Financial Woes Trouble Cleveland San Jose Ballet: Monetary Problems Hinder 25th Anniversary Season

David C. Barnett- The news was grim, but not all together surprising.

The bottom line is, we must raise 1.2 million dollars within the next 10 to 14 days, so that we can successfully launch this 25th anniversary season.

Robert Jones is president of the Cleveland/San Jose Board of Trustees. HeŒs faced financial shortfalls before and he knows that his cash flow woes are reflected in companies around the country.

Robert Jones- I'm not sure we're any different. I think that dance itself is in a battle right now, but I think for Cleveland as a renaissance community, a community that has publicized itself as a growth community, with a lot of change, a lot of positives...we don't need a black eye like this.

Joanne Jaglowski- I've grown to love this city, though I never thought I would.

DCB- Joanne Jaglowski came to the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet in 1993 and she's seen a steady succession of splashy museums and sports facilities grow on the Northcoast - sometimes, she says, at the expense of attractions such as the Ballet or the Cleveland Opera.

JJ- We've been struggling under the impression that we're just a part of Cleveland that doesn't need any nurturing or support or care. There's no municipal tax to support the company and, basically, there's such a large part of our budget that's based on donations and it's very easy for people to forget that.

DCB- Also, unlike many of the older arts organizations in town, the Ballet doesn't have an endowment to shelter it when ticket sales and fundraising fall short. For instance, the 85-year-old Cleveland Playhouse has a $6.5 million endowment to maintain financial stability, the Cleveland Orchestra has $155 million behind it, and the Cleveland Museum of Art is backed by $700 million. Compare that with the 16-year-old Cleveland Public Theater, which has no endowment.

James Levin- I'm trying to avoid the same ice that the Ballet is skating on right now. There are certainly no easy answers.

DCB- Cleveland Public Theater founder and artistic director James Levin says there have been many times when he's scratched his head, wondering how he was going to meet the next month's payroll. CPT relies on a number of smaller funding sources and if just one of them drops out, there could be trouble.

JL- We have some very significant contracts related to education and we didn't know what the effects were going to be if the teachers went on strike. Fortunately, for the entire community, that didn't happen. But, if the teachers went on strike, the Board of Education has to freeze their assets, because they're still negotiating with the union. And all of the sudden, we have anticipated revenue and contracts that are not going to be available. That's just an example of how fragile we all are.

DCB- And, Levin says, it's that very fragility that makes it tough to sock away money into an endowment, when unanticipated expenses - and even bad weather - can hurt a company.

JL- That's sort of the nature of the arts business - we're not making a certain amount of cars, we're not making a certain amount of automotive parts every month that guarantee a certain amount of revenue coming in.

DCB- Ramon Rodriguez is a Cleveland Ballet veteran, a fan favorite who's ridden through some rough times since joining the troupe 20 years ago. There was the 1992 "Save the Ballet" campaign, which raised over a million dollars for the troupe. Two years ago, his job as a rehearsal director for the company was cut. Still, the New York native has stuck it out.

Ramon Rodriguez- I don't see it as closing. Maybe I'm just over-optimistic. And I have to be to move forward with my career and keep dancing with a healthy attitude. I can't think of the worst and think the company is going to close, because my spirit would just be crushed. So, I just have to go forward and think optimistically.

DCB- With less than a week to go before their million-dollar closing deadline, Cleveland/San Jose Ballet insiders indicate that fund-raising progress remains "day-to-day." Still, the dancers and staff continue to drink from that glass of hope, even though the glass is far less than half full. In Cleveland, David C. Barnett, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.

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