Theater archives

Money Managers


Economic crises ricochet around the world, making evident-for better or for worse-the interconnected marketplace. Dance is similarly global: American presenters import artists from many nations. Ballet dancers manage their own overseas tours. Companies from the United States balance their checkbooks by touring abroad. Europe’s top choreographers-Pina Bausch, William Forsythe, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker-trained in New York before settling in state-supported opera houses. America has an entrepreneurial history-in finance and modern dance-that Europe lacks, and funding from our private sector tries to compensate for negligible federal support. Nevertheless, our highest-paid ballerinas-who command $10,000 for one performance-are miles from Michael Jordan, who got upwards of $300,000 per game.

Age: 23

Education: Through age 16 in Buenos Aires’s public school system; began dancing at seven

Status: Single

Future: To keep working and dancing as long as it makes me happy. That’s the only reason why I’m doing it.

Motto: Always have your feet on the ground.

Fee:$2000 to $10,000 per performance

Role Models:Misha [Baryshnikov] and my family

In the cutthroat environment of ballet, Herrera is an anomaly. She’s as self-effacing as she is talented, starring in five of American Ballet Theatre’s full-length works this season. Her wunderkind talents have taken her around the world: Japan, Canada, Greece, and her native Argentina. “I don’t have a manager because I’m with ABT full-time and I’m very happy. Everything that comes, comes because people ask me. I don’t ask because I know it will come.”

For some ABT members, guesting finances 16 weeks of layoff. “But I’m not doing it for the money,” says Herrera, invited to perform at the Kremlin this spring. “They weren’t offering me that much, but I really wanted to go. You think dance and you think Russia.” ABT’s schedule conflicted and the company couldn’t release her. Japan, however, pays well: “The Japanese have a lot of money. [ABT principal] Vladimir Malakhov has big fans and his own group of dancers there.”

Herrera handles contracts herself, with help from her father, a lawyer. “The artistic decisions are mine.” He doesn’t take too big a cut? “Oh, no!” she says, laughing.


ENGLISH IMPORT: Viviana Durante
Age: 31

Education: Through age 16 at the Royal’s upper school

Status: With partner

Future: July: England; September: Italy; October/November: Chile, possibly Buenos Aires; then Japan

Motto: Have Faith I’m very religious. I’m Catholic….If you stop believing, you are pretty well lost.

Fee: I can’t say that.

Role Models: Misha [Baryshnikov] and my family

Half of Durante’s collateral is world-class dancing. The other half is firsthand experience with Sir Kenneth MacMillan, the English ballet maker whose products attract worldwide attention. Seven years ago, while she was performing his Mayerling at Covent Garden, MacMillan died of a heart attack in the theater. Her American Ballet Theatre debut this season piques emotions. Born in Rome, trained in London, she’s “quite nervous about coming to New York. I love the American audience…very spontaneous. They want you to know how they feel.” Why guest? “Mentally and spiritually, you meet so many more people and get a sense of different cultures.”

Durante started dancing at seven. At 17 she joined the Royal, taking a sabbatical after a decade with the company: “It’s very enjoyable to portray a role and sometimes frightening to face up to yourself.” People approach her for performances; manager David Watson negotiates: “He’s a great help. Someone I can ring up and get advice.”

On May 29 she performs Giselle with ABT’s José Manuel Carreño. “I love dancing with him,” she recalls from guesting in Japan. Why is Japan attractive to guest artists? “Everybody loves ballet there. The atmosphere is wonderful-you feel very concentrated. Tokyo is a fun place to be. All the karaoke nights…”

SALZBURG’S MUSE: Estella Zutic
Age: 24

Education: Through “Gymnasium” in classical studies

Status: Divides time between Slovenia and Austria

Future: “Booked until the end of the year.” Projects in Slovenia and Salzburg with Helene Weinzierl, Susan Quinn, Hubert Lepka, and ToiHaus

Quote: “The stage is my home”

Hubert Lepka’s show for Audi attracted 6000 onlookers in Vienna last fall. Harnessed to a 70-meter rope, Zutic swung back and forth, propelling herself from a raised mound-the “stage”-as cars swerved past her. She was paid $1500 a week, but, she says, ë’re putting your life at risk.” Lepka combines daredevil stunts, lighting, film, costumes, and music in spectacles that have won him the favor of Austrian impresario Michael Stolhofer. When Porsche needed to create an event last spring, the company asked Stolhofer’s advice. Lepka got the nod and a $400,000 budget. His entertainment-fantasy productions employ Salzburg’s modern dancers. “He has a gift, definitely,” says Zutic. “Plus he has gifted people working for him. We have to do all the choreography. He tells you a little bit of what he wants.”

“I earn money project-to-project in Salzburg, but once you make the connections it becomes like a steady job,” says Zutic. “Sometimes there is so much to do you have to choose,” because Austria’s dancer market isn’t as saturated as New York’s. Born in Slovenia, Zutic “started training really hard at 18,” subsidized by the Slovenian government. “I had to have recommendation letters, the best notes in school,” in order to get $6500 each year plus school fees with the stipulation that she “return to Slovenia for the same number of years I received scholarship, four years.” She graduated from Salzburg’s Experimental Academy of Dance, run by former Cunningham dancer Susan Quinn. What about her commitment? “I wrote to Slovenia saying there was no work for me as a modern dancer, and the government understood.” Why visit New York? “The atmosphere is more competitive. You have to work much harder. You really go for it.”


HER OWN BOSS: Susan Jaffe
Age: 36

Education: Maryland’s Walter Johnson High School through 10th grade, “finished through the mail”

Status: Single

Career: ABT since 1980

Future: Starring in six of ABT’s full-lengths this season

Motto:“When things are not going as well as I’d like, I say, ‘Susan, it’s all in the process.'”

