Your Money and Your Life

A jones for dance can break the bank

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence last year, he poured his life savings of $13,000 into Fractured Atlas. For the next two months he lived on eggs, onions, and potatoes. The publishing gig has improved his diet, but Forest looks forward to the day he can work exclusively for Fractured Atlas; he already spends 50 hours a week on FAP business.

So far, Fractured Atlas has lost money on every production, but the losses are getting smaller. With fundraising, the venture is breaking even. "The strategy I'm taking is blow it all, make it back, blow it all again, make it back," says Forest, who's flying to Chiapas later this month to prepare for an upcoming production. "It's working."

The Addict When the Kirov Ballet came to the Metropolitan Opera House earlier this summer, Sidney Sugarman did what any reasonable dance lover would do; she snagged a pair of orchestra seats. Then she bought a few more. And a few more. By the time the troupe returned to Russia two weeks later, she had spent more than $800 to see a dozen performances.

"It's a compulsion," says Sugarman, 53, with sunny resignation. "There's a certain driven quality with having to go as much as I go. It's almost like a second career."

Compulsions dominate her day job, too. As a psychiatric social worker at Hillside Hospital in Queens, she counsels patients with schizophrenia, depression, and drug addiction. The work keeps her solvent but drains her emotionally; dance has the opposite effect.

Sugarman figures she spends close to $2500 a year on tickets, often using her credit cards. "When the season isn't as busy I try to pay it off," she says. "But if there's a choice between getting new clothes or eating at a restaurant or going to the ballet, I go to the ballet."

Her partner doesn't seem to mind, but friends often do. "Thank God it's just seasonal," she says. "There are about two months when I'm totally insane and preoccupied. But any passion in some way makes you kind of selfish and less involved with other people. Sometimes that troubles me."

Mostly, though, she follows her bliss. "I've explored this to some extent in therapy, but I haven't been cured. I'm not sure I would want to be."

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