amboise, who came to direct the Pennsylvania Ballet eight months ago, is described by Moskowitz as an "incredibly talented" and "very well recognized, hot [and] up-and-coming." She said that he did not have to stay in Philadelphia as the company has been struggling. When he remained, Moskowitz said, people who had been with the company for years decided to remain. "His commitment really fired up other people," Moskowitz said. "If he's only been here eight months and he's willing to take all this on." She added that many of the performers could have found work elsewhere, saying that their willingness to work for free is proof of their dedication to the company. "It's true that we're all fighting for our jobs and we want to be part of this company, but there's a lot of talent in this company, a lot of these people could have gone elsewhere and they didn't want to," Moskowitz said. "We all wanted to be here.". Ballet staff members said that the sheer number of gifts were what amazed them the most. Most of the $1 million in donations were in small sums from private individuals. Moskowitz said the ballet has received mostly checks, some coming from as far away as Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska and France. "Basically, we've been bringing in as much as $50,000 a day in the mail in checks alone," she said. "We have adding machine sheets that are feet long that only add up to maybe $15,000 because there are so many individual contributions." · This is not the first time the ballet has almost gone belly-up financially. In 1982, the company shut down for a few months until the end of its fiscal year. It currently needs $2.5 million total to cover crude debts and operating costs until the end of this fiscal year, on July 31. The budget for next year has been pared down from $8.4 million to $7 million, with two productions cut out of the performance schedule. As to questions of whether the ballet will survive, Moskowitz has hope. "I'm personally tired of being punished for the sins of our fathers," she said. "We have a lot of good people in place now and I really feel if we can get through this crisis, that we'll be okay." She believes some "organizational changes" may occur in the company, but she said they have not been able to think about it until they raised the money to be back on their feet again. "Tomorrow a whole new world opens up," she said.Comments powered by Disqus
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