Fee:$2000 to $10,000 per performance

Role Models:“I’ve seen performances that are so unbelievably honest it tears my heart out. Uta Hagen. I’ve never written a fan letter, but when I saw her performance I started one. Jiri Kylian.”

Guesting emerged from seeming calamity in the early ’90s; when ABT artistic director Kevin MacKenzie took over, “his executive director said the company needed to take six months off to restore our money. Everybody was out of work and the director of the English National Ballet heard about this and called me.” While with ENB, Jaffe signed on with a manager. Now she handles contracts herself, mixing artistic grace with business savvy: “I don’t ask for astronomical prices because I don’t want to outprice myself. I want to be invited back.” So far her system has worked: She frequents ENB and Stuttgart Ballet. Countries differ financially: “Japan pays more…or they used to.” Then again, “a glass of orange juice there was about $10.”

Guesting advantages? “Everybody treats you like a guest. They make sure you are comfortable, that you have plenty of rehearsal. You make more money as a guest than you do with your own company.” Drawbacks? “One very bad experience, and actually he got fired.”

MATCH MAKER: Stephanie French
Age: “Leave blank”

Education: Wellesley College, art history and urban studies-“two things that come together in the contributions work that I do”; M.B.A., Harvard

Status: Mother of two

Career: “Running an art gallery, then in radio and television, then I went to Harvard Business School and worked in advertising. All of those things come together in the job-business and management, marketing and advertising-but you have to know and understand the arts.”

Salary: Six Figures

French, vice president for corporate contributions at Philip Morris, says “well over a hundred dance organizations a year” receive PM help, making it the art form’s largest corporate supporter in America-Terpsichore’s venture capitalist. “The backbone of support is for general operating: We come in early and give to a spectrum of the most vital companies. Once a company is on our roster for general operating support, they also can get in-kind support.” What’s in it for PM? “Companies tour to our plant communities. We hope to be known as a good corporate citizen. We pride ourselves on being an innovative, risk-taking funder, and that’s who we support.” Example: “Before it was officially the Next Wave Festival, we were giving BAM funding for the series. When it became the festival, we gave major funding….BAM’s Next Wave represents that notion of innovation and taking risks. The pairing is very appropriate. A very good match.”

In French’s 18 years with PM, the budget for dance has grown. Grants range from $5000 and under to six-figure sums that allow larger organizations-Ailey, Joffrey, ABT-to tour to Brazil, Egypt, Japan. “We do a lot of grant making for new, young talent. When there’s a buzz, we are quick to notice….Ten, 11 years ago, the first time David Parsons performed with his new company it was obvious there was real talent there, and we said ëApply.”‘

PM’s New Works Fund, an international initiative, gave $1 million plus to 31 U.S. dance companies in 1997.


Age: “Middle-aged”

Education: U. of California, Berkeley

Status: Married

Career: Cal Performances, Berkeley, 1981-1997

Salary: “Under six figures”

“People have four answers as to why they give to the arts: teacher, family member, friend, or by accident. ‘My fifth-grade teacher took us to see Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and it changed my life’ or ‘There was a theater in my neighborhood and one night I decided to go.’ As a presenter, I try to do everything possible to strategize how to bring people to that experience,” says Baff, Jacob’s Pillow’s executive director. For 66 years patrons have flocked to the Berkshire dance festival, which operates on a $3.4 million budget-“50/50 contributed/earned.” Ticket sales bring in $1 million. Baff taught in a California juvenile prison for four and a half years. “If I were running the world, I would take all the kids out of school and send them around the world traveling.” Her programming reflects this ardent internationalism: Brazil’s Grupo Corpo kicks off the 10-week season June 23. Artists from Peru, Cuba, and Russia follow. The Pillow’s 150-acre campus-recently made eligible for historic-landmark status-offers lectures, exhibitions, classes, and performances in theaters indoors and out. Artists bask too: They “need time to think clearly away from the stress of their natural environment,” says Baff. She invites artists-in-residence annually: Ben Munisteri, Wally Cardona, and Japan’s Kota Yamazaki this year. “They don’t have to produce anything. Imagine if you put a scientist in a laboratory and said, You must come out with a cure for cancer or else!”

Age: 52

Education: B.A., Sacred Heart U.; M.F.A., Catholic U.

Status: Single

Career: “Was there a life before BAM?” Producing director of the Next Wave, 1983-1999; producer, New World Festival of the Arts, Miami, 1982

Future: “Asia will play a very important part.”

Motto: “Living well is the best revenge.”

Salary: Six Figures

A self-described student of global culture, BAM’s soon-to-be-executive producer is “moving BAM from an international to a global center, which means correcting the problem of an emphasis on Europe.” Melillo stresses “the ecoculture of maintaining support.” He visits smaller local dance spaces, incubators for artists en route to BAM’s 2000-seat Opera House. “Mark Morris started at Dance Theater Workshop!”

BAM’s annual Next Wave is “a global performing arts festival.” Its $3 million 1998 budget, “50 percent box office and 50 percent from subsidy, contributions: individuals, corporations, foundations, government”-bought imports from France, Germany, and India. Since 1983, “international representation of dance companies and individual artists has always informed its profile,” in part due to retiring executive producer Harvey Lichtenstein’s background as a dancer. “Americans are at a disadvantage; they don’t have the kind of funding that European communities with a heritage of a lot of governmental support have,” Melillo observes. He selects artists, then negotiates “a fee plus expenses, hotel, per diem, transportation, freight.” He must see artists live. BAM pays expenses. “I travel a lot.” Last year he went to Peru. This month he’ll scout Buenos Aires “to represent Spanish- and
Portuguese-speaking cultures at BAM during the 2000-2001 season….That’s an exclusive.”